Wednesday, October 31, 2007

The Thinning Veil

Today is Samhain. It’s New Year’s Eve for some of us and it’s one of the most sacred of holidays.

It’s also the night when the veil between the worlds of living and spirit is thinnest. That makes it a really good night for spirit contact. Even if you don’t try, someone across the veil just might be trying to get your attention. Keep alert.

If you want to contact anyone who’s crossed over, always say a prayer of protection first as you never know who might be cruising the currents. If you are going to open yourself up to contact, be safe. To do it simply ask God or your favorite Higher Being to extend his/her loving protection around you.
You can also add this declaration: “Only those beings who love me and work with me in the light may come to me.”

Be firm. Mean it.

Do this if you’re going to dust off any divination tools like an ouija board or dowsing rods.

Eat well. I posted earlier about foods associated with Samhain and offered a recipe for my Nightshade Casserole. If you’ve been meaning to try it, why not give it a go tonight? You don’t have to, but it would dovetail nicely with the holiday.
And set an extra place at the table for any spirit who stops by.

Whatever you do tonight, be it Trick or Treating or doing a reading, enjoy it. Get right into it and don’t come back out until you’ve had all the fun possible. Enjoy the night.

Happy New Year.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Talk About Gall

This tree has some character. It makes me think of magical forests and I fully expected to see a gnome or small mythological beastie pop its head around from behind it as I took the photo.

Sadly, what the tree has is gall. Something like an insect, bacteria, injury or what-have-you attacked it and changed its hormones.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Gratitude Monday – Soul Restocking

It’s Monday again and I am happy. Another week starts full of hope and possibilities.

The past week ended with a lovely walk in the West Country yesterday and lunch in Nordegg. It was once a thriving coal town on the edge of the Rockies, but the mine has been closed for more than 50 years. Tours of it are available in the summer, but mostly the area is devoted to recreation.

It’s in the mountains with plenty of camping, hiking, fishing, horseback riding, and most anything else you want to do right at it’s doorstep. It’s also got a hotel, restaurant, gas station and small store and it’s very busy during summer and hunting season.

It’s about 50 miles west of Rocky and an easy, scenic drive. I’m grateful for that. A trip out west restocks the soul.

So another week starts and anything can happen. Events are good, bad or indifferent depending on our perspective. I’m going to make an effort to keep mine focused on good.

From the walk around Goldeye Lake

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

First Rejection In

The week started off with my first rejection from the last batch of queries and proposals. The batch went out earlier this month.
On the whole it was a pleasant enough rejection. It was even a bit helpful in that it thoughtfully listed the reference books available for finding publishers.
Still, it was a standard, general rejection thanking me for thinking of the company and wishing me luck.

On the one hand, when I’ve got queries and proposals out I live in hope. It’s a lovely place and I return there whenever I can and I stay as long as possible.
But on the other hand the quick rejection is humane. And there’s more to come. It was one of half-dozen sent out in this final round.

A few years back my first manuscript had a few bites. My second manuscript had a few as well, though less than the first. So far, the third hasn’t any.
I wonder, shouldn’t this be the other way around?

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Beer Or Brain?

We’ve all heard various urban myths over the years. There’s a wee bit of believability in them until you give the story some thought. Once you do that, stories like the kidney removal are barely worth the effort it takes to shake your head.

My first urban myth came from my mom. I was about eight years old, I think, and had been outside on a winter’s day waiting for my parents to return from a trip to a nearby town. I was wearing earmuffs.
According to mom some poor fellow in that same nearby town had been out making deliveries two weeks earlier, wearing earmuffs, and he froze his brain.
The story stayed with me. I didn’t have the capacity for critical thought at that age to realize it was less than possible for this to happen. Eventually I realized the absurdity of it. Years later I told my husband the story. To this day he calls earmuffs “brainfreezers.”

Sometime in the mid-1990s mom told me the story again as it had just happened two weeks earlier.
Oh, well. Poor fellow.

If the frozen brain is absurd, then this next story is preposterous. I heard it about 20 years ago when I was working in Fort St. John in northeastern BC.

Seems some members of the local Native population spent a good deal of time outdoors in the winter consuming alcohol and building fires to stay warm. According to my boss, the editor of the local daily newspaper, one woman fell asleep by her fire and wound up in the local hospital for eight days. She was okay, but the beer in her stomach was frozen.

I started to say something, but realized it was pointless. It’s a good story in that it covers so many bases. Alcoholism, racism, medical marvels, mysterious ways of the Natives, plus it’s entertaining and it makes the brainfreezers story sound legitimate.

