Sifting Through Moth Dust and Old, Dry Bones

My deepest apologies for the radio silence lately.   I’ve tried and failed to write something several times, and instead have basically been lying in a pool of inertia and probably more than a little depression.  Isolation has been getting to me lately, and the inability to do any real travelling has been bad for my brain.  I realized the other week (decade? century? I don’t even know, time is a myth told to tadpoles) that, aside from the grocery supply runs and getting our taxes done back at the beginning of March, the last time I saw and interacted with another human that was not Himself was at a friend’s birthday dinner on January 4, and I guess that explains a lot.  January and February are usually quiet, relatively solitary times of year for me, to be come back out of in March, starting with a trip to the Butterfly Place for gathering with a couple of friends to remember warm and how to people, while surrounded by greenery, hundreds of butterflies, and tiny, Chinese Quail.  That didn’t happen this year, and so here I found myself, lying in a muddy puddle of blarg.

During my time in the pool, I  had time to do some thinking.  Back when I originally started this, I had a rough idea of what I wanted to be doing with things, as well as percentages of each.  I wanted to be mostly writing about wandering my little corner of the world, poking around in the places that get overlooked, with maybe some art and other odds and ends as the mood struck me.   It got reshuffled a little, and I lost track of myself a couple of times, but the trend was more or less heading in the direction I wanted.  A large part of why I chose the words I did, back in January, for this year was to make myself really focus on what I wanted to be doing, clarify it, and build a solid road to travel on.

We were all so innocent and naive back then, in the Before Times…

Pandemics are not a roadblock that I know how to build a road around.  It’s like a sinkhole appearing in the middle of the pathway, and it extends out further than the eye can see.  I think a lot of the last few weeks have been mostly sitting on the edge of the canyon, numbly staring into the abyssal black.  At some point, the Abyss started whispering.  At some point after that, I started listening to what it was saying.

It whispered to me that there are other paths to travel and other stories to be found on them, even though the highways and roadways are lost to memories and dreams for a time.  It reminded me that painting and drawing, while I love them, were things I never wanted to have as a primary source of support and told me that that is why I’m having such a hard time with them.  They are supposed to be gifts, and nothing more, and I need to honor them in that.  It whispered of words and stones wrapped in wires and charms lost and found in the woods.  It spoke in the poppets’ voices of branch and bell and waterworn glass and told me that they have a story to tell and while others may never see their faces, they may one day hear their voices, if I am resourceful and canny enough.  

The Abyss is wise and I have learned many times over the years that I should listen when it speaks.

I dragged myself out of that murky, stagnant pool and took stock of my resources.  I focused on seeing what I have on hand, and wondered what I could build with them.  Paper and ink I have, in plenty, and despite having given away what I had thought was more or less all of my jewelry making supplies from when I closed that door some years back, I seem to still have a cache of beads and wires that would make an entire murder of crows weep in envy.  I found bags and tins of trinkets, hidden, forgotten, in boxes long thought lost, covered in moth dust, buried beneath old, dry bones and broken feathers. 

So, if I can’t travel the world, and selling my art mostly does not bring me joy (though giving it away very much does, so if you see a monster or fish that you love, please do tell me and I will find an envelope and send it to you and we will all be happy), what *can* I do?

Well, I can go home, to my writing and my jewelry, though I think the jewelry will be a much different creature than my previous styles.  The world and I have changed a lot in the years between than and now, and what I made then will not suit me now.  Happily, once the organizer boxes I ordered last night arrive in a couple of days, I can start the process of cataloguing the truly amazing stash of beads I located yesterday (I had to order 3 large containers of 36 boxes each, as well as 2 dozen individual boxes, and I’m not sure that’s going to be enough…I really am a crow girl) and seeing what I will make with the beads and ribbon and wires I’ve got cached around.  I’ll be writing stories of Adventures Past and little stories and fictions to go with the jewelry (because anyone can just make a piece of jewelry and list it by materials, but not everyone can go for a walk in the woods and find a fairy charm or pilgrim’s token) and trying to find out what the deal with the poppets is.  Eventually I’m hoping to add real, current travel adventures again, but that will depend on the state of everything.

So yeah…that would be the current state of things.  Let’s see where this road leads?

For The Woods Are Dark And Deep…

Did I ever tell you about the time that the forest spirits decided to have a laugh with myself and a few friends, and got us lost in my backyard?  No?  Well, then, let’s fix that, shall we?

One afternoon, many ages ago, when I was a much younger river nymph than I am now, some friends and I decided that we would go into the forest that grew beside the house I lived in at the time, to perform arcane rituals of our own devising* on a heath that I and my brother had found the previous autumn while following a herd of deer at dusk.

