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My heart is hurting tonight. I cannot quit thinking about people who live in Myanmar. Mogadishu. Puerto Rice. The Virgin Islands. California. Florida. Texas. Ireland.

You name the site and the tragedy, and my heart weeps.

You can tell me to not read the news, but I will check, anyway.

Don’t take it personal. I will, anyway.

I just want everyone in every affected area of the world to know that even if I cannot give my time or resources, there isn’t a moment that I don’t think and pray about you.

Failed lesson. I can’t write about this. California just went up in flames. Puerto Rico still has no water.

If sending positive vibes/prayers/thoughts can help, I have sent many, many, many.

I gave blood for the very first time, ever. I’ll become a donor from now on.

I can’t give money for every single disaster that has passed the threshold of my door in the past few weeks. I weep.

Yet I am hopeful. The human spirit is resilient. We rebuild. We rebound. We fight back against the elements. We are strong.

We will survive.

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I have a lot of weird possessions, so this is just “one of many”. Some I inherited from my parents and some I picked up, all on my lonesome – or with the aid of my husband, who is also drawn to weird possessions.

Weird possession du jour: a carved wooden snake. It’s 20″ long, and appears to slither across the floor.

I don’t know who carved it. I am certain it came from either the Wilcox side of my lineage or the Cusick side. Basically, it was in my father’s family, not my mother’s more Scots side of the family tree.

For that matter, although we celebrate the Scots/Irish, my DNA tells a very different story. The Scots and Irish were simply more recent immigrants to the United States, or the prouder of the lineages that came down through the ages. I can trace the Cusicks back to Ireland, and the Melroses back to Scotland. The Wilcoxes and Robinsons come from a much more diverse (albeit, very white) nationalities. The closest my blood line gets to possibly being mixed with anything less than Northern Europe is the 13% Iberian Peninsula.

Seriously. Europe West – 40%. That would include the Dutch (Van Esseltyne would be a huge hint to Dutch ancestry, and probably why I own a set of adult wooden shoes and a set of toddler wooden shoes).  30% Great Britain, which includes the more recent Scotland arrivals of the 1800s.. 7% Ireland (probably all Cusick). 6% Scandanavia. 4% Finland. I’m going out on a limb here and guessing the Finnish and Scandinavian happened during all the many raids and pillages of great Britain. I mean, what is Great Britain, anyway, except a hodge-podge of Europe West, Scandinavia, Norse, and Roman?

But I digress. The snake.

It seems to have a very Norse personality, don’t you think?

Hell, I have no idea. I don’t know who sat on the porcah and did wood working. Who might have hammered scales into a piece of wood and carved a face into it, then handed it down to the next generation. Why my dad saved it.

It’s kind of cool, though.

I slipped up and did not post either Friday night or Saturday night. Friday, my office hosted a little meet-and-greet for past clients, and while I was not obligated to be there, I went for a couple of hours. I hate small talk, but sometime you have to do what you have to do, and I wanted to support my real estate agents. Small talk kills me, and I came home and dove into a movie instead of getting on the Web.

Saturday, I gave myself permission to take the day off from responsibilities, writing, and plugging away at my website goals over at Two Crow Feather Woman. I did some minor chores. but most of the day was just a long, lazy, happy day.

Today, I jumped back into responsibility. Groceries, laundry, feeding the birds. The sun came out, although a bit weak, what with high, thin, clouds. I dove into the garden. Who knows when next we’ll have a relatively decent and warm day to tackle the constants of a living garden? The rainy season is fast approaching and I admit that I am none too fond of working in the yard in the cold, finger-cramping, Autumn weather.

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This doesn’t look like much. I’ll explain: you are looking at a slew of yellow evening primroses (Oenothera biennis). I have wonderful childhood memories of the fragrance of these wafting on a warm summer’s evening. Then I grew up and forgot about it until some bird dropped these seeds into my yard and I decided to see what grew from the clumps. They are every bit as fragrant as I recall, and they are insect-friendly, hosting bees, moths, and hummingbirds. Occasionally, we even get hummingbird moths (common name for a sphinx moth that resembles a hummingbird, but which flies at night. The evening primrose blooms in the evening and fades with dawn’s light.