So I wonder, now that the cold weather is upon us, if I put on some earmuffs, lift a few, and then sleep outside, which will freeze first, beer or brain?

Monday, October 22, 2007

Gratitude Monday – The Little Voice

The little voice inside will direct you properly. I’ve learned to heed mine, mostly, and it’s been worthwhile.

We’d been looking around for a new mattress to replace our 17-year-old foam IKEA mattress. I checked a store that specializes in foam mattresses. I checked IKEA, too. Something similar was available and it seemed logical to get the replacement from the store which sold me the product originally.

I was going to phone in the order and arrange for delivery (the nearest stores are two hours away) when I felt a nagging urge to check out a local furniture store.
I did. Spring-style mattresses were available and the store was having a sale. It looked good.
My husband was off work the next day so we went back, check things out again, and bought a new mattress. The price was good. Part of the deal on the sale was no GST being charged.
We bought it and brought it home. The whole transaction took less than an hour.
I heeded the voice that said to look there. Our mattress was replaced quickly and it was on sale.

The little voice inside is there for a reason. Sometimes it’s our intuition, other times it’s a guide or helper or angel who’s stopped by to nudge us along.

Usually we hear about this help when something life altering is involved. It’s good to be reminded that that the little voice speaks to the mundane, too, and for that I’m grateful.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Throwaway Friday

I have no idea if this is a good thing to do. I wrote this several years ago and thought it had some potential.
It’s been languishing in a desk drawer for more than a decade. I thought I’d bring it out to the light, clean it up a bit, and set it free to roam the blogosphere.

Faery Day

I used to hide in a copse of willows just up the hill and watch. Their wings glittered as they caught the late afternoon sun. They’d swoop and dance just above the water near the bend in the creek.
I used to pretend, you know, as the warm August sun caressed their faces, that I was with them; singing and flying and laughing as they chased dragonflies above the sparkling water.

That was nearly 70 years ago. I hardly recognize the creek today. My willows are gone. It’s a bare spot now, though covered with the crisp yellow-brown leaves of October.
The water is barely a trickle. Waning daylight barely touches it.

Oh, wait. There. Out of the corner of my eye near the bank I see one, no two, more now. They are here. Oh, if I could just . . . what did you say? I’m sorry. My old ears. I can hardly hear you.
My eyes are heavy and I’m so tired, but I want to keep watching. And now I’m so light. So airy. And what’s that rushing sound?

I’m swooping and swirling and diving above the water at the bend. I’m smiling and I’m so happy. . . so happy.
They’re here, all around me, and they’re smiling too and they’re asking me something.

Why, yes. Yes. Thank you. I will dance with you today.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Nightshade Casserole, Anyone?

All Hallows Even is soon upon us. I’ve observed Samhain, the Celtic New Year, in one form or another for more than a decade now including taking in a Loreena McKennitt concert in the mid-1990s.

My celebrations involve food and several foods from apples to wormwood (think tarragon), corn, and Dittany of Crete (Origanum Dictamnus, a variety of oregano) are associated with Samhain. Dittany of Crete is used in astral projection. I’ve grown it and I love the energy of it, but I have no experience astrally projecting with it.

This brings us to the Nightshades, an interesting and varied family with some really deadly members. It’s the killers which are associated with Samhain as well as Beltaine, observed in the spring.
Well, Nightshade is Nightshade to me. As long as it’s in the family I figure I can use it. Thanks to my husband’s botany textbooks I learned that eggplant (Solanum melongena), bell peppers (Capsicum annuum), potatoes (Solanum tuberosum), and tomatoes (Lycopersicon esculentum), are members of the Solanaceae or Nightshade family.

Tomatoes were thought “poisonous because many European members of their family (the Solanaceae) have bitter fruits containing toxic or hallucinogenic compounds.” (p.119. Economic Botany: Plants in our World by Beryl Brintnall Simpson and Molly Conner-Ogorzaly. Copyright 1986, McGraw-Hill Book Company.)
Lycopersicon esculentum, is Latin for “juicy wolf-peach,” the text book said. “The German common name ‘wolf-peach’ reflected the belief that the fruits could be used in cabals to evoke werewolves.” (IBID)

Reading on I learned that alkaloids from the potato family control muscles spasms. The solanaceous alkaloids are hyoscyamine (and l-hyoscyamine), atropine and scopolamine (or hyosine).
Technically, they’re known as tropane alkaloids and are commonly extracted from Atrope belladonna. (IBID p.371)

Anyway, with potato, tomato, bell pepper, and eggplant to work with I knew I could do something. My husband likes veggies, even eggplant, so I wanted something we’d both enjoy.
A few experiments later I had the Solanaceous Supper that’s become a Samhain tradition.