It was an overcast day in early spring, and the air held that chill mistiness that it often does in the northern forests at that time of year.  Everything is half-frozen, still, and it’s as likely to snow as it is to rain.  Generally not the best time to be venturing deep into the trees, but we were determined. The ritual needed performing, and we weren’t sure when we would get another chance, so out we went.

There is a place in those woods where several pine trees grow in two, perfect rows, for reasons that no one knows.  They weren’t particularly old trees, maybe a decade or two, in the middle of a much older stretch of forest.  To get to the heath, you have to follow an old, forgotten road until it’s swallowed by the trees and ceases to exist, cross through a small valley, pass on the right side of the boulder on the ridge, pass to the left of the row of pines, and straight on until you come to the remains of an old stone wall, the other side of which is the heath.

Seems simple, right?  Except on that day we didn’t pass the pines on the left.  Instead, when we approached, I noticed how the light had a peculiar quality about it as it filtered through the mist and the grey-green haze of the pine needles, and my attention was raptly caught.  I had been to this spot before, but had never seen the light look so captivating, and decided to walk between the rows, and the others followed behind.

We came to the stone wall, which is only a couple of hundred feet from the pines, and crossed onto the heath.  After some wandering and discussion, we found a place among the rocks and winter-dry grasses to perform the ritual we had come to do to, and when we were done some time later, we left the heath to cross back through the woods in search of lunch and warm drinks.  It was good to be outside, but we had sat on cold stones and bare dirt long enough to be chilled, and the air had taken on the warning hints of incoming weather.  We wanted to be back under a roof before it started, with cocoa and sandwiches in hand.

We crossed back over the wall, one by one, and passed to the right of the pines, but after a short while realized that we had not come to the boulder as we should have.

This was something of a problem, particularly since you can see the boulder from the edge of the pines.  It should not have been possible to miss it.  As we looked around, my brother and I exchanged a troubled glance as we realized something else.  Despite the fact that we had both been out this way many times in the recent months, both together and separately, neither of us recognized where we were.  So we retraced our steps back to the pine row (this was easy, considering that our fellow woodland adventurers were very much not wilderness types and left a clear, broad trail in their wake) and tried again.

As we did so, I noticed something odd, but kept my tongue behind my teeth at what I saw.  We started back out, and this time passed the boulder and kept on our way.

We walked and walked and walked, and we did not come to the valley, nor did we come to the remains of the old, lost road.  We crossed a small brook by walking over the remnants of an old beaver dam, which was very worrying, as I knew of no running water or ponds nearby.  Judging by the set of my brother’s shoulders, he did not know of any, either.  One of the girls slipped on the wet logs, and twisted her ankle just enough to make walking harder.  We stopped to rest, and my brother and I conferred away from the others.  Neither of us had recognized anything since before the brook, but decided that it was best, for the time being, that we not let the others know just how bad the situation was just yet, as we still hoped to be able to sort the path out.

We walked on, and the day grew late.  The clouds were that flat, uniform grey that ensures there is no chance of telling where the sun is, and it had begun to drizzle very lightly.  As the light faded, we decided to stop walking and resigned ourselves to a deeply uncomfortable night under the trees.  We started to build a makeshift shelter that would at least protect us from the worst of the elements, and hoped that there were enough of us that our body heat would help stave off hypothermia.  My brother decided to take one last scouting run a little way further, just in case.  The area was thinly populated, but we should have come to a house or road long since, and he didn’t want to spend the night in the woods within shouting distance of someone’s back door.

He came back a few minutes later, laughing oddly.  He knew where we were!  He had come across a small clearing that he and his father had spent many a morning in while out hunting, and it was not far from the dirt road that ran past my house.  We stopped building the shelter and followed him out of the woods and at last stepped onto the road.

Maybe fifteen minutes later, we walked down the driveway of the house, where my father and a friend’s father were standing.  They had been out in the woods yelling for us, but we had never heard them.  Once it was determined that everyone was fine and none the worse for the wear, my friends left for their respective homes, and it was just my brother and I in the kitchen, sipping cocoa and staring out at the dark line of trees.

“When we went back to the pines to try and find the boulder again, did you notice that there were no tracks through them, or on the other side?”  I asked him, not taking my eyes off the trees?

“You noticed that, too, huh?” he replied.

“Yup.”

“Remember that clearing that I go hunting in, that we found our way out from?  It’s about four miles away.   That wasn’t a four mile walk back. ”

“I know,” I said. “There’s also only 100 acres* of woods right there, before you hit the heath, the road, or the orchard.”

“Yup.  Not sure where we went, but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t where we thought it was.”

“Yeah…. Pretty sure those pines are somehow involved, and we should probably not go through them again.  I’m also pretty sure we shouldn’t mention this to the others.”

