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I grew up with Will James. His artwork and his best-seller, Smoky the Cowhorse, tucked under my pillow at night. I dreamt of that horse, so unlike other horses: blue roan, wild, and loyal to one man. But it wasn’t really *that* Smoky that I imagined. It was the Smoky of my childhood that tracked through those dreams.

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I first saw him when I was but a toddler, and my dad was stationed at Pole Creek Ranger Station in the Jarbidge District of Humboldt National Forest. He stood 17 hands and was a blue roan, wild as the high desert around him – and my father’s favorite horse of all the US Forest Service animals.

My mother feared him.

Smoky could escape any enclosure less than six feet tall. If he couldn’t jump it, he merely broke his way out. He was more than half-wild, a mustang rounded up for use by the Forest Service, and duly branded as such. he was never truly tame.

Nearly 60 years later, looking at his photograph, I can see the Quarterhorse lines through this horse. Someone left him out on National Forest land and lost a truly beautiful stud (that the USFS acquired and gelded). That’s a horse with amazing conformation and bloodlines.

I own the bridle and bit he wore – he was not a small horse.

Dad told me that he would take Smoky out and the first mile or two, Smoky bucked, crowhopped, and kicked. After that, he settled down into a long and steady gait. He was trustworthy in the worst of conditions, but when my dad made camp, Smoky has to be double-hobbled: hobbles on the front and rear. In the morning, despite the double hobbles, they had to hunt down Smoky. He was too wild to tame, and too crazy to know it.

I knew Smoky vaguely as a toddler. The photo above is of him in a corral at Pole Creek RS in the Jarbidge District of Humboldt National Forest.

002The color photo is faded with time. Same place. Smoky, saddled and ready to go. Alert and fiesty.

The last time I saw Smoky was when I was about 11. He was confined in the cement-and-brick water pool of Paradise Station in Paradise, Nevada. The hole was supposed to be a water container for fires seasons, but they had this especially crazy USFS saddle horse to contain, one that defeated all wood fences – even at his old age, which must have been 14 or 16 at the time.

My father kindly never told me when Smoky died, or how. What remains in my head and heart is a picture of a blue roan with a wild spirit – and impeccable Quarterhorse conformation.

I wonder what idiot rancher let this animal trespass the USFS so that they claimed him as their own? And I thank Smoky, because he has infused all my dreams of the perfect horse with images of roans. Blue and red and… Because roans are the most beautiful horses, ever.

Since gardening is pretty much out of the question, I played with my camera.

025I’d just cleared and seeded this patch next to the handicap ramp the week before I broke my foot. It was just a useless spot of grass, but is now awash with color.

012Most of the color comes from the Clarkia growing there: mauve, pink, white. There are some other delicate flowers in blue, white, and pink as well, and some bachelor buttons just beginning to open.

028The delicate Clarkia.

027A Bachelor Button.

032The evening primroses self-seeded in my yard from someone else’s garden. They remind me of my childhood, and I’ve allowed them to take up quite a bit of garden space.

026The little sidewalk that just ends points toward my burgeoning blackcap raspberry plant. Last year, I trained it the other direction. This year, it is being trained toward the east. I had a banner crop, but they ripened right around the first day of summer, and so I let the birds eat them. It was a hard thing to do – I love wild blackcaps (but I hate the thorns!)! Shasta Daisies are in bloom now, with the foxgloves faded.

A hint on growing blackcaps – you need to alternate the direction of the canes every year. I’ll cut the old west-pointing canes this fall and dispose of them. I can promise that there will be cuts and scrapes – blackcaps are more dangerous than Himalayan blackberry vines. Next spring, the blossoms and berries will grow on the eastern canes and I will train the new canes up to the west. It makes the disposal of the old canes much easier every autumn.

013Yellow evening primroses and yellow curry flowers frame the light purple of oregano. The honeybees LOVE oregano!

(The chair is support for my rosemary)

023Looking back: the white chair holds up my Russian sage. The yellow is the curry. Rosemary is where the green chair is. Bumblebees LOVE the Russian sage!