This year, they spread over the top of my beleaguered mountain penstemon, and I had to decide: primroses or penstemon? Oh, why choose either/or? I chose to pull apart the broad leaves of the primroses to find the living branches of the particular penstemon I have: something we dug up in eastern Oregon or the high Cascades and replanted in the yard. This particular kind grows much like kinnickinnick (I love that word!): woody, close to the ground, and on slopes.

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I planted it in three different areas of the yard, naturalizing it into the rocks.

Well, that was easy, so why not tackle the irises? It is Autumn, and the best time to dig around irises. My irises survived the gravel drive of my folks’ house in Ely, Nevada, for decades. They were my mother’s, and a few years after she died, my father dug them up (he hated them) and boxed them, and shipped them to me.

They survived the wet climate here, but every few years I have to dig them completely out and pull the grass out from between them. The grass is insidious. It strangles my other plants, from peonies to irises to gladiolas to my lavenders and the Russian sage. Anyplace that was a neglected flower bed when we bought this house, the grass creeps in and takes my garden hostage.

I don’t have this problem in the beds I created since we moved in, only in the beds that were neglected by the previous owner.

Grass and red sorrel.

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I have temporarily won: the irises have been replanted sans grass roots.

Finally, I mulched a zone 9 plant out in the front garden (I live in a 7/8 zone), and I pulled out half the Hallowe’en decorations. I’ll put up the lights next weekend.

I can tell you my favorite animal, but I cannot tell you why. They are beauty in motion, but so is a cat, a deer, an elk, or an eagle. They have intelligent eyes, but so do dogs. They can learn tricks, but so can dogs, monkeys, cats, and birds. They can kill you, but so can a dog.

What is it about horses that draw my eyes to them? That smell of horsehair under the fingers? The whiskers tickling a hand, looking for a treat? Those swiveling ears, that tell you what mood the horse is in? The one-sided look (because a horse can’t look you dead on, but only with one eye at a time when you are close). Flowing manes and thundering hooves?

I was drawn to horses before I knew any of those attributes. They peppered my black-and-white television dreams in the 1950’s and 1960’s. I was forbidden to go in the corrals (after a USFS employee looked down from the barn loft and saw me toddling about under the legs of the half-wild remuda while he was feeding them. I got a whopping, I’m sure, but I don’t remember that. I just remember horse legs and the startled shout of the man in the loft window). I could stand on the rails and coax a horse over with a handful of hay, but someone must have taught me early on how to release the hay to the inquisitive lips of the horse on the other fence. I petted many a velvety muzzle and felt warm breath on my hands – and for a particularly friendly over-the-fence horse, I sometimes could scratch its poll and feel how strong it was.

Horses. Bays, sorrels, palominos, whites, dapples, roans, grullas, duns, blacks, and pintos. My father’s favorite horse was a big blue roan grulla. My best friend’s Shetland pony was a grulla. My first horse (I owned him for 10 seconds) was a brown and white pinto. My second horse (I owned her for several years) was a snow-flake red roan Appaloosa. My third horse (owned in conjunction with the second) was a registered bay Quarterhorse that nobody wanted.

Wait. Why did I only own a horse for ten seconds? He was a very popular horse around the high school, and his owner often rode him to school. Horse. That was his name. Her name was Penny. Penny cleaned dog kennels to earn enough money to buy Horse, and once she owned him, shoe often rode him from her home along the McGill Highway into town to go to school. She tied him in the park across the street.

Penny & I had PE together for two years. She was a year ahead of me. We weren’t really friends, just classmates. Girls with only one thing in common: horses. I’d never even met Horse because Penny ran with a different crowd than I did. But she came to me one day and asked me if I wanted Horse. She was getting married (a lot of girls in my high school did that long before graduation) and she could no longer keep Horse. He needed someone who would love him, and she had chosen ME to be his new owner. For free. A gorgeous brown and white Pinto. FREE.

