Once Upon A Time….

farmhouse

Of all of my childhood memories, these simple four words could and often did fuel the rustling of the wings of my imagination. Taking flights of sheer fantasy and fancy, my imagination and daydreams got me into more trouble than I can recount. In fact, if I had a dollar for every time I was written up for daydreaming, I’d have been the first child billionaire. Nevertheless, I also used to dream about writing; creating worlds in such a way to allow friends and strangers to share in those far-flung journeys of whimsy and wish. To that end, I thought perhaps I could write a short story ‘het’ romance. Yeah, this one brought its own sorrow and heartache, so I’ve kept it carefully hidden. Nurtured with my own flavor of sighs and tears, however – I recently told someone I deeply admire that “I’ll never fly if I don’t jump off the cliff.”

So, with the aforementioned in mind I present to you a story inspired by the 80’s song by the “Romantics.”

*********************************

Talking In Your Sleep

There’s a simple magic at work when you’re sitting on a wooden porch on a moonlit night in the middle of the no-one-can-reach-you-backcountry-sticks on an autumn evening. It’s even more enticing when you can hear the soft whisper of white linen curtains against the zinc window screens and you know from the delicate under-the-breeze scent that later that night there would be rain. Everything that encompasses you at that moment is there to heal you, revive you, wash away all the insanity that you’ve left when you kicked off the pumps, stripped off the suit and the oxford blouse, grabbed your jeans, t-shirts and chukka boots, packed the weekender bag and left the oh-so-ritzy-townhouse condo you rented with your friend in the big city.

When you’ve driven past the last vestiges of encompassing city madness, the scent of open meadows and living landscape begs you to turn off the artificial environment inside the car and lower the glass barrier between you and nature’s earthy scent. The wind rippling thru the open window tugs at your hair, embraces your skin and reminds you of days gone by when you lived without care – barefoot in the timeless dance of youth. All the light captured by the flashing air dances off the hood of your car, reflects in accidental rainbows thru the chrome and mirrors and just below the surface of your façade is a whoop of joy just begging to be given voice.

The day winds itself down to a point of sacred silence as the road behind you winds itself into a sliver of tarmac, then to a dusty trail then to a remembered by-way that wanders around pastures and fences. Rich memories of yesterday fill your mind as the tires gently crunch the limestone gravel, then you come full circle to the present and the presence of someone in the car to share the adventure. What will the weekend hold? Will he be the one to dance to the edge of tomorrow with you? The moon soars in full majesty to illuminate your destination with a grace to the place and the space with a magic like no other.

The routines of alarm clock, shower, dress, pack lunch, grab commuter pass and run for the shuttle had left my mind as I sat in that silvery silence on the well-known and much beloved wooden steps. Memories still danced in and out of the edges of thought as the scents of evening began to waft up from the rich soil.  I watched in awe as a barn owl snatched the first of his nightly snacks from the field in front of the old farmhouse and I had heard absolutely nothing of the drama save for the whispered breezes in the wind-sculpted live oaks. I kept observing the rippling stalks of grass in the hayfield, looking for more evidence that life was secretly dancing under the assumed calm waves of green. As scattered clouds began to rip the moonlit darkness in purplish shreds of haloed mist, a deer stepped out of the brushy break on the farthest edge if the field and I found myself holding my breath to see what would happen next.

First one doe, then three others, stepped out of their camouflaged safety into the moonlit expanse of the small meadow. I’d thought that perhaps this was the extent of the group, and then a stag of at least 10 points stepped out in all his breathtaking beauty. The small herd moved toward an area that had been recently mowed, a move I’d questioned until I remembered that they were looking to graze on the tender new growth, not bother with what was to be harvested soon. I squinted through the stark whiteness of the moonlight unsure of the shadows I was seeing until they hopped again. The jackrabbits were feeding with the deer! Of course! There was a hungry owl out there, and the deer would alert them first to any sudden movement.

The scent of fresh brewed coffee brought my mind from the field back to the porch as my “companion for the weekend” came outside with two cups of the hot savory liquid. I knew before I sipped it that he’d remembered the cream and sugar, and just how much of each. “You know, it’s pretty late, hun,” he softly murmured into my ear as he sat down next to me on the darkened porch. “Mmmmmmmmm,” was all the comment I could or would give. I was still bespelled by the silvered silence and leaning up against his sheltering warmth as I drank my coffee and watched the drama of life unfold in front of me in the closest thing to paradise I could imagine. “Oh, here, I almost forgot,” he said as an afterthought and produced two huge white chocolate macadamia nut cookies from his shirt pocket. “You bribing me for something?” I enquired as I hungrily snatched one of the cookies from his offered hand. I could see the moonlight etch the smile on his face as his soft, slow answer came just above a whisper, “Could be.” Before I could get more than one bite eaten, he was kissing the cookie crumbs from my face and lips as his hands gently cradled my shoulders. I was still clutching partially-eaten cookie and coffee as I blinked into the depths of his eyes, “Wow. Can we do the coffee and cookie thing in the moonlight more often?”

Again, the answer was better than the discussion – it was a suddenly-scooped-up into strong arms and walked across a porch, the screen door slamming shut behind us and then we were shedding clothes in the darkness of the bedroom just down the hall. All the windows were open to catch the cool breezes, the ceiling fan on to keep them moving and the bed linens were clean and soft as we moved to capture the moment in more than coffee, cookies, moon-silvered owls and shadowy breeze-swept clouds.

***********

When you awaken after a night of shared bliss, the first thing that stirs your senses is the smell of the linens you are warmly caressed within. It is the gentle hummock of the pillow where your head lies cradled, the stirring of a pre-stretch where you feel your neck begin a low stretch to allow more air to enter your lungs just before your mouth opens in the first yawn that kick starts the oxygenation of a newly awakened human body. Then your hands reach out for the beloved one, somewhat sure that they are just there, out of reach; and your eyes open to confirm the reality of another dawn, just as your toes reach out to confirm the edge of the sheets.

A hawk’s cry awakened me the next morning, a morning where in the sunlight poured like elderflower honey on everything it touched, even the dust motes were ablaze with a golden glow. I stretched under the sudden heaviness of sheets and blankets to see that I was alone in the bed, my companion not within sight, but the smells seemed to indicate that he’d been awake for hours more than I. Flipping back the bed linens, I stretched my legs out over the edge of the bed and put warm feet on cool wooden floors. Suddenly, my body remembered that it needed the usual maintenance of emptying of excess fluids and I was stumbling my way to the toilet. Immediate grace and knowledge of body space after awakening was never a personal point of strength; I found the edge of the door with my shoulder, the door sill with my elbow and by the time my warm keister found the cold porcelain of the toilet I knew that I would have bruises to remember the weekend with.