021The north flower bed is always the showiest with crocosmia lucifer, gladiolas, Bishop’s weed, pearly everlasting, black eyed susans, and Jacob’s ladder in bloom right now. Earlier, it was a show of peonies and irises. Later, the aster will add to the color.

finch1I caught this female house finch enjoying one of my birdbaths.

I really miss my garden and being able to navigate the uneven ground of our yard with ease. But I have my camera!!

 

 

It has been a week, to the date, since I have attempted to climb the stairs to the loft where my computer is. I probably should not have, but there you go. I do a lot of things I probably should *not* do.

A “for example” would be wrestling with a chair. I took two or three steps and collided with a chair. I don’t know which toes wrapped around the chair leg: either the fourth or fifth on my right foot. I did a rather quick pirouette that my childhood ballet instructor, Mrs. Bosch, would have been proud of, except that I landed on my tush and banged my head on the empty dog crate under the stair well. I think I may have said, “Oh Shit!” or “Oh Jesus!”.

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The offending chair leg

 

My husband rushed from the living room to find me heaped upon the floor. Graciously, he helped me up onto the bed and I weakly asked for two things: an ice pack and a shot of whiskey. I skooted back as best I could and stuffed a pillow under my right leg, applied the ice, and attempted to drink the whiskey.

The next morning, after a failed attempt to crawl to the bathroom (my husband carried me back to bed), I did three things: I remembered I had a set of cructhes left over from knee surgery 8 years ago, I reluctantly called in sick to work, and I reluctantly called the advice nurse. Please, God, let her say it’s just a bad sprain and I just need ice…

She didn’t. She made an appointment for me, and then told me I just needed ice and elevation. Gee, thanks.

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See those pens? They represent my fourth metatarsal bone in my right foot. I didn’t take a photo of the x-ray, so you just have to use your imagination. The fifth metatarsal (instep bone leading to the little toe) is also cracked, but not split in two like the fourth. I spent the better part of Tuesday hobbling from regular clinic to orthopedic clinic and home again.

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The ortho gave me this really cool Storm Trooper™ boot. My grandsons will be jealous. Unfortunately (or, rather – fortunately), I only have one boot, not a matched set. I have orders to try to keep it elevated, and to try to stay off of it. No pins, no resetting the bone (“it will grow back together”), and follow-up in 6 weeks. He gave me a three month window to heal.

In other words: my summer of gardening, going to yard sales, and getting in those long walks with my dog are toast.

But I got the really cool boot.

Today was my first day back at work. I worked the full 8 hours. I could only do so because for $139, I got this super-duper awesome scooter.

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I could have rented one, but the rental places wanted $100/week for a minimum of four weeks, and I could pick this up off of Amazon for … well. The thing glides. It’s got speed. It’s rocking my crippled world! My husband keeps threatening to add plastic flowers to the basket, a bell or horn, and streamers from the handles. My grandchildren are drooling.

So – I may not climb the stairs again for a few days, at least not to post here.

Oh – and I will be having a bone density test because, as the ortho said, “You’re a lady, you live in the Pacific Northwest, and we’re calcium deficient by default.”

 

The wee hours of Sunday, June 12, 2016, erupted in a fusillade of gunfire inside a popular dance bar in Orlando, Florida. A deranged individual, un-medicated and delusional in his devotion to a radical Islamic band of murderers and rapists turned a semi-auto rifle onto a crowd. he had to pull the trigger every single time, reinforcing his hatred of others and his disdain for the sanctity of life more than one hundred times, and probably closer to three hundred times. He had to pause and change clips repeatedly. He should have been on the FBI’s “watch list” but he managed to keep his head low and so was able to legally purchase the weapons needed for the killing spree.

In the wake of this rampage, were the names of the victims or the pictures of their grieving loved ones tossed out onto social media in sympathy and mourning?

