Solstice Switch-Out – The Nature of the Kitty-Beast

fullsizerenderI love my living room window.  It is presently decorated in silver, white and vibrant red.  A cozy chair and table with a hand-blown glass lampshade sits before the sparkly window and the winter sun floods in, throwing pretty shadows on my wall to say that, yes, this is the shortest day – but it gets brighter from here on out.  But yesterday saw some minor adjustments to my beloved “blood on the snow” theme to my window.  All the hummingbird attractant red globes were removed with haste.  

Why the sudden flurry of re-arrange, re-do, re-think?  Because this year I have a CAT.

glass-lampYesterday afternoon as I sat in the cozy chair in front of the glittering-betwixt-rain-showers window reading by the light of the glass lamp, I noticed a hummingbird again outside the window, practically beak to glass at one of the red ball’s glowing splendor.  I was not the only one who noticed.  The cat on the footstool at my feet made an abrupt chirp sound, bounced once on a small trunk near the window and was instantly suspended on netting that holds up all those glittering decorations!  Her tail lashed at the lamp.  All the decorations slipped down lines towards the suddenly weighted center.

I stood, dumping my book onto the floor, stabilized the glass lamp with my left hand and grabbed the slightly flailing cat by the scruff with my right hand!  I toss/dropped the cat onto the large footstool and missed catching a falling silver ball.  (One of the ones above reflecting my suddenly endangered lamp!) Oh, well.  I was grateful I had done so much of the window with plastic ornaments, and little glass!  Small loss and literal CATastrophe  averted.

First, I did think just moving the large red globes that glow like so many hummingbird feeders would be sufficient crisis management.  But the mental image of the cat hanging on the sinking garden net made me think it was time to do the slight re-build we had planned for the window post-decoration this year.  A set of vertical cloth blinds usually hangs in that large window; but since our 2008 install of newer better windows, they have not fit properly.  The window became more shallow and the blinds were hard to open.  So we had planned to remove the blind hardware and put in a kind of false top window ledge — a deeper one that would allow the re-attached blinds to again hang and move completely free.  A long, beautiful maple board was acquired with this in mind.

I decided we would do that today instead.  The net and ornaments will come down, the board, with wee hooks behind the blind’s hardware will go up.  The window decorations will be re-hung free hanging from the top only — nothing for an ambitious kitty cat to climb.  The cat is a sweet pet, it is her nature to chase birds. (And thus one reason she is an indoor cat.) When tossed onto the footstool yesterday, she looked at me like I’d lost my mind: “Mom, it was green AND red, clearly MY Solstice gift!”  But I’d simply prefer if the window was no longer an invitation to kitty stalking, ornament breaking, and lamp or kitty endangerment!  The lamp table is moved, the couch back in front of the window as in 2015 photos.  Smaller touches of red will prevail, but the larger scarlet glass globes are in windows more obscured from hummingbirds and less reachable by cat!  All is well that ends well, right?  And IF, next year, the world has not ended?  I have my window plan all ready to brighten my dark-0f-the-year, right?  I hope I find the heart to decorate next year!  It was dark by the time we finished — daytime shots tomorrow?

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Reclaimed! The Hexen Haus Awaits!

In 2001 my husband built an adorable house for my beekeeping, honey extraction, and candle-making.  We called it the Honey House.  (And in 2003, I built the Walk of the Fallen Labyrinth for those falling in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.)  But about eight years ago, my last hives died off from Colony Collapse.  And in 2011 my marriages nearly collapsed in a PTSD crisis.

First, I robbed the Honey House of its double propane ring so I could cook in my exile haven.  I had no will or energy for days in the cold Honey House; even in late 2014 when we put the gas ring back and I moved back to my house and celebrated my youngest son’s return home from the Army.

The roof lifted and leaked, black mold grew in the Honey House ceiling.  And worse, hobo spiders moved in!  In dismay I finally begged my sons’ aid.  Two weeks ago, we bombed the spiders and tore off the rotting roof.  We put in new roof boards and tar paper.  Today in October drizzle, my young “Raptor” and I put new roofing atop the rain repellent black cover.

Inside, I cleaned and started music!  And a new corner cabinet of venerable age was carried from the house – the container of my magic practice!  Herbs, salts, oils, ribbons, pins – potions, lotions!

A battered old metal flash hood, recrafted with pretty mythic calendar images during my long exile was brought out to illuminate the battered old table snatched from yard sale oblivion, I sit by its light warming my wet, chilled self with coffee!

Curtains are in the wash, dishes will be cleaned of bug bomb-ishness and returned to their place here.  Books are back on shelves.  The counting strands on the center stone of the Walk of the Fallen will be dried and brought in for the winter!

Oh, and yes – the “honey” is gone.  This is now, officially, the “Hexen Haus” – the Witch’s House!  Just in time for Samhain to end my year and the beginning of a season of renewal for me and the Minotaur!