“Good heavens, woman! Do you need a nurse?” I heard my companion just outside the bathroom door. “No, but I may need some arnica gel to keep the bruise from looking suspicious..” I countered with the usual wry non-caffeinated humor. “Have you been up long?” I asked. “Well, now that you mention it….” And his voice trailed off quietly.

“I’ll be out as soon as I wash up a bit. Coffee still hot?” I was trying to get a grip on his mood and my clothes.

“I’ll get some fresh going. Hungry??”

“Ummm, cookies?” I asked in a perky query.

“Ahem. Cookies are NOT breakfast food.” I could just hear the mere hint of an unvoiced chuckle under his breath.

“Ummm, and companions aren’t either??” I was snickering, and grabbing a towel to take a shower; making all the preparations that women do in the morning routines that occur no matter where we are, as long as hot water and soap is available. I heard him chuckling and wander down the hall to the farmhouse kitchen as I stepped onto the cold tiles of the shower.

The scent of the simple Castile soap took me back to memories of my childhood and the warmed towels that my Nana used to dry me and my waist length hair as I stood in front of the fireplace or a gas space heater. She’d fuss over me not to catch a chill, wrap me in her huge chenille robe and put clean warm socks on my feet. Then, I’d sit on the embroidered stool as she took a boar’s hair brush and a carved ivory comb to my hair before plaiting it into the delicate multiple braids she loved to weave into my hair. I’d end up looking like a red haired version of the fairy princesses illustrated in the books from her family’s family in Denmark.

Oh, the stories she would tell me about her childhood. Going with her daddy to the edge of the hayfield to carve out her first garden, and the sweetness of the first tomato harvested – fresh off the vine and still warm from the sun. She’d bring her memories of persnickety cook stoves, overprotective hens pecking at her fingers as she gathered eggs, and the loneliness of a little girl growing up without a mother in the harshness of  post-depression Texas.

The water was cooling as I turned off the shower and stepped back into the present and away from my memories. One last whispered, “Thank you, Nana,” into the towel as I dried myself and got dressed for the day, one more day in a hidden heaven. After I dried off the shower stall and hung the towel to dry, I heard my companion in the kitchen, “Ok, come try my cooking. It’s not as good as yours, but it’ll get you going. Maybe even keep you from finding door sills with your body parts!”

I quickly tied my hair back into a ponytail as I wandered to the other side of the farmhouse and into the kitchen. The smell of bacon, hash-browns and eggs mingled with the comfortable warmth of a hug and the happiness of a full cup of coffee. I looked into his eyes with wonder, appreciation and every intent of inhaling the feast in front of me, but I needed to clear the shadows behind his eyes. “Hun, why were you up so early?” I asked as I went to sit down. A soft sigh and then I felt his eyes peer into my soul as I went to sip my coffee. His voice deep and gravelly as he spoke, “Baby, you talk in your sleep. In fact, I need to know – and I want to hear it from you. Am I more than just a weekend thing? I thought we’d agreed to keep things like this. I heard much more.”

I gulped.

How did I tell him, how could I when I was the one who insisted that we just keep things casual, and then fell in love? I let my hair fall forward, trying to hide my heart that had jumped up to blast through those azure windows of my soul. A gentle touch as his finger reached under my chin to pull my face up from the curtain of auburn hair.  I couldn’t deny my heart, and looking at him I saw the little boy behind his blue eyes just waiting to be told that I wanted to share more than cookies and weekend breakfasts with him.

Softly, I stammered out, “I never intended to fall in love with you, but I couldn’t…” That was the limit of all I could speak as he bent forward and enveloped me in an embrace and a kiss that silenced me into tears of joy. Gasping for air, I pulled back just enough to see a light within his eyes that only barely matched the sheer delight on his face. He attempted to express a serious, more somber expression, but it was ruined by his exclamation of “Oh Hell, woman. Me too! You know, we both suck as this casual relationship stuff. So, here’s a question…”

His pause made my stomach flop like being on the high diving board with the water being way down below my toes.

“Are we ready to do more than this? I think I might be ready to settle down if I found someone who appreciates my cookies.” There was the little boy again, right there in front of me. Like the sudden happy surprise of finding ripe peaches in the sunshine, I realized that my inner little girl felt like she’d found a fishing partner that wouldn’t drown the worms or lose the bait. But I wasn’t willing to be an easy catch, or was I?

Wiping tears from my cheeks and onto my jeans, I looked up at him with pure mischief in my heart. “Um, I dunno. That last batch was sort chewy, I think you almost burnt ‘em. But if you’re willing to take a little direction and maybe a bit of criticism, you might’ve found yourself a baking partner.” I flashed him a grin that quickly was covered by another kiss until I broke away to complain, “Hey! What’s a lady gotta do to get some food around here?”

“Aw Lord, woman! Is your stomach all you think about? Here I make you a proposal to make an honest woman outta you, and you’re grumbling about food?”

I leaned across the red checkered tablecloth to grab my coffee and countered with, “Oh no, buster! You are not going to call THAT a proposal.  A proper proposal has flowers and a ring and someone is gonna get down on one knee and get serious! Hash browns and coffee do not a proposal make…but they can come close.”

I watched his right eyebrow begin to climb into his hairline, but the grin that threatened to burst loose from the corners of his mouth belied the seriousness he was attempting to hide behind.

“OK, if that’s what the lady wants….”

He stood up and went to the sink and leaned over to the windowsill to remove the faded plastic flowers that looked like they had been placed there years ago. I grabbed a quick mouthful of bacon as I watched him pull the bread bag from the pantry, remove the wire tie and just as efficiently tie the bag into a secure knot. He grabbed my left hand to measure, and then placing the plastic flowers between his teeth he wove the bread tie into a rough ring and dropped to one knee in front of me. With flowers in one hand and the bread-tie ring in the other, he suddenly frowned, “Music, we need music.”

I was amused that he wanted this as spontaneously perfect as he could make it, and that it was important to him. I was also still as ravenous, so I had one eye focused on his lanky frame bending over the beige plastic box of an old fashioned radio, while the other eye was navigating a fork into scrambled eggs. I’d almost devoured all the eggs when he discovered that the radio still worked, and was negotiating the hazards of hash-browns cooked with caramelized onions when he discovered what he ascertained was the perfect music. I had to agree with him, “Knights in White Satin” was an excellent choice, and he turned, made a bow and then resumed his one-kneed position in front of me.

He was attempting to make light of the spontaneity of the moment- plastic flowers, bread tie ring and all, but behind it he was somber and serious. “Beloved titian-haired lady of my dreams, she who speaks the truth of her heart in her sleep but hides her light behind her hair in the day…..Will you join me in my life and be my lady for all time to come? And will you accept this token of my affection, desire and promise-to-do-better-when-we-find-a-decent-jewelry-store?”