“Agreed.”

We sipped our cocoa and thoughtfully looked at the trees, wondering what else was looking back at us from the shadows, as the moon began to climb from behind the clouds into the cold night sky…

 

*Oddly enough, not a metaphor.  We were a strange and raggedy collection of souls, prone to creating odd rituals and looking for magic in mundane places.

*About 1.5 square miles.

Comfort Food, Cranberry Bogs, and Travel Companions

Success!  After weeks of unsuccessful hunting I found flour!  I got two bags, because gods know when I’ll be able to find it again.

To celebrate, I made a pan bread for the first time in years.  It was a staple for Himself and I back during the Great Recession when we were dirt poor and living at a friend’s house, and it seemed fitting to bring it back these days.  It’s a good way to stretch bread out and you eventually end up with sourdough, without the waste.  It’s a win.

The base dough recipe from here, and is one of my favorites.  It really just take a couple of minutes to mix up, and then you’ve got dough on hand for days.  My pan bread is pretty much what it says on the tin.

Pull off a piece of dough, flatten it out,

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heat a bit of butter and spices of choice in a non-stick pan (my favorite is Penzey’s Turkish blend) on medium,

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place dough in pan, cover with lid

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cook until a nice, golden brown on each side…probably 7 or 8 minutes, I think?

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and voila, tasty pan bread.

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I’ve been trying to get some art done, but my brain really has been a horror.  Plus, I lost about a week to making masks so that Himself and I could leave the house.  That was hard.  Not only do I only sew by hand, but it’s bad for the brain to be having to make PPE for your loved ones out of whatever scrap fabric you have on hand (in my case, a lot of fat quarter quilting cotton that was supposed to be used to make stuffed toys with) and hope your meager skills and this flimsy barrier will somewhat protect them.  (I don’t buy the idea that masks are only to protect other people, because if it’s considered protection for medical people, the same item on non-medical people has the same protection values, so yeah, I’m making stuff that’s purpose is to protect people, and that’s a LOT of pressure on me.)  It’s been A Week.  There were a lot of nightmares.

On the positive side, though, I took the truck out so that it doesn’t fall apart on me, and found myself on Cape Cod.  I didn’t cross the bridge in Bourne, so I stayed on the mainland, but I did go do some socially distant cranberry bothering.  I love the bogs and am sad that I don’t live close enough to wander near them as often as I’d like.

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I realized after I left that I had Fester the Zombie Bunny in my bag on the seat the next to me, and that I should start bringing him along.  I suspect Jory (the Midgard Serpent who occasionally doubles as a scarf) and Archimedes (I think it’s an owl, but it looks kinda like a fish, too, so I have no idea) will probably want to tag along.  Look, it’s the Apocalypse and I have to find what amusement I can get out of it.

Medieval Problems Deserve Medieval Solutions?

So, I’m a member of the SCA which, for anyone unfamiliar, stands for Society for Creative Anachronism.  It’s a medieval recreation (as opposed to reenactment) group that’s been around for a while.  Mostly, we study and learn about how people lived in the medieval (or at the point, anything prior to I think 1699, globally) time period, with a bit of theater thrown in (it’s complicated, but a lot of fun).  This is relevant at the moment, as one of the things that I have been struggling with is how to deal with super-fine, waist-length hair that can’t stay in it’s braid for more than a few minutes before wisps start escaping.

In the time of plague where touching your face without washing your hands is A Bad Idea, having wispy bits making your face itch while you’re at the grocery store is A Problem.  I’ve been using bandanas, but because they still leave my braid exposed and dangling (did I mention waist-length?  Yeah, that’s it’s braided length, not it’s loose length) and generally being free to Encounter Surfaces, I’ve been trying to sort out ways to fix this.  Also, the weird, flappy triangle-thing that bandanas do is just…it’s kind of rather aesthetically “meh” on me, and I hate it.  I’m already middle-aged and overweight, and I just don’t need that self-esteem hit on top of everything else.

So, I started looking into alternative solutions to dealing with my hair.  The problem I kept running into is that in the 21st Century, women really don’t cover their hair for non-religious or Very Ethno-culturally Specific reasons.  I have no desire to wander near the camps of cultural or religious appropriation, which left me at a sort of impasse.  I’m a pagan White woman from the United States.  Headcovering is not a thing my demographic does, unless it’s a bandana.

*sigh*

Then, it dawned on me.  I study Medieval history.  My mother was half Polish, which means that I’m of Slavic descent, and the early and Medieval Slavs wore headcoverings completely independent of religious meanings.  Meaning I can comfortably adopt that style to cover my hair and keep it out of my face in this Plague Year of 2 thousand and 20, without ANY religious or cultural appropriation!