Falling Into Fall

:::Looks back over last weeks posts:::: Well, that was less celebratory and more pissed-off diatribe, huh? Such is life.  It isn’t all roses and chocolates from age 63, believe me.  Sometimes you have to put on pointy boots and kick a little ass to remind people that you aren’t a push-over.

gold

This week, as I come out of a fibromyalgia flare (or whatever-the-hell-was wrong with me), I worked too hard on Monday and Tuesday.    Tuesday night was sleepless pain.  So yesterday, a beautiful clear sunny autumn day, was spent in “reduced” mode: I did laundry, changed the bed, the catbox, and made sourdough bread.  In between those things, I sat in my sunlit living room in front of windows I had washed on Tuesday, and read a novel.

We have bad weather incoming, it has been raining steadily since last night.  So I prepared, yesterday.  As, I said, I baked bread while I still had an oven to do so.  Our oven is propane, but fired ONLY by electric igniters.  I did all the laundry.  Today, the Minotaur is making yogurt.  We filled every spare bit of space in the family freezers with containers of water — frozen, these will not only keep the freezers cold, but can be put in the refrigerator space to save food there in event of power outage.  We have firewood and a fireplace; normally out propane fireplace keeps us warm even in power outages, but this year it is awaiting maintenance and refusing to ignite.The full rain barrels will provide for toilet flushing, we have a huge tank of water with filters to provide drinking, cooking, and clean-up water.

Part of aging successfully?  Is knowing when to prepare and when to stop worrying about whatever you cannot control. I admit, I fear this “leftover typhoon” coming in upon the Washington and Oregon coast, will not be the last.  Our climate has been changing over the almost 30 years of living here — I fear I may live to see the day when a Pacific typhoon (hurricane) roars ashore full force!  I look at my trees and think to them, one living creature to another, “Please stay in your upright positions!”

To be human is to be vulnerable.  To be an aged human is to know and acknowledge that vulnerability.

The Maenad in the Garden

maenadI languished through August, as I do – hot weather wilts me. So, now, amidst the business of helping the Minotaur husband through recovery from surgery, and nursing a sick kitten, and waiting to get my car out of the shop? I have to play catch-up in the gardens to ready them for winter.

So, if I have a morning where medical appointments or sick kittens don’t confine me to the house, I am outdoors with barely coffee on board, trying to work before the already autumnal sun warms enough to send my semi-vampire self into the shadows of the house.  This week, I attacked the troublesome south garden.

It is the driest garden, and this year the moles demolished it.  All my Oriental poppies died, their roots left hanging in tunnel space created by moles and possibly enlarged by rats taking over mole-space.  I weeded, despairingly.  A maenad should be madly galloping about the woods — knocking hubristic men on their asses, right?  What am I doing on my hands and knees in a flower garden?

Well, even a most mad maenad knows when the tide of stupid, male or otherwise, is too great for one woman’s wrath.  I admit, I fear for my nation and the world.  Our news is hopelessly biased, and anyone daring to tell the truth gets sued or arrested.   The Clinton Foundation is savagely accused of ill-doing on no evidence, while the Trump Foundation is a thin cover for him using other folks’ money to give to charities that think Trump gives a damn.  She is grilled on insufficient press sessions and wearing sunglasses, while he refuses to even release tax returns?  She is accused of conflicts of interest, while he is not seriously questioned about ties to Russian oligarchs?  She is not perfect; but he is a nightmare.  But Americans don’t know that because the the press is owned and operated by American oligarchs.

Our nation is too easily diverted by stories about what some celebrity is doing, while the planet prepares to burn as climate change alters our world and our lives.  The next wars won’t be for oil, but for water to drink and grow food!  But we Americans, wrapped in our exceptionalism, think it matters little what happens to the masses of desperate, hungry, thirsty, war-fraught refugees of the world.  We think we are safe from them.  We are fools.

So, yes, the maenad has retreated to her garden.  I want to make a safe and possibly beautiful place where my children and friends can hunker down for the dark days and nights I believe are ahead of us all.  I find my voice unheard in daily life, shouted down even by those I thought were friends, whenever I say anything challenging fondly held delusions.  I am an aging maenad, too.  My energy is more limited, I must choose my battles more carefully than ever.  I stick to what I know and what the world around me tells me.

I don’t watch the news much anymore:  Free advertising for a meglomaniac,  misogyny on show, lies told to the most vulnerable and frightened segments of my society,  education downplayed and dogmatic “faith” in pure bullshit played up.  It sickens me.  Even a maenad can’t fix willful stupidity.  Is a fortress mentality the right one?  Or simply all I feel up to these days?  I don’t know, but I know bleeding out on the bullshit-encrusted barb-wire isn’t serving anyone.  No more pearls before self-deluded swine!