I would have loved to laugh and accept his proposal, but I’d taken a mouthful of hash-browns and any response on my part would have spewed half-chewed food all over him. I was trying to chew and swallow, but there was this silly grin on his face like he was savoring the moment of me NOT being able to say a thing.

“Oh, woman. I do so love you. Look, don’t choke on your answer, just nod your head and take the ring will ya’?”

I was nodding my head when I got choked anyway…and he ended up patting my back with the solid ‘thud, thud, thud’ and the comment that this was getting things off in a good direction. To which I responded with placing his handmade bread-tie engagement ring on my left hand, and jumping up to hug his neck. We sort of got tangled up in the tablecloth and somehow brought all the plates and coffee cups into the floor while exchanging yet another kiss amidst the laughter.

************

It took a good hour or so for the couple to clean up the mess in the kitchen, by then the sun was high enough to take the chill off the morning and actually make the day warm enough for a good swim. They both changed into t-shirts and cut-off jean shorts and wandered down to the broad creek with towels in hand to enjoy the water, the sunlight and each other. As they walked hand in hand away from the old farmhouse, the radio in the kitchen was softly buzzing with another tune, “…I hear the secrets that you keep, when you’re talking in your sleep…”

A Letter to My 18 Year Old Self

YouTube sent out an e-mail today where in honor of International Women’s Day, they asked women to make a video letter to their younger self.  Well, I’m still on the upward climb of learning video technology, but I knew I could write that letter. Without further ado, here is the “Letter to my 18 year old self.”

**************************************************************************************************************************************************************chicago peace rose

 

Dear Me;

 

I’m writing you nearly two years after a life-altering event and near-death episode. Since it’s been 39 years since I made a monumental decision to join the military instead of attempting to find a way to go to college, I’m writing this so that hopefully, one day, time travel of at least video correspondence is a reality. In November of 1975, I raised my right hand, and had Mom sign an age waiver so I could gain entry into the Texas National Guard. I was so idealistic, so naïve, so sure I was doing the right thing.

Yes, going into the military was a good thing; but I seriously needed someone to tell me about homesickness and familial dysfunction and alcoholism and rape. I seriously needed someone to tell me that my spirit was a beautiful, sacred thing and all those empathic impulses I’d been denying were REAL. I needed someone to help me find the beautiful Goddess in Training that I was, to find the self-confidence that the writing voice within should never have been denied over the need to simply survive. I needed the strong guidance that helped me discover I could do this on my own, that I never needed a man to make me complete. I needed someone to teach me by example that a life companion complemented who you are, not changed you to fit their reality. Further, no one had the right to raise a hand to you in rage; no one had the right to define your spirituality, confine you to their definition of Deity.

There was so much of the masterpiece of my being that was so incomplete at 18 that it should have been considered a felony for me to have been sent out into the world of the late 70’s without at least a Master Class in Reality. You are more than pumps, sandals, boots, or bare feet. You are more than jeans, cut-offs and bikini bottoms. You are more than a bra, a halter top or a t-shirt. You are more than the outside accoutrements of clothing, or style. Your spirit is as free as Jonathan Livingston Seagull, never let anyone tell you or try to convince you otherwise. In fact, do yourself a favor – don’t allow anyone who attempts to corral who you are with conventionality to stay in your life.

Education is a passport to freedom, little one. No one can steal the treasures of knowledge you hold between your ears. There is nothing shameful about being intelligent, there is only the shame later that you were never able to develop the bright promise you held. I said it before and I’ll say it again and again – if the guy you want doesn’t comprehend what you love, let him go. Someone will show up that shares your love of the stars, and the planets, and Star Trek and all things geeky. Someone will show up that is as much a hopeless romantic as you are, and if you are willing to let that special someone, they will sweep you off your feet and worship you every day of your lives together.

Don’t allow the bigotry of those around you blind you to the beauty of everyone you meet. Commit the words of Max Ehrmann’s Desiderata to heart and find a way to live/express/develop the intent of that writ every moment that you draw breath. Find a way to play every day, coloring books are not the territory of the very young, neither are finger paints or Play-Doh, or Legos, or Lincoln Logs or even rag dolls and dollhouses. Remember the fun you had in the kitchen with your grandmother, and your nannies, and learn that food is as much a palette as are words and crayons.

Last, learn to grieve as deeply as you loved. Never allow someone to tell you to “get over it.” While the great sages and wise women through the ages affirm that we are never truly separated from those we love, there are those who will share time with you as you dance on this planet that will only share the journey but briefly. They will be the beacons of Light along parts the dimly lit passages as no life is lived in sunlight alone. Never forget to appreciate the Light in your life; taking people for granted should be considered a mortal sin.

When you have children, stick to your guns and your gut. Your intuition as a mother is a far better diagnostic tool than the most schooled pediatrician, the most well-intentioned educator. You KNOW your children. Never deny yourself a moment spent with the extra cuddle, the additional kiss on the forehead, the caress of a silky head. Spending time cuddled together on the ‘mommy/daddy’ bed builds a bond that no one can ever break, and gives them memories of security and love to hold in their hearts forever. Remember that old pots and pans, worn out aprons and wooden spoons are far better toys than those that others spend a fortune on. Teaching them how to build fairy houses out of leaves and sticks encourages imagination, and planting a garden together grounds them to life itself.

Creating things of use and beauty with knitting needle, sewing needle or crochet hook, hands a legacy to all children. There’s nothing wrong with teaching the playmates of your kids how to do it either. Oh yes, one more thing, and it’s the most important. Kids are like that garden you’ll grow together. They need the sunshine, the dirt and the water. Letting them dance naked in the rain allows their spirit that freedom of expression in a memory that will get them through the tough times they will undoubtedly face.

You are an incredible person. You will meet other incredible persons and you will meet people of both great good and horrific evil. When you meet people of evil, walk away. Quickly. Do not attempt to find the good in anyone that greets you with all the ugliness that they are. Accept them as ugly and walk away. The greatest truth is the saddest lesson you will have to learn, and it is this: Good people attract bad people like ants to a picnic. Ants have the right to be ants, but you do not have to sit there and let them hurt you. They have their place in the scheme of things, and it is up to you if you choose to share your life with anyone who willfully hurts you. Make a different choice.

Life is incredibly short. Dance. Eat with joy. Love with abandon. Appreciate the special people in your life, and allow to pass those who would cause you or yours harm. Grow a garden, love a pet, plant a tree. When it is time to go, you want to look back and laugh with love.

Hug yourself for me – and let go of any regrets – you can always start over, on any given day.

Love,

Me.