It’s easy to prepare and creates few dishes making for a fairly quick clean up. Here’s what to do:

Peel, slice and salt a firm, healthy medium-sized eggplant. I’ve read that they don’t need salting, but I feel better doing it. They’ve got lousy public relations already, finding a bitter one won’t help their cause.
Let it leach for at least a half-hour then dry with paper towels and cut into bite–sized pieces.
Take a large, healthy, firm green pepper. Remove stem and seeds and cut into small pieces. Imagine you’re making a Greek Salad and cut accordingly.
Use between four and six medium potatoes. This depends on the size of the spud and the number of people you’re feeding. Chop into small pieces. Peel or not as you see fit.
Use four to six medium-sized ripe tomatoes, chopped.
Use at least a half-cup of chopped onion. I use purple because it’s tasty and it looks good.
Mix together in a 9 x 13” casserole dish and coat with cold-pressed, extra virgin olive oil and add good quality red wine vinegar.
Spice it with thyme, basil, and oregano along with your choice of parsley, chervil, and/or garlic. If you like, then sprinkle some cayenne on it, too. Capsicum frutenscens is also in the Solanaceae family. Use salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.

Ready to cook:

Cook at 350 degrees. It’ll take about 50-60 minutes. At the 40-50 minute mark remove from oven and sprinkle a cup of finely chopped Feta cheese on it. Return to oven for about 10 minutes or until potatoes are fork tender.

Allow to sit for at least five minutes before serving.

The finished product:

When serving on Samhain always set an extra place at the table. On this night the veil between the worlds is at its thinnest and otherworldly guests should be made welcome.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

One Good Turn, Missed

I’m pretty good about following directions to get to a destination. Often when I was reporting I’d have to go to someone’s home be it in town or the country. That meant directions.

My preference ran to getting road signs and landmarks, and in the rural area, mileage was always help. Each one confirmed the other in my view. After a few years I could hear directions like “turn right after where the old round barn used to be” and I’d be okay.

Most of the time it went well. People commonly give good directions and with an estimate of how long it ought to take me to drive there, I was usually on time. I was even early on occasion.

Except for the Kiss of Death addition. Sometimes my interview subject would say, “You can’t miss it.”

Wanna bet?

I always found a way to rise to the challenge. Turnoffs were missed; wrong roads were taken.

To my credit I found my way and was only a few minutes late, but it still happened. I’d get close to my destination and then miss it. Signs were rendered invisible. Landmarks vanished.

I’d usually catch on within a few minutes and turn around. Interestingly, the landmarks reappeared after I’d passed and were waiting for me on the return trip.

Once I realized what would happen due to those fateful words I gave myself an extra 15 minutes “get lost” time. It paid off because I’d still miss my mark initially, but I arrived on time.

I’d like to say the getting lost part was fun, but at the time it was frustrating. Now I see it as part of the adventure.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Cold, Hard Cash?

I love this. I absolutely love it. Apparently I won a lottery somewhere and haven’t collected yet and now the payers are getting antsy to give me my money.
Come to think of it I did receive notification a few months back of having won a UK lotto. Maybe I should have paid more attention, because now, well, there are...umm... complications.

Apparently, I may be dead.

From the email from Mr. John Dawey:
“However, we received an email from one Mr. Arnold Gate who told us that he is your next of kin and that you died in a car accident last week. He has also submitted his account to us to transfer the fund to him including his International passport.
We want to hear from you before we can make the transfer to
Confirm if you are dead or not.”

Oh, my. What to do? What to do?

It appears these kindhearted folk got my name off a hypnotist finder list. A quick click of “properties” showed me who else got this email.
How interesting that Mr. Gate came from such a large family.

The email includes an apology from the International Monetary Fund for failing to pay out to me in time. You just don’t see that every day.

Now I wonder, if I confirm that I’m dead, then what will happen?

Monday, October 15, 2007

Gratitude Monday - One Problem Solves Another

Have you ever been grateful for a screw-up?

I have.

Last week I deposited a bit of money in the bank, but accidentally directed it to savings, not chequing.
I put the bank slip on my desk and ignored it for two days. The unusually high balance eventually caught my eye and in a moment I realized what I’d done.

Instead of a relaxing morning meditation I bundled myself off to the bank to sort it out. On my way I caught my reflection in a window and it looked like my driver’s side front tire was a bit low.
After the bank I went to a grocery store. I decided I’d better do something so I tried to inflate it myself, but didn’t get very far. It wasn’t down much, only a few pounds, but it needed attention.
A proper check at the tire shop found a leak in the valve core. It was fixed in about five minutes and for free as I’d bought the tires there.