We began to blame, one finger pointed out from us, four fingers pointing back at us. Ban Guns. Ban Muslims. Blame the Christians. Blame the Republicans. Call the President of the US names. Argue about the caliber and type of rifle(s) used. Promote bad news media coverage. Ban all AR-15s (one was not used at Sandy Hook, by the way. The killer used a .223 deer rifle and a handgun). Oh, heck, get vile with our words and fling accusatory and inflammatory phrases around.

I got swept up into this when I innocently asked an acquaintance if she really meant “ban all guns”? That just seemed rather extreme, even for her. Yes, she meant ALL guns, even those used for hunting or sport. She meant my guns, and intimated that I was as much to blame for the murders as I owned guns. I reacted in hurt and anger, and unfriended her (I have since apologized for my rash actions, and been forgiven, but we will never be friends again. I don’t particularly want to, and I doubt she does, either).

I repent from that and have refrained from diving into discussions that are heated and unfriendly.

I have checked CNN several times, reading the stories of the beautiful lives lost: the promises, the smiles, the friendships, the brilliant minds. I am a Christian. I have very dear friends in the LBGT community – and very dear friends who are parents of young adults in the LBGT community. I don’t buy the turn-or-burn preaching. I believe in love, the kind of love that lays itself down not only for a friend, but for a complete and utter stranger – even a stranger who might hate you.

I was that Christian, once, long ago. I was in the passion of having just recognized Jesus as the very individual Who did give His life for people who hated Him, and did so willingly and lovingly. I didn’t recognize my hate for being the opposite of His love – that came later, as I aged, experienced, and as I realized that we’re all pretty faulty humans – me, especially. I have no grounds to judge any other person on what I may (or may not) consider sin: if we are judged by the sins in our dreams, then I have committed all sins.

What happened in Orlando was a travesty. Did the gun do it? Would strong background checks have prevented it? No, and maybe. The gun itself (a rifle, actually) is only a tool much like a sword, a seax, a spear, a cleaver, or whatever other weapon mankind has raised against mankind over the ages. The violence would have happened without the gun. Suicide bombing, or a bomb like the one Timothy McVey made out of fertilizer, arson, poison gas. For a depraved mind, the options are endless. Where there’s a desire to murder, there is a way. Murder is committed in the middle east with suicide bombs, often reaping more than fifty souls in one act.

Is it Islam? Some I know would strongly argue that it is, but I have read Khaled Hosseini’s “The Kite Runner” and “A Thousand Splendid Suns”. I have friends who profess faiths other than my own, and I know in my heart of hearts that these friends would in no wise raise their hand in murder, or condone it. I don’t have to read the Quran to know that verses can be taken out of context and skewed to support someone’s deranged agenda: I have the Bible.

The Bible has been used to justify murder and slavery. Those adherents to the KKK can probably quote the Bible better than I can, but that doesn’t make them any more right than I am. Just read Uncle Tom’s Cabin or Twelve Years A Slave (seriously, The Help is drivel compared to those novels, albeit humorous drivel – we all want to be Minny delivering The Pie). And those are all “tame” books on slavery.

The issues we don’t want to discuss have always been with us: human trafficking, flesh slavery, rape, torture, murder. I just finished a five book series by Octavia Randolph on the Danish conquest of the Angles and Saxons in the late 9th century. Mass murders and rape, all accomplished without gunpowder. Our human history is littered with the tales: the Khans, who left piles of human skulls behind. Tribal warfare in Africa and the Americas. Chinese and Japanese enmities over centuries, including soirees into the other’s territory and the rape and murders of the humans in the way.

This is what we forget: that as human beings, as races, clans, and nations – we war. We rape, pillage, murder. We attempt to annihilate people: Wounded Knee, World War 2. We try to annihilate religions: Judaism, Christianity, Paganism, Wiccan. It’s all about force.

Rape women, you can force them to submit and bear the children of the victor (even if the victor will not support the bastard children).

Force a people to give up their gods, but neglect to tell them why your God is better (i.e., He loves them and died for them while you killed them).

Blame the weapons: swords, spears, rocks, razors, maces, arrows, explosives, AR-15s.