Behind “Home”

trail home

There’s been a ghost of an idea sitting on the back burner of my mind for a few days; more than just the usual ‘because’ that grants perpetuity in the writer’s mind. This niggling, this fomenting creation of firing synapses and fulminating neurons is much more than that. It’s a concept that is being borne out every day in some new way by hard science and prattled upon mercilessly by one guru or another.

In a very simple derivative, it is thus: all that we are is the summation of what is around us at any given time. We must needs be mindful of this at every moment or accept the consequences. Breaking this down into chunks or simple bits of digestible concept much like cold cereal follows. (Yes, stuff like this really DOES bubble around in my brain…maybe I should have had a bit more support in the educational realm.)

There now exists hard science that our bodies shed cells on a regular basis – we are ever in the process of becoming who we are on a regular daily, almost, cycle. Given this, stop for a moment and think. Where did your breakfast come from? Was it grown locally? Touched by the hands of a neighbor? Was it harvested by machine or by hand? Was it transported in a refrigerated truck far away from where it first saw sunlight? Did it sit in a warehouse waiting for its lot to be bid upon before moving on to a distribution center? Where does every iota of what you eat come from? Where are the hands that touched it in some form before you purchased it and brought it home to grace your oven, hotplate or microwave before it graced your plate and table? Do you know these people? Would you have them share your dinner with you? You do, you know.

Every time you eat, everything you eat has been touched by others in the process of here to there; unless of course, you grow and harvest every morsel of food you put into your mouth. So with this in mind, let’s track your day. Who grew the beans that were later harvested by another, transported by yet another, processed by an additional handful, roasted, blended and ground to be put into a container that found its way to your kitchen pantry and thus your coffee cup? Do you ever think to thank the blessed hands, hearts and minds of each person that touched the coffee you now drink? How about the hands of the laborers that went into making the coffee machine that brewed the beverage you now consume? Like it or not, we are all creations of energy; we expend it in myriad ways throughout our day, but we take it in likewise. The sum of each person’s touch is in every item of clothing we wear, every morsel of food we eat, the cars we drive. Our days, our world, our presence is literally filled to the brim with the essence of another – in fact many others.

When we allow Oligarchs and Plutarchs to rule, they seek to stifle, muffle, and silence the voices and the energies that make this energy exchange bright and joyous. Without the love of the land as expressed by a human farmer, the beauty and health of the wheat field loses something in the process of providing life-sustaining grain. Without the loving hands of those that prune, tend and harvest them, tomatoes seem to lose the vibrant flavor that dances upon our tongues and sings within the sauces and dishes that they later grace. Let us add the additional dimension of presence of place.

Many of us choose to live within an urban environment, some of choose instead to thrive well off of the beaten paths of civilization. Some of us live upon the water, and some of us have no door to close nor roof to shelter our heads. Wherever we find ourselves, we need be mindful of where we are for many reasons; the least of which was stated earlier – we change, we recycle, we regenerate our cells on a regular basis. The building blocks of who we are we must get from somewhere.

Think about this – think about it hard, for more than just the moment that you are taking to read this blog. Do you know the barista that made your coffee? Do you know the hands and heart of the person who crafted a cheese Danish for your consumption? Are you aware that the chicken that laid the egg you are eating may very well be living out her short miserable life in a 1 x 1 foot cage and force fed nutrients that do nothing more than force her to lay egg after egg?

There’s a very simple reason why home-grown tomatoes taste so good. The obvious reason is the vine picked freshness, but think of the joy and energy put into the plant with the daily watering and hand care received by the plant itself. But, you argue – I cannot raise the wheat that makes my bread, or the corn that goes into my tortillas, or the beef and fish and chicken that I consume. Maybe there’s another Truth you need to embrace and integrate. Are you within reasonable commute distance to a farm? Have you ever made an effort to get to know where your food comes from? When was the last time you kicked off your shoes and let your naked feet embrace the soil?

As a whole, we humans have forgotten our sense of tribe, our sense of unity with all things living and growing. We’ve neglected to remember our bodies crave communion with the earth our bodies are made of. We’ve forgotten the music of the winds, the waters, the hymns of feather, fur and scale. What’s even worse, we’ve convinced ourselves that wandering from place to place without discovering the “feel” of where we are is a ‘normal’ thing.

As a result, our children are numbed out with medication, we take pills to wake up, go to sleep, and keep our attentions focused on the production of mindless crap. We’ve neglected to embrace our elderly in a healthy manner and allow them to pass their stories to our young. We’ve failed to place adequate value in sound judgments that will stand the test of common sense and altruism. Further, and perhaps even more shameful, we refuse to govern ourselves beyond electing a sound bite and carefully packaged automaton whose sole purpose to exist is for the elite.

If we can, it is now past time to put our courage to the sticking place and take charge of change with both hands. If you only have one hand, make sure it’s your neighbor’s that you grab because like it or not, we’re in this together. None of us can single handedly raise the food, shelter and transportation required of our lives; but we can remember and learn to accept as family those that can.

The “Me” generation was wrong; it is past time that “We” stand up, get over the petty issues, address the serious ones and move into our tomorrow – mindful of who we are, where we come from , and where we intend to go. At the very least, before you consume anything; eat food, pump gas, buy a piece of clothing, perhaps it would be a good thing to be mindful of the hands behind its creation – and give thanks.

Takin’ Tater home….

tater

On the Eve of Christmas Eve…..

This has not been the usual week of borderline sanity at home. First, the college kid is home for the winter break. The larder needs re-stocking as I’ve adjusted to just the Dane and me for edibles in the pantry, fridge and freezer. This will later reflect itself in “The Shopping Trip from Dante’s Acid” later. It also means that the cats, particularly Phucktard Phred, will be overjoyed that she’s back. For Phred it means that he get to be Protectorate Cat in Chief for “Kitty Mama Number Two” in exchange for nighttime warm snoozes at the foot of her bed. To show his appreciation the first night she was home, he dropped a half-dead, partially consumed gecko into her nearly-asleep cleavage. Knowing she would stampede the parental units if she screamed, she instead stifled her scream and upon retrieving the critter, tossed him under the bed to seek refuge. The following night, said gecko, still having a death-wish, dropped from the ceiling onto her shoulder. Keep in mind that we live in the sticks, anything from a scorpion to a drunken bat could have fallen onto her shoulder, thence to climb into her hair. Of course, this is the child that KNOWS better than to stampede the parental units with nighttime drama unless the need is acute; rather than give into the bone-numbing fear whatever-it-was invoked, she chose to lift a trembling hand to discover that Mr. I-Have-No-Tail-Because-Of-The-Cat Gecko had returned. With bravado unheard of in my offspring heretofore, and knowing full well that scarcely three nights previous there was a rattlesnake out there, she takes the gecko outside to the back porch. It’s our expected protocol for most critters, this “catch and release.” It was protocol for the children during camping trips as well, but that’s a whole different post. The now-tailless gecko goes his merry way and Phred’s place as a foot-of-the-bed guardian Lion-Cat is assured.