WIN!

Yes, I spent today hemming a cotton scarf by hand.  Yes, I will be dragging out my inkle loom to make a new band, because I need to weave a new one that isn’t as hideous as the test one and making (and let’s face it, probably embroidering, because I have *vastly* too much time on my hands these days) several underlayer pieces to use as contrasting colors instead of the bandanas.  Yes, I would sell someone’s kidney for a set of temple rings (a form of jewelry, not unlike ornate hoop earrings) to hang from the bands, as is traditional.

It’s a bit messy, because I was just tossing it on to test today, but yeah… I think this will work.

If I’m going to be dealing with a damned medieval plague situation, you’re damned right I’m digging into medieval solutions for things that modern life can’t answer. Apparently my apocalypse fashion involves medieval headwear.  There are worse things, I suppose…

“For Though Ill Winds Blow, You Are Not Alone…”

This month has been a Very Long Century.  I was originally planning to share the long-lost “Annotated Excerpt from the Book of Lemminations”, that I excavated from the caverns of my writing past but realized, to my horror, that it’s depressingly prescient of the current situation (it was written in 2007) and just, ugh.  Not right now.  Maybe later, when we aren’t in the middle of an apocalypse.

So, how are you all holding up?  Everyone staying home (or at least avoiding humans), hydrating, and keeping up on their self-care?

I’m more or less sticking home, and I am absolutely climbing the walls.  I did go for a drive last Friday that ended up being just a wee little bit longer than I was intending it to be.  I sort of got kidnapped by a highway and accidentally ended up out in the Berkshires of Way Western Massachusetts.  It turns out that there’s a 30 mile stretch of nothing after Exit 3 on the Mass. ‘Pike, which I had been unaware of.  Oops?  In retrospect, I should have known the drive was not going to go according to plan when I wasn’t able to stop and visit the old hospitality god’s shrine to leave a small offering as I meant to.  There was someone there, and in these complicated times I didn’t wish to disturb them, and so passed by, whispering a greeting to the god as I went.

The roads are an odd place to be these days.  It’s still early in the year here in New England, so a warm, sunny day would normally have a fair amount of traffic and the sidewalks should be crowded with people, and they really aren’t.  This is both good and terrifying.  Places like Sturbridge are usually crowded with people visiting the living history museum of Old Sturbridge Village or exploring the dozens of antique shops, and being terrible, rubber-necking tourist drivers, but instead, they are nearly ghost towns.  It’s heartbreaking and I found myself almost wishing for a damned tourist driving 5 miles an hour.  Almost.  I grew up in a town where the roads to the ocean and the White Mountains intersect, and so I have a special dislike of that, but still…it’s a familiar aggravation and I found myself missing them. Who knew the things one would find unexpectedly comforting?

It’s easy these days, looking at the news, and seeing all of the people who aren’t following social distancing and self-quarantining protocols, and feeling angry and defeated. Myself, I’m choosing to “look for the helpers”, as it were.  The empty streets that speak of how many are taking things seriously and taking precautions for themselves, and for others.  The rainbows drawn on sidewalks in chalk, or with markers and taped to windows that whisper of people wanting to brighten each others lives.  The signs, both on business billboards and handwritten on cardboard on people’s lawns, that share encouragement or silly jokes or just a reminder that “We are here.  You are not alone. We love you.”.

I drove through towns where I have passed before where I had seen flags and signs that broke my heart at the hatred they vomited into the world, that have been removed or replaced with encouragements.  I don’t have illusions that they have magically changed their ways, but still I have hope that this has changed their hearts and when we have moved on down the road from here that they will be better than they were.  It’s a small hope, but it’s one I’m clinging to.  Stranger things, after all, have been known to happen.

To be honest, I really don’t want the world to go back to the way it was before this.  The way things were were so badly broken and this is just highlighting how dysfunctional “normal” was.  This is as bad as it is, because of how bad things were before.  No, I do not want to go back to that.  I want us, instead, to build a new normal.  A better normal.  One that doesn’t leave people behind.  One that makes sure that everyone has what they need to not just merely survive, but to thrive.  I think we have an opportunity to do it right now, to completely change course and go down a different, better road, and I want us to do it.  I know I’m working for it.

I’ve been painting a bunch of smol monsters and sharing them on social media this past week.  I’m trying to get to a point where I can share one a day, to give people at least a brief moment of cuteness.  I haven’t exactly succeeded on that goal, because anxiety disorders are eating my brain, but I’m trying at any rate. (Side note:  if there’s a monster you’ve seen me share and you do want it, all of them are $25, plus $5 for shipping. I’m working on getting them up in the shop, but you don’t have to wait for that…just ping me and we’ll work it out.)  I should probably create a hashtag for them to make them easier to track down, now that I think of it.  That would be smart, or something.