 

Gratitude 4 September

washboardAs the Washington State skies gray and cool (to my delight), and I sort laundry? I am profoundly grateful for a washer and dryer!  I say this with full knowledge of what doing a family’s worth of laundry without a washer or dryer is like.  I’m not talking a few items of hand-washing like iffy sweaters or fancy nightgowns.

No, I mean, old school.  A house with no hot water heater — no indoor plumbing whatsoever, in fact.  Heating laboriously carried-in water on the stove and pouring it into a huge galvanized steel tub and scrubbing by hand on a washboard, a bit bigger than the one in the picture.  Big things like sheets were stomped like grapes in old movies.  More water carrying, more water heating, more work to rinse — though often this was done in cold water for time saving.  Then the hand wringing began and the hanging on lines.  If it was winter, they hung inside, as drying outdoors was nigh impossible.  And later, the ironing.  Ironing everything, even t-shirts and men’s undershorts; even sheets and dishtowels.

I always wonder about those people who get misty-eyed about living in the past, thinking the 19th century, or even the 18th would be “awesome”.  Only if you are in their version of the top 1%, darlings.  Otherwise?  Even the 20th century has some hand-reddening, back-busting “fun” left over from the not-all-so-good-old-days!

Catch-Up and Run-down

Ok, so now feeling over the whole venom reaction thing! Back to being grateful. Mind you, being more humanist than theistic, I am usually grateful to human action anyhow.

chalkedOn the 30th of July, I was grateful that my husband took up paintbrush to do a small household project. He used chalk paint to cover an ugly faux-finish on an otherwise charming piece of furniture that has held my bathroom sink since 2011!

So now it is a nice matte black, and I didn’t have to die of paint fumes.  Ever since my 2014 spring/summer of doom with the kitchen remodel and two solid months of refinishing furniture and painting rooms in the house, paint fumes of almost any sort make me feel quite ill.  That atop the already sickly from waspy stings would have been too freaking much!

On July 31st, I was grateful yet again, to the Minotaur for finishing the sink-dresser with a protective coat of poly-acrylic to stand up to bathroom dampness.  This finish was much smellier than the paint itself.

On August 1st?  I was grateful to finish reading the ugliest, nastiest, most-derivative trilogy of so-called “young adult” books I ever encountered. This was a trilogy of books about anthropomorphized rodents by Robin Jarvis: “The Dark Portal”,”The Crystal Prison”, and “The Final Resolution.” I got one of these (the middle one, of course) gifted to me and ordered the other two from the library.

First off, even if you are ‘humanizing’ your animal protagonists; some basic biology should be observed. Such as the following annoyed quibbles:
*bats do not have “snotty noses” unless they are very ill
*mice are so much smaller than rats that rats would kick their mousey butts
*an owl would kick ratt butt
*bats don’t “see in the dark” by magic, but by sound

But worse, the books were so very derivative — basically bits stolen from Susan Cooper’s “Dark is Rising” books (very excellent!) and added to “Lord of the Rings”by Tolkien.
Sauron = ‘Jupiter” the cat
orks = rats
men = mice
bats = “Istari” and Numenoreans
squirrels = elves
“starglass” = Ring

The cover illustrations were rather charming. The interior ones were incredibly ugly — even the mouse protagonists were ungainly and bulbous nosed. I can’t see anyone over age ten “enjoying” these books at all. All the back cover praise, even from M. L’Engle? Made me wonder if they ever READ these horrid, grindingly awful little novels.  Characters were shallowly drawn, and word descriptions were often so ugly you simply wanted to quit reading.

Beware back cover praise when selecting books for young readers — read the book first to be SURE!

August 2?  I am grateful for some rain filling my new rain barrels!

 

Summer Sheaf

Our gardening efforts are coming rapidly to naught this year. The cucumbers and squash plants were eaten to the ground in a single night. The birds ate many seeds, even peacocks getting in on the feeding frenzy. But we don’t really care.  Our focus this year is each other.  If we get some green beans, fine.  We will fight the weeds to blight their efforts at reproduction.  We may attack the ivy and St. John’s wort eating the front hillside.  Or we may not — much depends on heat and how much time and energy yoga and meditation consume this summer.  Getting older makes me pick my battles with care.

kukri cake cuttingBut mostly, we are happy to have accomplishing “weeding” our marital relationship of radioactive fallout from decades of PTSD.  That was the harvest celebrated here on the eve of the summer solstice.  Possibly we are taking the “let me eat cake” thing a bit too far?  It was far too sweet – but very pretty.  Yes, yes, cutting wedding cake with a Gurkha made kukri is likely a bit out there….but hey, shiny sharp things are always good?

summer sheafThe gardens do not completely disappoint.  I harvested lavender from my aging plants; leaving at least half of it for the bees.  I missed the deeper blue French lavenders, they have already sprung open to tempt butterflies, bees, and even the hummingbirds.  As the world goes seemingly crazy, the Minotaur and I will take refuge in the living room where the soothing scent of drying lavender will provide some solace as the election year moves onward.  If that fails?  There are cake-sicles in the freezer and bottles of mead growing attractive coats of dust in the racks!