Today is unusual as it’s the re-scheduled day for my weekly visit to the therapist. When I get to her office/home, she’s still half asleep and in a robe as she was up until 3 am filing the paperwork for my insurance claim. It seems that yet again, the paperwork process has changed and she now needs to re-submit 3 months’ worth of my visits on a new online system that is more difficult to navigate than the IRS website and just as glitchy. She has the patience of a saint, and I just move to a small settee for our weekly chat as she fixes herself coffee, toast and we just do our usual visit in unusual surroundings. In the end, it works out better because dealing with change has always been a bit of a sticking point with me, and I needed her as a sounding board to deal with the trauma of the precious day’s shopping nightmare. But the frustration of dealing with the new filing system is evident in our visit. I ask myself; are all my primary medical contacts going to have to deal with this, as well? Honestly. If this is your “new normal”, quit calling yourself “insurance” and adjoin the proper description of your function as “protection racket.”

However, it was back to dealing with the insanity of shopping this close to a major holiday and children being allowed to run rampant in a very, very busy retail setting. This was not apparent in in one store but in all three that we visit in order that acquire the makings for not one, but two costumes as both the Dane and Kat are doing costume play (cosplay) at IkkiCon this year. My agoraphobia kicked in hard and all I wanted to do was bend physical laws and reach light speed to return home. I was grateful to get home, but both Kat and I were not in doing well for mental stability. The noise, the frenetic activity and the hostility from other shoppers twisted our experience into a visit into Dante’s psyche.

Soon enough, our time is over and I am driving home; food for thought growling around in my brain as it always does after these sessions and as I make one of the final turns to come home, in the middle of the road is a black bloodhound. He looks totally lost and completely thrilled to be seeing a human being; his tail wagging so hard it affects his back legs in the thump, thump, thumping of a joyful dog. I put the car in park, and go to open my door and see if I can get close to him; close enough to see if the tags on his collar could give me an idea as to who he was and where he belonged. The back country road he was traversing was NOT a safe place for two-leggers, much less four-leggers. As I exit the car, the dog sees his opening and jumps right in! He then jumps into the rear seat and starts to nose the cold window glass, I roll down the window for him, and he sits down as if fully expecting to go on a road trip. He was so excited, that I couldn’t get a grip on his collar and I made the decision to take him to the house and engage the assistance of the college kid. As we near the top of the ridge, the animal decides to engage in what bloodhounds do best, bay and howl. What the Hell, I figure, I’ll just howl with him. He was startled into silence the first time I answered his howl with one of my own. Until that is, he did it again. We were making sweet mountain music all our own all the way to the homestead.

We drive down the long driveway onto the acreage and George decides to join in with his own unique ‘bark from the balls’ addition to our chorus. From the time that George put his nose up to greet the bloodhounds’, a friendship begins to bloom; and frankly it was inevitable. Both are big, black dogs, both have distinctive voices, and both are just damned goofy. Kat helps me dog-wrangle the bloodhound and I get the vet’s phone number from his tag. I place a call and discover that a.) His name is “Tater” and b.) He lives about 3 miles from us. I get his owner’s phone number and his ‘critter-mama’ answers the phone. ‘Tater’ has been a bad boy and dug out of his yard again to go ‘visitin’ the neighborhood. I’m watching Tater and George sniff and play with each other as I’m making arrangements to get Tater back to his owners when I hear a strange yelp and see the college kid suddenly fall over laughing. Apparently in his way of sayin’ “Howdy!” to Tater, George put his cold, cold nose on Tater’s warm boy dog parts; the resulting vertical 3 foot leap and startle howl/yelp being of particular hilarity. In the meantime, the Dane has been awakened from his slumbers by the howling and the happy cannonade of bark from George. “What th’ Hell is that gawd-awful noise?” he stagger bellows from the hallway. It was almost a sudden verbal blow that my beloved would find the sweet bay of a bloodhound a ‘gawd-awful noise’ – never has our disparate childhoods been a factor in our relationship. Upon hearing my answer once more, the Dane grumbles from the darkened hallway, “The answer is ‘Hell to the No!’” My heart quavered a little, but I also realized that feeding TWO of George would require a bit more income or the graduation of a child from an institution of higher education.

Kat and I pile into the car and open the back door of Jean-Luc d’Cube for Tater. He jumps in and no sooner than Aerosmith starts thumping from the stereo but he begins to happily howl again. I can just hear the Dane in the house begin the growl and grumble over the joyful noise. I’m starting to get an evil idea that begins with a dark chuckle. Up and over the ridge and we’re back down the long, long country road the leads out of the back of beyond where the home front is. Soon we pull up to the mailbox that denotes the address of Tater’s owners, and sure enough there’s a young man waiting in a pickup truck for our arrival. Tater jumps out and then can’t make up his mind which vehicle he wants to be a part of. The young man is desperately trying to get Tater’s attention aimed in the general direction of the open cab of the truck. It take a bit of effort to wrangle 90 pounds of excited bloodhound to jump into the truck, but it’s managed with only a little bit of frustration and a lot of ignoring the tail-wagging excited baying howls. Later, Tater….I think I feel the addition of “play-dates” for George.

However, in tiniest corner of my heart, I am planning the addition of a bloodhound to our homestead. I realized what I missed in not having the sweet music of a happy howling bay to greet me home and howl with. No, the Dane has no clue; then again, he’d probably find me an early entrance into an old folk’s home if he had a clue that the addition of my dreams of “Boudreaux” will also include the addition of a mule, too.

A Yuletide Pagan Primer for the non-Pagan

Yule-log-entry

 

Time and again I’ve posted on Facebook and elsewhere NOT to wish me a “Merry Christmas” please, I’m not Christian. I don’t say it to sound mean or callous or Goddess-forbid engage in some feeble minded attempt to make war on a holiday held sacred by others. I’m simply asking that a level of civility be observed and to please extend to non-Christians the same courtesy extended to Jews, Muslims, and other non-Abrahamic individuals. In return, I’ve been asked “What DO you observe?”

I am only timidly going to stick my toe in the Pagan waters here, because I can only speak for our Druidic tradition and some of the Wiccan and Asatruar traditions that we share hearthkin with. Ah, yes…I can see that some definitions are going to be in order as well.