Meanwhile, the victim’s names and lives pile up and we are too involved in our arguments to pay attention to who we have lost – or what talent. Take a long look at each person. This isn’t an argument about YOUR ideology, it is about THEIR lost lives. We’ll talk gun control on another day, when the air is clear enough for you to rant.

The Victims.

 

 

I put to rest the smallest part of my inheritance. The contents meant for the china hutch have been sorted and stored or designated for Goodwill. The vintage clothing has been carefully folded and placed into the Melrose truck. Easter and Christmas decorations have been boxed and stowed.

I have yet to deal with all of the Lions’ Club pins, but that can be done in the cool winter months.

The books… I have no idea. I added to our books by a third. I will read all of them and some I will keep. I believe I will read those which I am most likely to donate first. The vintage books… I can’t bring myself to part with vintage books. My father’s books on the exploration and discovery of the Great Basin or USFS Ranger history – my husband already has his nose in one.

There are a few loose ends of the items brought home which I will deal with as it comes up.

I am saddened because three items I had hoped to bring home to my youngest daughter are not in my possession. There was a figurine of a Marilyn Monroe-esque figurine and two dried sea horses that seem to have disappeared. I do not know where the figurine came from or who may have it now. It should have been Chrystal’s. She asked for it, and I granted her wish.

But I do not know where it could be now, five years after the event.

The two dried sea horses belonged only to me. Okay – one was my sister’s and one was mine: gifts from a friend long ago. I gave them both to Chrystal. They were no one else’s to claim or give: they were mine, and mine, alone. But they are gone. Chrystal’s small inheritance, gone.

I don’t have any ideas where they might be. They should have been in the boxes that came home to me, along with the fuzzy gold blanket I used to wrap some item. I am missing that blanket as well.

I gained a red sleeping bag that I don’t need or want.

Nothing matters. Stuff burns as chaff at our passing. The next generation remembers little. So why do we cling to possessions?

I have no answers except his: possessions remind us.

That’s a town in Idaho, not a patron saint. (Well, he was a saint, but I refer to the small town where my father grew up and his family had deep roots in.)

I am slowly (and I mean S-L-O-W-L-Y) sorting through the boxes of things I brought home from my most recent trip to Nevada. I have to decide what boxes to sort through later and what boxes to sort through now. The box labeled “St Anthony Linens and Museum” is a “later” box. But here’s a sneak peek at the contents:

008One cotton night dress.

010A satin vest.

My friend, Mary, will have to help me with this one as well as several short blouses in the box.

011A baby girl’s dress, possibly belonging to my Aunt Mary, who died very young (Dad’s older sister).

012A child’s faux fur coat. Pretty sure this was my father’s and if I looked hard enough, I could find photos of him in it.

015A woman’s over-cloak.

016Close up.

017Detail of the embroidery.

019Moth or wear damage.😦

020Embroidery work on the back.

021An apron.

022I will guess these were my father’s baby clothes. Crocheted.

023There are three of the nightgowns. Toddler-sized. The bonnet would fit a young girl’s head.

024Oh – and my mother’s painting apron.

Hey, it’s vintage 1960’s.

Well, four books, as I am just beginning Book Five. But Book Five has a different “voice” and so I believe I can tell you about books 1-4 and not be remiss in my review.

Have you read “Outlander” by Diana Gabaldon? Who hasn’t, right? And how many had to set the second book aside or shield their eyes from the rape scene on Starz network? Historically accurate, entirely fictional, very lusty, and millions of fans. Also includes time travel and is therefore, a sort of science fiction.

Enter Octavia Randolph from Stage Left. She also loves history. But she’s not so much about time travel.

Outlander takes place in the 1700’s and includes history we all learned from sweeping cinematic sagas like “Braveheart” and “The Patriot” (which both happen to star Mel Gibson). There’s a lot of historical inaccuracies in the movies, but let’s face it, American history classes are pretty tepid, dwelling mostly on the Civil War and the Oregon Trail. History, as it is taught now in public schools, is very different from history as it was taught 50 years ago, in my youth. What I know of European history came from a 6th grade class and a one-semester college course, and stuff I have gleaned from National Geographic over the decades.