If I hadn’t screwed up I wouldn’t have gone back to the bank. I might not have seen the reflection anywhere else. The leak might have gone unnoticed until the tire was absolutely flat or until I was halfway somewhere.

Sometimes a problem in one area is actually a blessing if we have the perspective to realize it.

I am grateful for the original mistake at the bank because it saved me a lot of frustration down the road.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Vote Early, Vote Often

Monday is Civic Election Day in Alberta. All across the province mayors and councils and school boards are facing the electoral music.
Or not.
A good lot of seats are filled by acclamation. It’s too bad as a good race is important for a healthy democracy, but at least the seat is filled.

What galls me no end is people who don’t vote.

You have a right and an obligation to vote. Please don’t give me any song and dance about it being a right in a democracy to not vote. I’ll concede you are correct as you are allowed to not vote in this country. However, you are misguided.

Do not ever try to tell me you have chosen to not vote as a gesture of protest. It is not.

If we were legally obligated to vote, such as in Australia, then choosing not to vote would be an act of protest. You would be breaking the law to make a point and you would have a public forum to challenge the State.

Here in Canada not voting is not a gesture of protest, it’s a gesture of apathy.

If you have any silly notions about complaining about elected officials, then you’d better have exercised your right at the ballot box. If you don’t care to vote, then I don’t care to listen.

I say you’ve abrogated your right to complain.

There are exceptions, such as those can’t cast a ballot by reason of age or citizenship. If they care enough to complain now, then there’s a good chance they’ll get out and vote when they can.

The polls are open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Get out to a polling station. If you can’t vote for the best candidate, then hold your nose and vote for the ones who’ll make the least mess.

Then you can complain all you want.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Sweatin’ With the Oldies

The Bag Lady wrote such an entertaining guest post for The Goat’s Lunch Pail last month that I insisted she do another one.
Here it is:

Sweatin’ With the Oldies

The Bag Lady has a little problem to discuss with all of you regarding the effects of aging. Well, actually, the Bag Lady has a lot of problems, but this is the one on her tiny mind today!

There’s a television commercial for a certain type of moisturizing cream that shows a woman covering her head with the blankets, saying "I’m starting to get wrinkles." When she takes the blankets off her head, she looks about 14 years old, not a wrinkle in sight.

What’s with that?

What kind of message is that sending those of us who actually DO have a wrinkle or two? The Bag Lady wonders; is life over because she has a few laugh lines? Couldn’t they have at least used someone with a few more years under her belt? That commercial doesn’t make a person want to buy their product – it makes a person want to slit her wrists!
There’s not a moisturizer on the market that’s going to make the Bag Lady look half as good as that ‘child’, so why bother?

There’s another commercial for eyeglasses. The slender, gorgeous woman was turning 50 and wanted to up-date her look, or something. As loath as the Bag Lady is to admit it, she will be 50 in a couple of months, so decided she needed to up-date her look, too, but eye-glasses just weren’t going to cut it!

The Bag Lady needed to lose a little extra poundage, and get into better shape, as well as discard for once and for all her totally disgusting smoking habit. Well, so far she’s lost 15 lb., re-gained 5 lb., quit smoking for a month, and then started again, quit again, and started again. Maybe she’ll just get new glasses and say the hell with it!

There’s a lot to be said for turning 50. For some reason, it makes you want to sit down and take stock of your life. Well, at least, it makes the Bag Lady want to sit down.
Her hips hurt. Her legs hurt, too. She can’t work as hard as she once could. Nor as fast, either. She starts out with good intentions, but runs out of steam pretty quickly. Well, except for the steam caused by the hot flashes, but that certainly doesn’t help get anything done! Just makes her want to sit down again.

The Bag Lady probably shouldn’t complain - things could be a lot worse. She has enjoyed good health for most of her life, except for a nasty battle with heel spurs that lasted three years. She finally had to have them blasted with shock-wave therapy. It took a little while, but it worked. Her feet feel a lot better.

Now her hips and legs hurt. Apparently, her pain is caused by back trouble. One of her vertebrae has slipped forward and is pinching her spinal cord, which is what causes the pain in her hips and down her legs. Sheesh, just when one part starts to heal up, another part goes to hell.

The Bag Lady wonders; is this what turning 50 does to a person? Your body goes to hell and you start complaining to everyone who’ll listen?

The problem with that is that nobody cares – they have their own problems! So from now on, she thinks what turning 50 should be about is to make a vow not to bore people to death with a litany of the problems with her bodily functions and to try to appear interested when she’s subjected to a litany of someone else’s problems with their bodily functions. Well, except their bowel functions…the Bag Lady has to draw the line somewhere!