Shall we jump in? Primarily there are as many Pagan traditions as there are stars in the sky – and probably just as many variations in Druidry, Asatru and Wicca, so this is not gospel. It is a generality and should you have a burning desire to know and question that you just have to have answered, feel free to ask. Likewise, if I don’t have the answer, I can usually point you in a solid direction for where to discover the answer. Witchvox.com is a likely resource, but not the final answer by any means.

Let us start with “community” – this is not as cohesive (although a crap-ton of us wish it were) or as inclusive as the word suggests. “Loose confederation” is closer, more holes that your granny’s doily is a better description. This mutually-agreed upon truce betwixt and between traditions and spiritual paths tends to generate a consensus gathering for most, if not all of the 8 “Holy Days” that revolve around an agricultural/astronomical calendar. Neither are the dates ‘set in stone’ per se. Because of a large amount of religious bigotry still running unleashed and rampant in a good part of America, most Pagani tend to utilize “the weekend closest to” the actual date/day/time for observance.

Let us also add an additional warning here. Because of the aforementioned problems with the distinct lack of general acceptance, if you’ve made an acquaintance of an individual that follows The Old Ways, please keep that information to yourself, unless that individual has acknowledged to you that they are “Out Of The Broom Closet” with regards to their spirituality. It’s a big no-no to expose someone who could very easily lose their job, their home, their children, their school funding or even their lives. No, I’m not going over the top here. It’s happened.

OK, definitions. “Heartkinship” – this is an established relationship between two separate groups of pagani; sometimes, two covens or circles, sometimes Druid and Wicca, sometimes Asatru and Druid. There is an agreed upon joint relationship for observance, prayer, feasting, even extending to informal fosterage of children during the summer months or sometimes during the school year. Yes, my family and I fostered our girls with an Asatruar hearth and likewise accepted their children into our household. It works very well when there are shared values and morals, with shared goals and expectations of the children involved. The benefits are amazing all around; but the trust and ability to compromise required of each side promotes a level of maturity that is admirable. Once upon a time, when there were extended families that knew each other just as well, informal fosterage was simply a given status. Modern America has lost something it could do well to rethink and regain.

‘Ghosti’ or Guestright – this is the set of acceptable behaviors between guest and host that stretches back into time. In a nutshell, it describes what is expected of a good guest; no breaking of the good china, lamps or host’s bones, no wrecking of the house, cars or property, no allowing the remainder of the household to come to harm through action or inaction on your part. In exchange, your host is expected to grant you a meal free from poison, vermin or inordinate gossip, a place to sleep should you require it, and a bath should you need one. Additionally, protection from anyone who would harm you while within the boundaries of their property is also an expectation. It sounds so simple, and yet too many times the members of the pagan community have seen both guests and hosts wreck the parameters of appropriate behavior on the order of a sleazy talk show.

As much as I hate to illumine the single underlying cause of the majority of these rampages, it must be outlined that alcohol can breed just as much antipathy as cheer. Setting firm expectations/boundaries with guests is a welcome foundation that can insure many happy holidays to come – be they Pagan or not. Oh yes. One more item. Set firm boundaries with regard to sex and sexual behavior. If you’re going to have a grown-up party, act grown-up and discuss consensus and protection.

Ah, so you’ve been invited to “circle” or “ritual” – Chances are the person that invited you will inform you of their particular traditions with regards to dress, time to show up, etc. Want to impress the person who invited you or officiates at the ritual? Bring a bottle of mead, or good wine, or something to eat. Clueless as to what would be appropriate? Do a bit of research on the ritual being observed. Many of the Full Moon/Dark Moon observations are closed – which means “no one outside the immediate group unless permission has been given.” So, if you are invited to a Holy Day observation, (one of the Big Eight) you’re going to be there with others who are likewise clueless or are attending their first event. Accommodations should have probably been made for your presence. Relax, keep an open mind and enjoy. Participation in the event is always voluntary, save for a preliminary ‘smudging’ or cleansing. Never be afraid to ask your host/hostess about appropriate attire, what to do once inside circle, if you can ‘sit this one out’ and where, etc.

What is this “Yule” thing anyway? For our hearth, Yule, is an ancient Germano-Celtic tradition that celebrates the return of the Light and is observed from sunset the day before the Winter Solstice to sunset the day of the Solstice. An hourly vigil is kept at the Hearthfire by the Yule Log to insure blessings to one and all that come to observe, offer prayers and seek blessings. There are some that keep an all-night vigil when seeking wisdom of importance. While there is gift-sharing, it is minimal and observes a protocol of “one gift to Share Your Light” (i.e. an artist receives expensive brushes, a chef receives a prized carving knife, etc.) There is often story-telling (the cycle stories of Munster, the Children of Lir, etc.) and there is often a recounting of the year’s events similar to Samhain.

At midnight, every light is turned off, the fire is ritually tamped out, and a new fire re-kindled upon the ashes of the old, with the exception of the Yule Log. Additionally, the Yule Log is never allowed to burn away completely; one piece of the log is saved to use to kindle the next year’s Yule Log, else the family line dissipate never to be spoken of or remembered again. Usually, only “hearthkin” (kindred accepted by rite) are allowed to share Yule as they are familiar with and answer to the traditions of “ghosti” or guestright. (This is a complicated set of traditions that have to do with hospitality – how to behave as a guest and/or host.) We usually roast a ham, a brisket and a salmon to offer on the table for the main feast. There’s baked apples, sometimes a roast goose, it all depends on a.) what we can afford and b.) what we can get at the butcher’s. It’s very different from Christmas, but very family oriented.

By far, this isn’t an in-depth description…because there is so much more. The names of all whom I’ve sent Yule cards to will be recited at the Hearthfire in order that the Exalted Ones extend a Blessing to them. There are bayberry candles that adorn the altar (for prosperity – “A bayberry candle burned down to the socket brings health to the family and gold to the pocket.”) Mistletoe is carefully hung over doors, holly and pine over windows (to honor the Ancestors & the Shining (Fae) Ones) and often the kitchen and pantry is ritually cleansed with salt & mint to keep pests away, the floor cleansed with herbal tinctures and homemade soap….It’s a JOB…but the laughter, the sense of community and the camaraderie makes it so worth the effort!

Yule is probably the one Holy Day wherein we open the hearth and door to any who care to share because we feel it’s only right to Share in the Light. To us, sharing the sacred with others connects us to them in a way that no other form of communion can. When you share a meal, a ritual observance, stories and song, you being to understand another person’s perspective, and their lives begin to have worth and value to you. A common understanding goes a long way towards acceptance and inclusivity.

Blessed Yule, Y’all…..from our Hearth to Yours.