That’s it for now.  Time to go get dinner started and then work on painting more monsters or maybe a nice Foxentree.  Hope that all is well with you and yours.  Be well, my loves.

In parting, please enjoy this moment of feline harmony…

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A Slice of Life With Cats: The Infamous Window Kitty Incident

Since we nearly had a reprise of the Window Kitty Incident earlier this evening, and it occurs to me that we could also use silly stories, I give to you the Infamous Window Kitty Incident.

Torin, my ancient tabby cat, is a window cat (or he was, until he turned out to be somewhat allergic to direct sunlight, because he is gigantic and also a wee, delicate flower with all sorts of interesting health issues…secondhand pets, I tell ya).  Given his druthers he would happily spend his entire day sleeping in a window in the sun.  A number of years ago, shortly before we found out about the sun issue, we lived in a place that had a big bay window that he loved to loaf in and spent most of his time there.

Now, the folks next door had a pair of cats, who looked rather unnervingly like my two boys, Torin and his big brother, Ajah, who was a big, black cat with gorgeous green eyes and the personality of an extremely melodramatic 13-year old girl.  Since neither Torin nor Ajah went outside, it pretty regularly gave me a heart attack to see one of them wander by.

One afternoon, the tabby decided to hop up on the low concrete wall under the bay window, which came up just high enough that he was able to stand on his hind legs and peer in.  Torin was, as usual, napping in the window, and woke up to see a cat that looked exactly like his mirror image staring at him, practically in his nose.  He panicked, bolted under the bed (timid does not come close to how nervous he was in his youth), and did not come out for several hours.

Later that night, my then-boyfriend and I were watching tv in the living room, when Torin hopped back up onto the window platform.  All of a sudden I hear him start growling.  I look up to see him fluffed up, ears flattened against his skull, tail lashing, and he is snarling and hissing and clearly Very Pissed Off.  I jumped up to grab him and get him away from whatever it was that had him actually freaking out, and nearly got bitten.  He was completely target locked on the window, where there was a tabby face looking at him, snarling and-

Reader, I lost it.  I sat straight down on the floor, laughing my ass off, because my gigantic wimp of cat, who needed to be taught that any new toys were not going to kill him and had once run away in fear from a piece of kielbasa, was attempting to straight up murder his own reflection.  Mind you, this is a cat who normally passes the mirror test, but he was utterly convinced that the Window Kitty was the cat next door, and Window Kitty Needed Killin’.  Window Kitty needed killin’ so much that I eventually had to herd 17 pounds of snarling, angry cat it into the bedroom and lock him in for a while, and for the next few weeks, he was not allowed near the window at night at all because he was itching for a rematch.

I still have to keep an eye on him sometimes, because every now and then he gets a look in his eye that clearly says he’s still looking for Window Kitty and wants to settle the score once and for all…

This Semi-Quarantine Life (plus a long overdue shop update).

So….I’m climbing the walls already.  How are you all doing?

Still alive and breathing, here.  Managing to keep myself from freaking out, if only barely at times. Trying to find a way to make art while my brain wants to do nothing more than crawl into a blanket fort and hide.  Maybe I’ll just paint a bunch of monsters with blankets until I feel better, or you feel better, or someone feels better.

I went out for a drive on Sunday and went to visit one of my favorite places; the terribly named “Ponyhenge” over in Lincoln.  No, I didn’t touch anything and there were no other people around (I made sure).  Even when I leave the house, I’m aggressively avoiding other humans.  Ponyhenge is, well….it’s A Thing.  I’ll write more about that separately, because it deserves it’s own post.  Suffice to say, I avoided getting stolen by the faeries, but only because they were feeling kindly disposed…

Woke up with serious brain squirrels yesterday, so I didn’t get my originally planned list of things done, but I *did* manage to jury-rig a makeshift lightbox out of an old cardboard box and some paper, so I can take better photos of stuff I make and get them listed in the shop (can’t sell anything if I don’t have it listed!).

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It’s not the best looking thing, but it’s what I could do with what I had on hand, and it’ll do for the time being.  It doesn’t do too badly, and with a little tweaking it’ll work better.

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Later on this week I’m expecting delivery of a couple of shiny new toys (why my budget is out for other stuff): a tabletop tripod, remote shutter control, and a microphone for my smartphone.   I’m going to be figuring out how to do some videos and vlogging.  I don’t promise I’ll be any good at it, but I do promise to try my best (seriously, please don’t expect high-end quality stuff out of me…not only am I new at the idea and have to learn, but I’m not working with high end recording and editing equipment).