Clarity

Is knowing why you do something important? Or does it lead to endless mental tail chasing?

wedding cakeThis has been a repeated question in the marital counseling sessions the Minotaur and I are engaging in for the last six months.  I always need to know the “why” – it informs me and keeps my focus on the game, whatever that is at the moment.  But when the Minotaur goes searching for a “So, how come, anyhow?” it seems to put him on an endless path of regression – going back and back and back into nigh paralysis.  Our counselor has taken the “Nike” approach with my husband: “Just DO it!”

So perhaps it depends on who you are first, and why second?  I’m a bit existential about it, though; I can’t quite be sure who I am if I don’t know what choice – and therefore why I made it – is in fact, defining me.  My husband is different, he lives more in his head and can get lost there.  So, simpler self-commands like “Do it, now!” jump start him far more effectively than answering the whys and wherefores.

So being told to solve a riddle posed by me and act accordingly was more fruitful to change than figuring out why he needed to do so.  I wanted a re-commitment ritual between us, and I wanted the wedding cake I never had.   Yes, yes, I am all about the cake, not really the dress.  The Minotaur couldn’t imagine anything so simple as my desire.  He was making it so hard for himself – thinking all sorts of complicated things might be hidden in my demand.  I finally snapped “and with a FORK!” as a clue to the riddle’s answer.

We both learned something.  He learned his wife’s desires and motivations are not all earth-shatteringly complex.  I learned that my husband way overthinks who I am.  I will doubtless go on telling myself I know why I do the things I do.  I may or may not really know, of course.  I may think I spend twice the price on ten pounds of organic sugar each month for the sake of the earth’s ecology — less poisons and such into the ground.  But maybe I am actually just an elitist snob?

Eric the RedThe hummingbirds who consume that sugar in syrup monthly?  They don’t really care, just so long as the three feeders never run dry!

In the end, while the “why” is informative, it is the doing that counts to change your life or your world.

 

 

And Prose – Twenty Three

The moon is in the phase we celebrate as “full” tonight. We link household routines to the timing of the moon because it is easier to recall to do them.  So tonight, the kitchen’s butcher block counter tops will be cleared; any marring by heat or water will be gently sanded away and the entire counter given a penetrating coat of oil.  They will gleam brightly and tomorrow the kitchen will be restored in the early dawn hours and all day, we will look into the cherry deepness of the kitchen with smiles on our faces.

It is a bi-monthly ritual of restoration.  It is a sacrament of our humanistic pagan life.  The caring for the place where we nourish ourselves.  A cake will be baked for the full moon, and doused in an orange syrup to moisten and sweeten it.  Bread of a gold hue, imparted by pureed pumpkin, is baking now.  Mead is in the keg — product of earlier work.  Fresh organic butter has been softened and whipped with olive oil and poured into little glass containers to provide soft, spreadable-from-the-fridge butter for bread and toast all month.  Freshly made ghee is solidifying, while still scenting the house with a buttery richness — it will cook eggs, pancakes, and other things from now till next full moon.

A rich deep red sauce is cooling before being frozen in small containers.  It will embellish soups, coat pasta and pizza for several months to come; it has no tomato in it this “fauxmato” sauce because I am nightshade allergic.  It is a satisfying, and yes, “sacred” thing I do when I make it.  It makes nourishing myself without endangering my health easier and more likely.

My world is NOT dualistic.  There is here and now.  If there is a noumenal world aside from this phenomenal one?  I can only speculate idly about it.  I determine my life by the here and now and acknowledge the sacred nature of things that nourish and continue my life in this world.  I care for my bit of this world, I spent over four hours in my yard yesterday fostering soil production by weeding and feeding compost areas.  I’ve seeded my gardens.  The world is my gem of any possible creation; I don’t need a savior or a “heaven” — I make my own heaven here.  Bliss is fresh bread in my mouth instead of hunger.  Joy is health and strength in spite of age and injury.  Ecstasy can live in my bed, with no hint of guilt or recrimination — as it always has been for me.

We recently planted a failing young sequoia tree in what had been the family fire pit.  So there, I feel a loss of something primal and warm.  Our overhanging trees were getting so close we scarce dared light fires there any more.  Before the year is finished at Samhain this year, there will be a new place for fire.  For now, Beltane will come and go without fire — we will have a studied place of quiet in the dark for a season or two.  But the kitchen will be the hearth of smells and flavors, and the fire there never dies!