Ghosts of Gustatory Gesso

Samhain 2

The seasonal Gods have decided to bless us with unseasonably cooler weather than most native Texans are used to. Yes, it’s a standing joke/sad fact that any weather that takes the temps below 50 degrees Fahrenheit sounds a statewide weather emergency, and ice of any form will shut down Texas completely. To me, it opens the memory vaults where family recipes are stored and comfort foods of every occasion come out begging to be reborn on the table and palate. As the cats of the farm know, when Mama starts building cold weather nooks and crannies, it’s time to look forward to the organ meat rich gravies added to the kitty kibble.

I finally got the time to view the movie “The 100-foot Journey” yesterday. My heart sang when, in the opening there was the reference to the ghosts created in the process. It’s a simple Truth; in order to eat/cook something must die. We honor the spirit of that sacrificed when we appreciate the meal. Let me taste your food, listen to your music and bathe in the laughter of your people. In this way, I will know your people. To those who can appreciate the wine or brewed spirits of an area are reserved the remains of sunnier days, sunshine in a bottle so to speak. If we wish to truly educate our children, we let them taste the happiness of a beloved relative’s home-cooked meal. We must expose them to a pot-luck supper created by close friends. We share the joys of a family reunion with all the legendary dishes and recipes that are guarded as closely as the hand stitched quilts and handmade furniture.

This morning, it was quite chilly and all the cats were gathered in the living room cuddled together on the sofa and the old blanket stretched out there just for their comfort. They sent a spokes cat, Luufy, to cry at the door in order to awaken the Giver of All Things Yummy. I wasn’t going to stir; the hubby was a wonderful radiator of body heat and the delicious luxuriousness of naked skin. Luufy’s insistent cries at the door became more and more plaintive and with a grumble I woke to slide toes into slippers and arms into a robe. The slight breeze carried the scent of woodsmoke, and my mind went instantly back to childhood when that scent was reminiscent of the bacon rashers and ham quarters being readied for the holiday table. The memories of buttermilk drop biscuits being pulled fresh and fluffy from the oven and the jeweled delights of muscadine grape jelly jars being released from the depths of the panty spring from my mind as fresh as the frigid morning they arrived on the breakfast table.

I have a mother’s instinct that tells me that not long from now, I will be hearing from my children. Their requests for Mama’s recipes for dishes that bring them comfort while far from home will make me both happy and sad because I know of the valuable memories created with the sacred ties of an apron’s strings. I remember the magic that begins with the crack of an egg, the careful measurement of ingredients, the steady hand on a whisk, spoon or fork. The sense of accomplishment that is created by the removal of the perfectly done creation just beyond an oven’s door or under the lid of the stew pot on the stove. The incense of love that wafts through the house because of the joy cooking in the kitchen.

It is only apt that the so-called “Holiday Season” is marked by the arrival of a day intended to honor our beloved dead. It is truly their memories we invoke when we recreate their recipes on the canvas of our family’s hearts and memory. Perhaps, in this very simple way we can school our very errant attentions to the importance of “Be ye mindful.”

Gentle hugs, everyone. From my hearth at Cat’s Paw Acres to yours – wherever your heart finds you; may the blessings of happy memories being made and joy-filled feasts grace your life and the lives of those you love.

The Change that Follows…

In the name of domestic transparency, tranquility and with a nod to the CDC (who has their hands full) I must admit to the rest of my immediate neighborhood that I cleaned out my refrigerator for the first time in several months. I know of the time period (last summer) from the items that I disposed of: half raisined grapes, bananas whose identity was only known by the rough shape of the roughage scraped off of the glass panel shelf that was their last resting place, several bread ends from gluten free loaves that were morphing into some previously unknown fungi, and containers of leftover hummus that were….well, less than fresh. That being said, in the spirit of “if you’ve grown it, you must own it” I’m admitting that I am not a domestic goddess per se.

Yes, I can make a pork loin that would make your tongue lap your brains out, I am famous for chili that will light your intestines with a glow that can be seen from space, and I can whip up a pot of chicken and dumplings that sends the swine flu virus screaming into remission…but cleaning up after these wild orgiastic bursts of creativity is not my strong suit. Therefore, my latest efforts in refrigerator hygiene will be, no doubt, growling in the depths of wandering goat guts for the next week or so.

In the immediate retrospect, after looking at the weather forecast for the next week or so, the monsoonal rains predicted may well drown any struggling bacterial phage and life form accidentally created by cross contamination of cleaning compound and dead organic “whatdafuqwuzthat” tossed into the compost heap. Further, since we’re in a burn ban until after the rains, there will be no airborne contaminants to terrify the local avian populations of mourning doves and cowbirds. However, if you’re starving field mouse, here’s your final chance this year to climb the ladder of evolution – at your own risk of course.

The cat populace here on the farm have wisely chosen to leave whatever field mice survive the compost heap well alone, but the barn owls are another story. So aside from genetically modified garbage eating goats, the other life forms I may have to claim responsibility for will be those lovely silent predators for whom I have immense respect but no way of warning off.

Ah, well….seeing as how tomorrow is Election Day, it seems that this week will be well annotated by the change that follows – in multiple venues. Be forewarned, apathy has its consequences in more than just one venue. What color was that goat this morning?

My Angel

Alberta's hand

Ok, Ana…..my precious friend; I rise to your challenge and give you the following.

In the late 1950’s and early 60’s it was considered acceptable for middle class women to have black domestic help in the form of a nanny/housekeeper. Yes, my family had one, but there was a relationship there that went far, far beyond a ‘hired help’ status.

You see, my beloved great-grandfather made himself ‘persona non-grata’ in a neighboring state because of his habit of acquiring black persons either trapped in an indentured servitude contract or not allowed to be released into parole because no one would hire them. He’d release/acquire/buy out their contract, bring them across the State lines and free them to go on their own. A good many of them followed him to settle on his land, become sharecroppers or find employment that allowed them to buy their own piece of the American Dream. Because of this practice, we never went looking too hard to find help if we needed in home nursing care, housekeeping assistance, etc. There was always a community within gossip distance that was nearby.

When my middle brother was born in the middle of a June heat spell that withered cotton on the plant, Alvesta, our cook/housekeeper took one look at the squalling auburn haired baby and announced, “He’s gonna have trouble with his lungs. He was born too hot.” Sure enough, her words rang true and the smell of menthol and the wisps of the steam treatments infiltrated the small frame house I would come to visit twice a month. As he grew past babyhood, Alvesta told my momma, “It’s time you let little miss meet her baby brother. Or she’s gonna grow up a stranger to her own blood.” At nearly 4 ½ years of age, I came to stay with my momma and daddy; no longer in danger of my own lungs or kidneys collapsing, thanks to Alvesta’s cousin, Alberta taking care of me with my Nana and Papaw’s oversight.