I held onto that dream for about ten seconds before I admitted I was going to go to college and I, too, would abandon Horse. I couldn’t take him. It would be unfair to him. But I miss him as if I had taken him and ridden him to school like Penny did. He was mine, even if for only a few seconds.

My other two horses were free, too. Whisper, the Arab/Appy, was a divorce rescue – just two years old when I got her. My dream horse. I held onto her for as long as I could, learning to trust horses, learning how to read them, learning how to avoid being hurt by them (oh, yeah, I got kicked once – right in the gluteus maximus!), and learning how to train a trail horse. She was a good trail horse, willing and not shy about breaking trail. She was also an Appaloosa, and more stubborn than a mule when she wanted to be.

The bay fell into my hands because I was already taking care of him, and his owner became disinterested in him. His owner was never really interested in him: he just bought the horse because his best friend was a horseman, and they needed horses to go hunting, and his friend said the horse was well-papered and had good conformation. (The horse didn’t have good conformation, not by a Quarterhorse standard: he was too skinny through the hindquarters, and someone had trimmed his hooves wrong early in his life. Took us years to get that corrected, and he still had to have shoes on in order to walk comfortably). His name was Sunny or Sonny, but that sounded too much like my father-in-law, Sonny. We changed it to Major Payne.

Major was a great kid’s horse. Barn sour as all get out, but he could give a kid a fun ride, he never considered bucking (Whisper crow-hopped and bucked if she got mad at you), and he never argued when he was on a lead. I let the neighborhood kids ride Major. My kids were allowed on Whisper. Truth is, they were both good with kids, but Major was always docile, whereas Whisper had a question mark over her ears at all times: “You in control? Just checking.”

Major’s mouth was hard. His former owner once bridled him up and rode him for seven miles (hold your breath) with the curb bit in backward. Yeah.

I used a snaffle on Whisper. I trained her to rein, because that’s the only way I know how to ride. She responded to knee pressure.

I never rode Major. He wasn’t a favorite, but more of a horse that got dumped on me by default.

They were both smart. Major could open any gate or latch (so long as it wasn’t “hot” ). We nicknamed him “Velociraptor” because of his habit of walking along the hot-wire fence with his whiskers just skimming the electric charge. As soon as the charge quit pulsing, Major breached the fence. Lots of hours were spent coaxing horse back into the pasture so we could fix the hot wire, because Major walked through it as soon as it was “down”. When we passed him on to new owners, he let himself out of their barn the first night.

We warned them.

Whisper was just a gentle little mare, 15 hands high. She had a lot of expressions. I miss her. She came from regal Arabian lines, but there was no registration: she was born of an Arab mare that had been turned out with an Appy stud. The stud’s owners claimed the mare “didn’t take” and disavowed any offspring. The mare was sold to the man I got Whisper from, and by spring, she foaled. She obviously “took”, but he Appy’s owner refused to acknowledge the foal. There was no way to register, but the owne r kept meticulous records (as did I).

I’m sorry my little mare got lost in the horse passes on to another owner mess. My husband promised me that wouldn’t happen, but he was wrong. I don’t know where she ended up before she died. She’d be 29 this year, so I am pretty certain she is long gone. Major was older,

I hope they were in good hands. I also hope to see them over the Rainbow Bridge.

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This is not really an exercise for writing as much as it also a little “brag” on my accomplishments in my other 30-day commitment (non-writing).

What’s that, you ask? I committed to getting my art website up and functional, my mini paintings into galleries (on line), my Facebook page spritzed up, and opening an Etsy store – all in time for the Christmas shopping season. If that sounds easy, you don’t know me. I’m basically very lazy.

I get up as late as possible to drive the three miles to work. I work 8 hours plus a 30-minute lunch, so that time is on someone else’s dime, and I can’t work on my projects there. Then I come home, and all I want to do is vegetate. I don’t want to look at a computer screen and think. But I committed.