Going back to the lightbox conversation, I did get a couple of small, simple paintings listed in the shop yesterday.  Brain weasels willing, I should be getting more stuff listed at least once a week, if not more often, now that I’ve got some way to take pictures with reliable lighting and we’ve gotten my desktop computer back up and running again.

One other thing I’ve decided to do for the time being is to unlock posts to everyone for a bit.  I feel awful about the idea of paywalls, even temporary ones, when pretty much everyone is stuck inside, scared, and in need of distraction.  I *really* hope folks will continue to subscribe to my Patreon and/or chip in as they can via my tip jar (located on the top right corner of the webpage) or Ko-fi , because this is my only source of income, and with the quarantine and everything, my chances of finding a Day Job right now is more or less non-existent.

That’s it for me, at the moment.  How are you all getting through?

Silk Ribbons and Story Bones: Traveling In Times Of Pandemic.

I’ve deleted and rewritten this post from the blank page up at least three times in the last 2 days, because every time I blink, things have changed again.  I’m just going to give in and go for a debrief of where things stand and what I’m going to be up to now that we live in the time of pandemic and everything just got an order of magnitude more stressful and complicated.

The situation:  I live in Massachusetts, which was officially declared under a state of emergency on the 10th, since we’ve got a few cases of Covid-19 here. 95 as of yesterday, most related to some jackass having contracted it in Italy, who decided not to self-quarantine and go to a conference in Boston (I have Opinions on them, and they are *deeply* unkind).  Mostly what that means right now is that the state can do things like tell people to work from home, cancel events, and request federal aid to deal with the situation more effectively.  (Not getting into my opinions on the fed. response because jfc…)  The good news is that I am pretty low risk for exposure, between my un/self-employment and Himself having already been between job sites (he’s a Union electrician, so this is normal in the winter) before anything got started, plus we’re somewhat hermitish, as a general rule.  This is also good, because I am uninsured and have bad lungs (birth defect), which means that if I do get it, I’m basically fucked and it’s been nice knowing y’all.  I’m not going to sugar-coat that one; I am one of the folks that’s high risk for ending up being written into the lists of the dead, and I freely admit to being more than a little scared of that prospect.

However, I’m holding onto the fact that I *am* very low risk for exposure, I am trained in how to avoid contact contagions, and for once, my agoraphobia and mild neuroses about germs is a useful thing.  The household plan is to hermit as much as possible for the next few weeks and go from there.

What does that mean for my travel writing?  Well, it does put a massive roadblock across on my plans for the spring, that’s for sure.  I had been planning to start checking out some of the local touristy type places as well, now that the weather’s getting nicer, but those will have to wait for now.  Instead I’ll be focusing on finding story bones out on the road to sing tales from, because I can do that without actually having to interact with people beyond putting gas in the truck. So more stories of myth and memory.

I’ve also been starting to reacquire jewelry-making supplies, and while I’m going to have to figure out a workaround for not having all of the beads I was hoping to have, I do have an assortment of wires and strings, and am waiting impatiently for a package of sari silk ribbons to arrive, to make necklaces out of.  Who knows?  Maybe I’ll return to my earliest jewelry-making habits and see what I can make use of from twigs and seeds and stones collected from the woods nearby.

More artwork and getting artwork posted.  Working on talismans and trying to get caught up on stuff I should have sent people a while ago.  That sort of thing.

So…Interesting Times, y’all, eh?  I don’t know about you, but I *really* want some boring for a bit.  Also, a nap.

Speaking of a nap, it’s past 2 in the morning and I am so tired I can barely keep my eyes open.  Good night, all.  Here’s to things getting boring really soon.

Sunset In Satan’s Kingdom

It was getting late in the day and I had been driving for hours.  The highway signs at the deserted intersection directed me to my choice of three different states but, to be honest, I wasn’t even sure which one I was in at that point.  My legs and back were screaming at me that it had been too long since I had last stopped to stretch, and my head was informing me that if I did not put caffeine and maybe some Tylenol into myself, it was going to produce a world class headache and then where would we be?  Sighing wearily, I turned the truck into the parking lot of the store at the corner to see about caffeination and getting my bearings again.

Iced coffee and a few minutes of walking around later, and I was starting to feel better.  Getting back in the truck, I decided it was probably getting to be about time to make my way home, since I hadn’t really found what I was looking for and it was getting late, anyway.  I turned my GPS on and started to tell it to steer us home.  Before I tapped the “Home” box, though, a name on the map caught my eye.

Satan’s Kingdom*.

Huh.  Well, that’s a thing.