I know little enough about the settlement of England, Scotland, Wales, and Ireland – yet most of my DNA comes from there. When my Christian friends were celebrating the fact they were grafted to Israel, I was longing for my heathen ancestors in what is now known as Great Britain. No, I’m not looking for the pagan gods – my choice was made long ago for One above those – but I still hold a holy curiosity for those pagan rituals, songs, and ways. Who were these people who formed my DNA?

Vikings, Welsh slaves, Picts upon the shores, dark-haired Irish, Scots who built Melrose Abbey? Franks (Germans), Nords, Finns.

Perhaps it is that genetic memory that helped pull me into the tale of Ceridwen, or the fact that we both share a “hard” C where the English wish to make it an “s” sound. Or that I listen to Welsh folk music on occasion.

Nah, none of that. It is the story itself, and the voice of Ceridwen, named after the ancient Welsh goddess herself.

We meet Ceridwen when she is 15. In our world, she would be a child. In her world, she was of marrying age. It is late in the 9th century, and the orphan, Ceridwen, has to make a hard choice: become a nun or marry one of the land holders that the Prior who has raised her has chosen for her. Head strong and independent, Ceridwen has other ideas. She has honor, however, and when she steals away, she pays for everything she takes out of her pagan inheritance.

Ceridwen soon meets her first (and only true) girlfriend upon the road, a maid of 17 who has been given as a pledge of peace to a Danish warrior. Ælfwyn and Ceridwen become the dearest friends and it is their friendship that threads the four stories. They are ever true to each other, with an honesty that runs deeper than the souls of most men.

Indeed, men can be such treacherous creatures in the 9th century (or any century, for that matter – as the term “rape culture” presently exists to explain the dominance men have ever sought over women). (Not ALL men)

Ceridwen’s voice is honest, innocent, thoughtful, observant. Her adventures (and they rival those of Claire, in Outlander, at times) are not to be envied. Her deep loves are true. Her fate is woven by the goddess Freyja, twin to Freyr. Her heathen faith runs opposites with the conquest of Rome, but she ever treats Christians as her own brothers and sisters (and, indeed, her beloved Ælfwyn is a devout Christian). Ceridwen is honest about her faith: she realizes early on that she was never truly converted, but was merely raised by a prior who never saw fit to truly convert her.

I don’t want to do any spoilers. Ceridwen’s voice is forthright and honest, sometimes a bit innocent. Her growing relationship with the Dane, Sidroc, is sometimes punctuated with a humor that you maybe have to be married to see building (they fight, verbally, a lot). Ceridwen never sees people’s handicaps, but loves them as they are. Yet, she commits sins that haunt her for her lifetime, and very nearly destroy her in book 4.

Randolph’s devotion to ancient history shines through in the descriptions of trade, the use of antiquated names, the sea trade, the settling of England by Danes (vikings), and the peace treaties made therein. Anyone who thinks the Americas were settled unfairly needs to read this series or to study ancient British history to understand that what happened to America was only an extension of how Europe was settled and expanded upon. I think, perhaps, upon the European lands, men honored treaties a while longer than they did in the western expansion of the Americas. But I am very much a novice at these things.

The ancient gods actually take on a life of their own, and the celebrations and sacrifices to them bear some poignant reminder of how men had begun to revere the Fates that kept them safe from harm. While I have my own thoughts on these things, they are thoughts that come from the God that one of the later characters devoutly worshiped; Jhesu Christu. I would hope that Randolph will later develop the character of Sparrow, the flesh-slave girl freed by Ceridwen from that cruel industry (which happens to exist even in out day of “enlightenment”).

Ceridwen doesn’t time travel. She knows no future time of penicillin and modern medicine, as does Claire in Outlander. Ceridwen cleans wounds and sews them up with great reluctance and a weak stomach. She is honest about this. But both women share this in common: they are not about to be intimidated nor ruled. They are independent women, with words as sharp as tacks. Men either love or hate them.

And those men that hate them would force them into submission by force.

God must hate such men.

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