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!).
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.
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?
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.
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”.
Also, it’s a switchback road. That comes to a dead end.
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…
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.
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…
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.
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.
“apantomancy. Noun. divination by chance meetings with any objects that present themself, most commonly animals, but can also be numbers, objects, weather, etc.”
For most of my life, I’ve had a fascination with divination, chance, symbols, superstitions, and other things of that nature. My mother got into astrology when I was little (it was the 80s…it was sort of A Thing) and I grew up around mediums and tarot readers and all that. As a result, my interests on those lines were fostered from an early age, tempered by the fact that my father is a complete skeptic who believes in nothing he can’t see for himself.
Over the years, I learned a bit of everything on that front, and a whole lot about how divination and oracles work, at the fundamental levels, and have slowly built my own system of sorts. Because I’m me, there’s a whole lot of road and travel-related parts to it. Flipped coins at crossroads, the position of the crows and hawks, the patterns of windblown leaves and snow on pavement, the roll of dice to answer a question, that sort of thing. Many times, I’ve considered formalizing it somehow into something that doesn’t require being out on the roads (because sometimes one needs some insight and can’t go out driving around until the answer appears), but I haven’t gotten around to actually doing it yet.
Until now, that is. I’m finally working on creating the Oracle of Roads as a tangible thing. It’s a bit complicated because, while much of it can translate to a card-based format, like The Waitress or The Frustrated Hawk, some things, like The Sentinel Crow, or The Statue, usually involve variables that don’t simplify and translate as easily. With The Sentinel Crow, for example, generally things like whether the bird is on the ground, in a tree, or on a light-pole, as well as what direction it’s facing, are all factored in, so how to translate something like that is tricky and would probably work better as something like a round disc or thrown object.
Alternatively (she mused aloud), I could start by writing down all the variations and offering readings based on them while I get the larger logistics of format and spreads sorted out….
On the side of the old Post Road, there is an ancient and forgotten god that watches over travelers as they pass by. It was a god of hospitality, once, but now it’s mostly a god of mice and beetles and the odd wanderer who happens to see it for what it is. It’s shrine is falling down and overgrown with weeds, and old bottles and litter blown by the wind lie scattered around it’s pedestal.
I’ve taken to offering it a greeting as I pass by. It seems lonely, and I feel a little bad for it. Plus, it can’t hurt to have a god well-inclined toward you while you’re traveling, even if it is only a small and forgotten one. I keep thinking that I should maybe leave it an offering of some kind, but I don’t know what would be appropriate for it. I’m not entirely sure that it even knows, these days. It may not even remember that it’s a god, anymore.
Still, I should visit it’s shrine, and leave something for it.
After all. I am an odd wanderer, and I see it for what it is.
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My deepest apologies for dropping off the planet! My schedule got eaten by home repairs, doctor visits and, to be honest, my bank account hitting mothball-stage, all of which conspired to effectively ground me for a bit. But! Things seems to have stabilized a bit, and I’m back up and running again, albeit closer to home than usual….
A friend on Twitter posted a thing recently that asked “Without naming your city, what is your city known for?”, and I thought about what was nearby, and was reminded that one of my favorite spite monuments is just a few miles away: the John Brown Bell
So, back around the start of the Civil War, there was an abolitionist named John Brown. Mr. Brown appears to have had a rather “V for Vendetta” way of going about things, and made quite a name for himself as he went around doing everything he could to set off, well, basically the Civil War (he was going for a large scale anti-slavery revolt, which, I mean, is more or less what the war was, so… he sort of succeeded?). He eventually ended up getting pinned down and captured at the Harper’s Ferry fire station where he and a few folks had holed up in Virginia, brought to trial, and executed for treason and murder, along with a few other folks, which had something of a catalyzing effect on the whole issue and helped push things toward the war.
Shortly thereafter, a company of soldiers from Marlborough, Mass. were stationed down in Harper’s Ferry, because war, and as part of the capture of the area, were told to salvage anything they could. Several of the soldiers were members of the Marlborough fire department, and they had a fire station with no bell, and well, the Harper’s Ferry fire station had a really nice one, so they decided to take it home. There’s some additional shenanigans where they can’t get the bell home by reason of transportation funding, and it ends up buried in a garden for safe keeping for a while, before it finally makes it way up north to it’s new home.
The war ends, time passes, and Harper’s Ferry sets up a wax museum about the whole thing because we really like museums to things like major historical events in this country, and they decide to approach Marlborough about getting the bell back to put in the museum, figuring that the city would cheerfully hand over the bell.
This did not go as they planned. Raise your hand if you’re surprised. No? Didn’t think so. Y’all are smart folks.
They try this several times. At one point the words “Neener” and “tough noogies” are allegedly used by the chairman of the Marlborough Historical Society. At least one mayor of Harper’s Ferry has made comments about trying to steal it back, but well, it’s wired with a very nice alarm system.