My progress has been slow, but I also have not pulled out my SMART Goals to see how I am doing. I got all of the current mini paintings scanned (so much easier and professional than photography! Loving the medium!), and I uploaded them into albums on my Two Crow feather Woman Art Facebook business page (https://www.facebook.com/twocrowfeatherwoman/). I updated most of my pages on my art website (the galleries). (I have some more work to do on that.*)

Tonight, I “opened” my Etsy store (https://www.etsy.com/shop/TwoCrowFeatherWoman). That’s not as easy as it sounds, either, because I had to write about myself (which seems to come naturally here, but not when I’m trying to actually “sell” myself). I still have some things to tweak, but I GOT IT OPEN.

I watched several tutorials on how to set up a business Instagram page, and will be doing that in the next couple of weeks (I’ll announce it here and on Facebook).

My website (TwoCrowFeatherWoman.com) is being held up. I updated all of the galleries except for one – a soccer team. I realized that I was short two players (!) and I need to get those two critters painted before I can update that gallery to a professional level. Well, one more: I finished one tonight. I also need to find the best WordPress Apps for sending/receiving emails and for setting up PayPal for potential clients. I know there must be a way to set it up to receive secure credit card payments as well, but I haven’t found anything on that (yet). Needless to say, I’m reading, watching how-to videos, and making use of the Interwebs search engines. It’s a little overwhelming.

Overwhelming because now I know there are other art sites that I could also set up a shop on, and I’ve been comparing those (Redbubble vs. Zazzle, for instance). But that’s kind of running down a rabbit trail and digressing from my outlined goals. Also, where is the best place to get giclée prints made so I can sell little cards and prints of my paintings long after I’ve sold the original? (I have a local spot to check out, then I’ll consider online – but most online stores sell the wrong size cards for what I want…). (And, yes, I think giclée is better than cold press for what I want to do.)

I’ve also had a couple of commissions come in, and I’ve had to stop to paint those and mail them. (Happy Dance)

But I’m so close to my set goals, and I’m learning how to doggedly pursue my goals.

Last, may I present my most recent soccer player, Sandy Zwartble. She is, of course, a Zwartble sheep of Friesland, Netherlands.

SandyZwartble

3×3″ acrylic on canvas – appears much larger than actual size)

I don’t like to call it a “random” act, let’s get that clear. I think acts of kindness should be the norm, not some random thing we do. I forget that most of the time, though, so maybe it is a random act. I’m pretty guilty of letting steam off on some poor store manager or rude driver, even if it’s just flipping them the Bird behind their back.

Shame on me. I should do better.

Sometimes, I do better. Those are the times I like to remember.

Pay it forward. That is a phrase I love. Every act of kindness is an act of paying it forward (although, every act of retribution and anger is also paying it forward, in a way: you reap what you sow).

When I lose it, I’m not listening. I’m not in control. I’m immature. I’m allowing frustration to guide me rather than kindness. I pay for those moments in my conscience, if nowhere else. I hate myself, berate myself, want to hide in a hole and never come out again. Fortunately, those acts are far and few as I age. I’m getting better.

What was the last “random” act of kindness that you did? Why?

I can’t recall the most recent, but it is usually something that whispers in my heart that I cannot not do something for someone. Hand them $5. Buy a bottle of wine for them. Pay their tab. Give them my favorite Santa Claus hat. (I actually looked for the hat the next Christmas, and then remembered I had given it away to a Salvation Army bell ringer who had admired it. She was thrilled.)

We need more kindness in this world. I want to pledge myself to being more kind. I’ve done enough stupid things in my life, said enough stupid things — I just want to leave a happiness trail behind me.

What about you?

It is October, the month when we draw closer to the veil. That makes it a good time to tell a good ghost story, don’t you think?

My best friend lived two blocks from my house. We met on Saturdays, as soon as my chores were done, and went on adventures, played pretend, lip-synced to The Monkees, or played dress up. We wrote crazy plays and forced our parents to watch them as we acted them out. We build elaborate stories around our model horses or the little plastic farm animals one could buy at the Five-and-Dime or the toy aisle in the supermarket. We rode her pony or pretended we were horses.

Matilda was the youngest child of a Catholic family. They owned a rambling ranch-style home overlooking the city golf course. I was the middle child of a Protestant/agnotsic family. We lived in a rambling concrete monster of a house that had been hand-poured by the previous owner, mostly without permits or much attention to detail. My parents painted it pink. Very pink.