I noted the distance from my location, and considered going to check it out.  It was only about 20 minutes west of where I was, but detouring would put me at least an hour out of my way, and I hadn’t brought anything that would pass for dinner with me.  The last 100 calorie packet with all of four almonds, a cashew, and two sliced up dried cranberries was not going to cut it.  As I weighed my options, the opening notes to “Sympathy For The Devil” came drifting out of the radio speakers.

That answered that question.  I switched my GPS’ destination and pointed the truck toward Satan’s Kingdom.  I know a hint when I hear one, and that one was loud and clear.

The highway was empty and the area was pretty much just trees, pavement, and the occasional run-down old house, and that was about it.  I mean, credit where due, if you’re going to go looking for a town called Satan’s Kingdom in god-knows-where Massachusetts, the area was doing its level best to provide the appropriate atmosphere. Definite A+ work, there.

The GPS instructed me to turn down a very narrow and winding side road and out into the woods. It was paved, I’ll give it that.  I gave my GPS some serious side-eye when, in the middle of absolutely nowhere, it announced “Arriving at destination”.

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Um. Right.

Also, it’s a switchback road.  That comes to a dead end.

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The road looks like it continues further, and if I wasn’t wearing a skirt and boots without good traction, and it wasn’t maybe half an hour until full dark (the sun was already below the trees and it was overcast), I might have considered hiking in, but alas…

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Since a hike was out, I decided to call it a day and go back to my original plan to head home.  So much for this trip, I guess?  I mean, interesting side road, but definitely not worth the hype.  I questioned the radio telling me to come out here.  It didn’t usually steer me wrong, but here I was, looking at an actual dead end.  I got back in the truck, turned around, and started back on up the road.

When I got to the main road that I’d turned off of to get to this particular section of hinterlands (there’d been a few houses and a wide field area), I noticed an old cemetery set back from the side of the road and decided to check it out.  It was still light enough, and I do have a fondness for old cemeteries.

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As I turned from the cemetery to get back in the truck, I was struck by the strange desolation of the area.  I mean, sure, some of it’s the fact that it’s winter, it was overcast, and dusk, and it’s probably much more inviting in the summer, but it had a Feeling about it…it reminded me of the feeling of standing on a widow’s walk in November, looking out over the sea…

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It was eerily quiet.  A place like that, I’d have expected to hear snowmobiles, or dogs barking, or something, but there was nothing but the sound of my truck’s engine idling and my own breathing.  Vaguely disquieted, I got back in the truck and turned out onto the main road and heading back toward home again.

Not a few hundred feet down the road, something caught my eye.  I slammed on the brakes in the middle of the road and stopped to look at the big, old house.  I didn’t remember seeing it on the way in, and that alone bothered me a bit.  I notice houses like that, and I swear I hadn’t seen this one.  Of course I pulled into the driveway that ran up one side.

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Not creepy at all…

As I drove up, a rabbit bolted out from where the driveway curved up and around behind the house.  It stopped and looked at me for a moment, before running toward the back courtyard that I could see the edge of.  I had an urge to follow it, to see where it was going, but decided that following a rabbit toward the old, abandoned house at dusk was probably not the best plan.  I settled for simply parking, and walking back to the edge of the road to take a picture of it.

I felt like it was watching me the whole time.  I fully expected to see someone looking back at me, but windows remained dark.

I took a couple of quick pictures in the fading light, and then turned to go back up to my waiting vehicle.  As I did so, I nearly jumped out of my skin.  There was a boy, maybe 10 or 12, with a pale, rangy dog sitting next to him, standing on the other side of the road behind me, looking at me.  It was a long, straight road, and there hadn’t been anyone walking along it, nor in the field across the street.  I don’t know where he came from, but there he was.  I nodded at him in greeting, but he just stood there, watching.  I went back up to where I had parked.

I’ve seen a number of horror movies in my life, and let’s be real, this was a classic horror movie setting if I’ve ever seen one.  Big, abandoned, old house in a remote New England town named Satan’s Kingdom just before dark?  Check.  Wildlife luring you further in?  Check.  Creepy child with dog staring at you?  Of course.

I’m not saying it was haunted, or that the boy was anything other than a normal, real boy, but ya know….the signs were all there that something was a little odd that day and I figure it’s better safe than sorry.  I got back in my truck and headed home before I ended up becoming a ghost and haunting the place, myself.

I did apologize to the radio for doubting it, though.  It was right, and it was worth the detour.

 

*It’s an unincorporated township that no one seems really sure how it got its name.  There’s a few theories ranging from early colonists getting driven out by the local Native tribes who lives there, to a preacher delivering a particularly fiery speech on Sunday, only to come out of the church to find the woods on fire, and making some remark about Satan’s Kingdom coming to challenge him or something.  No one really knows, though, and for whatever reason the town never became a town.  Eventually it ended up getting folded into Northfield, but still retains it’s name and not much else.