It’s currently sitting right downtown in a small park, looking like just another relic of some random historical event (Massachusetts has a ridiculous number of things with plaques commemorating everything from actual major historical events like Bunker Hill to “George Washington once rode a horse through this intersection on his way to somewhere else”…no really, that one’s in Waltham), but it is apparently a rather hotly contested item between the two places, and I find myself deeply amused by the whole thing, and I may giggle just a little every time I drive past it.
Those that have been around me for more than five minutes quickly learn that I am a fan of the works of H.P. Lovecraft. Not because his writing is particularly good (it’s not…the man needed to both back away from the thesaurus and go find one at the same time, no small feat, that, and his politics, racism, and classism are the stuff of nightmares all on their own), but because the stories, once you read past the surface issues, are strangely compelling and envision a universe more deeply weird and intriguing than we imagine it to be. I’m also greatly amused by how much the mundane freaked him right out. Like, “Farmers in the mountains can read! They must be in league with ancient horrors from beyond the stars, because there’s no other rational explanation, especially in the part of the country that pioneered public education for everyone!” is a recurring theme of his, and I find it hilarious. Especially as a woman who grew up as a townie in rural New Hampshire, the grand-daughter of Eastern European and Irish immigrants. My existence would give him the vapors and it’s delicious.
Anyway, one of my favorite stories is “The Colour Out Of Space”, which takes place in Western Mass., and (here be spoilers!) involves a town that gets flooded to save the world from the eldritch horrors coming out of some farmer’s well. One of the interesting things about Lovecraft is that he often would allude to current events or scientific finds in his stories (the discovery of Pluto as the discovery of Yuggoth from whence the Mi-Go come, the first expedition to the Polar Plateau on Antarctica in the Mountains of Madness, etc.) and “The Color Out of Space” is no exception to this. In this case, it was the creation of what is now the Quabbin Reservoir, which provides water for most of the eastern half of the state. This, of course, means that I’m fascinated by it, both on the merits of story and the truth of what it is in it’s own right.
The Quabbin is a huge manmade lake now, where once stood the towns of Enfield, Dana, Greenwich, and Prescott. The towns were disincorporated, the residents (both living and deceased) relocated, and any remaining land not flooded divided up among the surrounding towns. The area immediately surrounding the Reservoir is state land and a number of state parks, and is accessible to the public for hiking and visiting, with some pretty tight restrictions, as it is the main source of water for 47 towns and cities, include Boston, and not much else. The surrounding towns remain small and somewhat isolated, distanced from the roads that surround the reservoir that claimed the drowned towns.
The other day, as I was driving aimlessly, I realized how close I was to it, and decided to visit for the first time in the 14 years that I’ve lived in the state, and see it for myself. The state run visitor’s park, while neatly maintained is and has a beautiful visitor office, feels strangely…void. Like, it’s lovely, but it’s like an artist’s rendition of what it should be, if that makes sense. It’s too…pristine and orderly green, and it’s honestly somewhat unnerving in it’s well-manicured state. I didn’t go very far in, and continued down the road to visit the cemetery where the remains of the dead of the four towns were relocated to. It’s still a working cemetery, but only for the few folks who once lived in the lost towns, and their families, and it is beautiful.
As I walked among the headstones, thinking about how strange it was to walk past stones and statues that can date back over 200 hundred years but that have only stood where they do for 81 years, musing on the surrealness of the place…these memorials from lost towns… I noticed there was one other person walking around, occasionally stopping to adjust a flag (it was the Friday of Memorial Day weekend, and there are people buried there who fought in wars as recent as WW1) or carefully brush lichen from an old marble stone. A tall, older gentleman who, while clearly not a park employee, just as clearly knew his way around.
Eventually our paths crossed and we got to talking, as you do. It turned out that his name was Gene Theroux, and he’s the president of the Friends of Quabbin a local organization dedicated to preserving the area and it’s history, and also a member of some of the families who lived in the drowned towns. He gave me an impromptu tour of the section we were in, and bits of history about the people buried there, as well as some of the issues that the group runs into with the State regarding better care for the cemetery. It’s maintain relatively well, as cemeteries go, but given the scale of sacrifice that was asked of those families, they deserve far better than “relatively well”, in my opinion. (There’s a link to the issues they’re working on on the front page of their website, which I’ve linked above. I highly suggest checking it out.) I learned a fair amount about the people who had actually lived in the area, as well, from him and it was really neat.
What had started out as a wandering drive on a sunny day and an unplanned side trip out to follow a curiosity born in fiction and terrible prose, turned into an opportunity to learn a bit more about the history of the state that I have made my home from a man who very clearly loved the land that his ancestors had lived on for generations.
Not a bad way to spend a Friday afternoon.
(Quick Administrative note: This will be the last immediately public full post that I plan to do, as I work on some changes to better serve my patrons, since I had already told folks I’d be posting it before I decided to start doing early access and that sort of thing. After this, most posts will be available to the public about a week or so after here and at https://theriverswaywarddaughter.com/. Thanks for your understanding!)