One of the oddities of Matilda’s home was the front entry: it was a long hall that was usually dark. The only time anyone used the front door was if someone actually rang the doorbell there, or if we kids hauled out the dress-up box. The doors everyone used were the car port entry door and the patio door (but only to leave). They had a TV room, which was wonderfully novel to me, plus a color television. We had a black and white TV that sat in the living room. Their living room, it seemed to me, was mostly unused, except when we played dress-up and listened to old records of Johnny Horton and other old western albums. They had dinner at 6:00PM, promptly, and they always bowed their heads and blessed the food.

Bless us, O Lord, and these, Thy gifts, which we are about to receive from Thy bounty. Through Christ, our Lord. Amen.

The house I lived in had concrete stairs that were of differing heights. There was an addition of an old barber shop that my dad converted into a guest room. A huge shop was attached to that. It was a ranch-style home, as well, with massive concrete blocks off the front porch that seemed to have no purpose other than we could climb them. A hallway separated living quarters from the shop, and there was a dank, unfinished basement under the house part where my mother set up her laundry room. Dad remodeled the house to have three bedrooms. The front door opened into the living room, where we watched out black and white TV, or my sister and I danced to 45’s of old 1960’s rock-n-roll.

Out back was an orchard, flower beds, and a large strawberry patch. We found evidence the former owner practiced some sort of witchcraft back there: she sprinkled egg shells among the plants. (I know: horrors! To this day, I add egg shells to my compost.) She had a cupboard of exotic herbs and spices, all old. Mom used the general ones: cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, pepper, salt. But this woman had everything under the sun in her herb and spice tins: turmeric, allspice, alum, ginger, rosemary, oregano, basil – well, my spice cupboard looks a lot like old Vera’s did back when we labeled her a witch.

We had dinner whenever my parents got around to it, often after nine at night in the summer months. There was no grace spoken over the meal.

There was a dog skull buried under the strawberry patch.

Both houses had secrets. Things that went bump! in the night. Things that moved of their own free will. The attic window of our house broke out every time my dad had it replaced. We kids heard footsteps in the hall way. My mom’s dog retreated from the hallway to cower under the covers in my brother’s bedroom. Going to the bathroom in the night was a test of courage (and was usually lost).

One day, we discovered this long indigo blue scarf in the dress up box at mat’s house. It was 4×8′ and a beautiful blue. It was the perfect wrap for any dress up outfit we could think of. We even hauled it to my house to play with it, and then we stuffed it into my dress up box at the end of the day. We called it The Blue Cape.

Of course, the next time we pulled the dress ups out of the box at my house, we couldn’t find the scarf. It was just gone.

And the next time we pulled the dress ups out of Mat’s box, it was right on top, folded neatly.

Then it was at my house, without any of us having carried it there.

The nightmares began shortly after that. My sister woke up, screaming and crying. When my parents asked her about her dream, the blue scarf had been hovering over her head, sucking the air out of her lungs. Nor was she the only one of us to have that same experience: Mat did. I did. The scarf moved from here to there, never where we were certain we’d left it last. We made notes about where we left it.

Soon, we didn’t play with it at all. There was something terrifying about that 4×8′ of nylon cloth. None of us could explain it to our parents, who, being adults, didn’t believe a bit of what we swore was true.

In 1970, my father relocated and the family followed. We were past dress-up by then, but we did one last thing: Mat send The Blue Cape (now referred to in capitols) to live with us, in our dress up box (because, Hallowe’en).

The scarf never made it to our new home in another town. My sister and I opened the box, expectant to see it where we had packed it – and it was gone. It never showed up at Mat’s. It simply disappeared – just like it had appeared.

No parent figure ever claimed to know where it came from. It just appeared. And now it was gone.

Just gone. And, of course, no parent figure would admit to throwing it away.

And 47 years later, I still get the heebie-jeebies writing about it. In retrospect, I don’t recall that it ever snagged or had a run in the material. It was always perfect.

I also find it very, very odd that I cannot find a single image on the internet that resembles The Thing. It was evil.