Of Unicorns, and the Treachery of Bullfrogs.

A story for a dark winter’s night…

A long time ago, just yesterday…when I was just a wee little river nymph of maybe 10 or so, we lived in a little town (barely more than a village, really) in an old white house with black shutters, where my mother grew roses and lilies in the yard.  Behind the house, across a small road, there was a swamp where, I was convinced, a unicorn was known to visit…

Now, my mother tried to convince me that there was no such thing as unicorns, not really, but let’s be honest; when you’re the daughter of a witch and a river some things are just not to be believed.  A unicorn visited the swamp and that was that. I just needed to wait long enough and I would see it.

I would go out into the swamp in the early morning before the mists were burned off by the sun, and in the evening as the last rays of daylight sank into the shadows, day after day, week after week, month after month, but still there was no sign  Yet my stubborn self persisted.

One day, after months of nothing but failure (though a developing appreciation for the sunrise and sunset) , I decided to try something different.  I went up the road to where a feral apple tree grew and I picked the best apples I could find, reasoning that unicorns were distantly related to horses and horses love apples so unicorns probably did too, but were likely more interested in wild apples instead of the boring ones from the market.  I stashed the apples where my mother wouldn’t find them (she didn’t approve of my habit of eating them, because they were probably full of worms and she didn’t believe that I could tell which ones had worms and which ones were fine, and besides, you can just cut the wormy bits off and the rest of the apple was fine and well, it was just easier to hide them) and went on about my day, secretly planning.

That night, when I went to bed, I pretended to fall asleep and, when I was certain that it was late enough for everyone else to be asleep, I quietly crept out of bed and, taking my stash of feral apples, snuck out of the house and out into the swamp.

It was a full moon that night, or near enough, and so I didn’t really need to carry a light to find my way through the small patch of woods and to the edges of the swamp.  It was so bright and beautiful, and it looked nothing like I was used to it looking, and it was wonderful. I knew from all of my research that unicorns were drawn to singing and so I sang little songs to the water and the frogs and the summer night’s wind and watched the light play on the water while I sat on a small rock that was the perfect size and shape to sit comfortably on for hours.

The mosquitoes were, to be honest, more than a little annoying, but I was determined to ignore them.

I admit, I got a little bored after a while, and noticed that there were an awful lot of frogs around the water’s edge…green frogs, wood frogs,  pickerel frogs, tiny little peepers, and of course, great croaking bullfrogs. I fed them some of the mosquitoes that were trying to eat me, because the circle of life is a beautiful thing and in the swamp sometimes it’s eat or be eaten, and I had Opinions about being on the menu.  Besides, it never hurts to have friends in watery places.

Then, after a small age, I heard a faint splash in the distance.  I stopped singing to listen, in case I was mistaken, but then it came again.  This was it. I knew it. As the sound drew closer, the frogs and crickets grew quiet, and so did I.  There was a Feeling in the air, like something magical approached. I was as still and quiet as a mouse, and as I watched, I saw a faint glow shimmering through the grasses and water-logged trees.  It was here! The unicorn! Any moment it would step through the grass into view and I would see it in it’s pale, moonlit glory, and I would offer it one of my carefully chosen apples and it would accept my offering and eat it and I would be the first river nymph in generations to befriend a unicorn and…

*CROOOOAAK CROOOOAAK CROOOAAK*

There was a frantic splashing and the sound of hoofbeats running into the distance.  Angrily, I looked down at the edge of the water at the base of my rock and there I met the flat, bored gaze of the one who had chosen that, of all moments, to decide to announce TO A UNICORN that this bit of swamp was his.

A big, fat, bullfrog.  Unrepentant and shameless.  I HAD JUST FED HIM MOSQUITOES AND HE HAD BETRAYED ME.  I glared at him, and he just looked at me, unblinking. I wished owls on him.  I wished herons and turtles and weasels on him. He was unmoved by my wrath, treacherous thing that he was.  I threw an apple at him but he dodged and stared at me from a little further down the shore.

I knew that there was no chance of the unicorn returning again that night, and besides, it was getting early and I knew that the longer I stayed, the more likely it was that I would be caught and get in trouble for wandering off into the night.  Leaving the remaining apples for anyone else that might come by, I crept out of the swamp and snuck back into my bed before my absence was noticed.

I tried a few more times, but never again did I hear the unicorn nor see the gentle glow of it’s horn, as it made its way through the swamp.

 

To this day, I still blame that frog for scaring it away.

 

Never trust bullfrogs.  They will always betray you, no matter how many mosquitoes you give them.