Within a few months, momma and daddy bought a home of their own; it was halfway between being in town and being on the road to ‘the sticks’ as my momma would call it. The heat of that summer producing a hurricane that decided to make it into Central Texas to challenge the integrity of trees, roads and families – we lost the smaller house because of the storm damage….and Alvesta to a stroke.

I grieved in the only way a child knows, my little brother becoming a target of any item I had in my hand if I saw him. One morning, my backside sore from a spanking because yet again I waylaid into the boy child, a familiar voice called to me. “Fey child, you comin’ for your breakfast or you gonna sleep the night away?” It was the voice of Alberta, the calm and steady hands that had wiped away tears, the broad lap that held me while I learned to shell peas, the warmth that had rocked me to sleep when the pain from ear infections left me restless and unable to rest.

Baby brother was forgotten, and I even left my houseshoes and robe at the foot of my bed, forgotten in my rush to see if the voice I heard was a figment of dream. There she stood, one hand on her hip the other stirring the oatmeal made thick and spicy with clove and cinnamon; my personal angel with the dark caramel skin. I think I nearly knocked her over in the flying tackle hug I gave her, my nose almost at waist height. “Ok, baby girl. Slow down. Your mama called me and I needed the job to finish my schooling. Speaking of which, they been letting you grow wild. You’re gonna sit with me this morning and we’re gonna start learnin’ you to read. After all, isn’t that why you ran away?”

I blinked at her in near shock. How did she know that I ran away on the local school bus because I wanted to go to school? Did she also know that I refused to give my name to any one at the police station until my Nana came to claim me with a panicked mother?

A wise, sweet smile nearly split her face in two as she looked at me. “I knew you were gonna give these city folks grief untold, Fey baby. Smart little girls like you need love, and guidance and lots of learning to keep you from doing the Devil’s own mischief. Now here, sit down.” I did, and she served me a huge bowl of creamy spicy goodness in a crockery bowl with butter and sugar.

When I went to go put my bowl in the sink, Alberta quickly grabbed one of my hands to get my attention and announced, “You are going to go get yourself dressed. I need you right back in here after you’ve brushed your teeth, brushed your hair and put some shoes on those bare feet. No flip flops. Sneakers. We’re going to be doing schoolwork and you need to dress for the job.”

I remember being so serious about ‘getting it right’ – I brushed my teeth, I put on my favorite clean t-shirt (it had bunnies on it) and my corduroy pants that made whispering noises as I walked. I even remembered to put on socks before grabbing my sneakers. “Miss Alberta?” I called from the bedroom. “Yes, Fey baby?” “I don’t know how to tie my shoes.”

“Well, come on with yourself. We might as well start this right.”

We did start it right, because I still remember the stories of Jeremiah and the prophets, Joseph and his brothers (she picked that one out after a particularly bad fight with my little brother), and then Ruth. I learned to read sitting in her lap, out of her worn black Bible. I never knew that she was taking night classes for her Master’s degree in education. I never knew that she realized I had dysgraphia and taught me numerous tricks to overcome the problem. What I did know and have long realized is that Alberta was my own personal angel who taught me that education was a precious gift, shared best between kindred souls who understood each other beyond all the bounds that human ignorance can create.

I was in third grade when she matriculated with her Master’s degree. I was crushed when she told me she’d be leaving to go ‘up North’ to marry and to teach. After all these years, somewhere in my heart I know that she’s aware that but for her Grace and Goodness, I’d have been more than just a troubled child who needed her gift. Wherever you are Alberta, Thank you – and I love you.

Time to OWN it….

roast goose

OK…Time to “come out of the pantry” so to speak. While I am NOT any type of Domestic Goddess by any stretch of the imagination, I am the Goddess of Comfort Food. The kind that has folks hanging around our campsite for a bite of whatever I’m whipping up to feed the Horde of the Half-NeKkid when they return from wheedling vendors, fly-by huggings of folks that they haven’t seen for moons, and just to keep the hands busy because dammit, I forgot my damned crochet at home and my freakin’ brain is wound up tighter than a virgin’s knees at Beltane!

I suppose I was sorta shy to do more than admit to it, but after some reflection on the whole thing AND the fact that my far-flung offspring have been calling me for recipes and “how-to” tips, I’m gonna OWN IT, DAMMIT.

I COOK…and I cook DAMN WELL. Ya’ want Roast Goose with Apple-Walnut stuffing and savory gravy? Fine – get your ass out of the kitchen unless you’re willing to help under my direction (that means you can take orders and follow directions EXACTLY) and be prepared to worship me properly when I’m done. Unfamiliar with a spice? Ask me – I can probably tell you what it is, what it’s used for, any alternative you can use if you’re out, and the best varietal to purchase when shopping.

Other people count their wealth with CD collections, gold, silver, stocks, mutual funds and Universal Life insurance policies. I take stock in a well-stocked spice cabinet, pantry, fridge and freezer. My chef’s knives are worth more than your IPhone, and I lust for cookware and stoneware like other women lust after designer pumps! I have a choice of an alabaster slab, a hard rock maple cutting board, and a beautiful block of crafted glass with which to begin,  to fashion and perfect my culinary creations upon.

Recently, I have discovered and am returning to “the joy of aprons” after one too many mishaps of braising the boobs with hot broth. I tend to prefer cheesecloth dishtowels, and hand-crochet dish cloths to hand wash my more prized containers, bowls, and cookware. All of this descriptive phrasing leads me to another eye-opening personal observation: some folks paint literary masterpieces with words, I prefer to create 7 course meals complete with finger dishes of lemon-scented water adjectives and palette cleansers of minty metaphors.

This alone has enlightened me as to why there are sudden long stretches between my writing. I’ve mastered the art of feasting upon creativity to create gluttonous wonders, but I’m still in the apprentice stage of crafting the thin, meager portions of famine sentences and the simplicity of a daily meal of prose. Further – this is OK, because a well-rounded human being needs to learn throughout the lifetime granted in order to keep itself viable as a contributing member of humanity. There is no final graduation ceremony until your loved ones bid you goodbye until your next incarnation.

Additionally, a well-seasoned meal and a well written composition should have all the flavors of life incorporated from bitter tears to sweet laughter and all the rich fullness of existence layered in-between. In truth, we can neither write nor cook a meal without the influence of others. Whether they are in our heads, hearts or by our side, the presence of those who inspire us are as much a needed ingredient as the entrée to a dinner or the healthy plot bunny who leads us a wild chase in the merry meadow of metaphor.

We desperately need all the shades and shadows of humor and pathos, we need to both stand alone and be woven together as the tapestry we are; and we dare not deny ourselves the basic nature of identity, either. Looking at the whole tableau and table, there is no place nor space for judgment, just simple acceptance of what is placed before us.

Now, all that being said, shall I put the kettle on?