Yep, new eyeglasses might be just the thing – and they’ll probably have to be bifocals.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Simple Beauty

The simple beauty of the change of seasons.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Monday Gratitude -- Iron Curtain Edition

It’s Thanksgiving Day in Canada today. I’ve got many things for which to be thankful, roof over my head, safe food and water, friends, love, something to do (writing) that makes me want to get out of bed each day.

Generally, most of us would agree that we’ve got a lot to be grateful for.
For example, if you’re reading this, then you are educated enough to be able to read, you know how to use a computer, and you have access to one right now.
If you can’t think of anything else to be happy about today at least you can chew on those three points with your turkey.

Those points, like so many others, really don’t take a lot of thought to list, merely a slight twist in perspective. So how about a big twist in perspective?

I’m grateful to live in a country where it’s okay to talk to strangers.
Granted, it may not always be safe, but at least you can’t get arrested for it.

That wasn’t the case in Bulgaria. Back in 1983 I was flying between Greece and Italy on the cheapest flight available, Balkan Bulgarian Airlines. The flight was Monday, October 10, and it included an eight-hour layover at the airport in Sofia, Bulgaria.
The in transit area of the airport had seating, washrooms, food, and a free English-language magazine. I still have it some place, I think. The lead story was about the Young Journalists and they came off sounding rather feisty. Another story was about a National who’d been charged in connection with the attempted assassination of the Pope two years earlier.
“A Bulgarian trying to kill the Pope!” scoffed the story. It turned out the magazine was correct to scoff.

Some information I found somewhere in the airport said travelers could take a bus into the city. I considered it, thinking, as a naïve traveler, that if I got lost I could just ask a local how to get back to the airport. I might have to do it by gestures, but it could be done.

But I stayed at the airport. I read, gazed at some mountains (if you add the appropriate vegetation it looks just like the scenery out of Honolulu airport), drank a cup of coffee that held the record as worst cup ever for four stellar years, and marveled at the fact that I was behind the Iron Curtain on Thanksgiving.

I was quite grateful to be Canadian. I was also very grateful to have some different currencies on me as the concession didn’t accept the Drachma.
And I was especially grateful that I stayed at the airport as I found out later that ordinary Bulgarians were not allowed to talk to Internationals.
Had I gone out and gotten lost I might have had quite the adventure.

How about you? What interesting or unusual thing are you thankful for today?

Happy Thanksgiving.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Final Round And Busted Back To Rough Draft

I sent out another--and the final--round of proposals and query letters for my third manuscript. If no one bites, then I’ll withdraw it.

Give up? No. That sounds defeatist.

What’s happened is I’ve run out of publishers to contact. After this last half–dozen there’s no house left which accepts unagented manuscripts.

So, get an agent, right? In theory, yes. But I am currently no one and I have a thin platform. Any agent I could get now is the kind of agent I should avoid.

So what I’ll do is take the hint. I’ll withdraw the manuscript from consideration and roll over the material into a newer, better, bigger, stronger and more dynamic book that’s sure to turn me into an overnight success. Or at least a properly published author.

Anyway, they’re off and all I can do is wait.

Meanwhile I gutted book four aka “The Book That Won't Get Writ" the other night.
By the time I’d finished deleting and cutting and pasting I’d pretty much busted it back down to rough draft.

I took out a hard copy. It’s maybe 50 pages single-spaced in Times New Roman. It ain’t much, but it’s a start.


Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Thought Banned

It’s Banned Books Week.

Virginia Lee, over at her amazing blog wrote about it and included a few links like this one to the Forbidden Library.

It was fascinating, in a chilling way, to read the titles of books that have been banned or challenged.

The Nazis burned Jack London’s The Call Of The Wild. I really don’t know what to say about this beyond book burning is never right. I haven’t read it, but I don’t believe I’ve ever heard it was a danger to any society.

Gone With The Wind by Margaret Mitchell was banned at a California High School. It was challenged in Illinois due to its use of the word “nigger.”

Much as that word makes me shudder, it was in use when Mitchell wrote it and certainly in the time period in which her book is set.
It is reflective of the times and not using that word in proper context is a lie, plain and simple.
We can’t go around sanitizing everything because that's a lie, too. You can argue that fiction is lie if you like, but don’t bother doing it around me. The greatest truths are disguised as fiction.

Using the words appropriate to the times, especially those that make us cringe, shows us how much we’ve grown as a society.
If it doesn’t, then it shows us that we need to grow.

And in a lovely bit of irony Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury had its cuss words blacked out for school use.

Perhaps whoever did it was making a point as the book is about censorship and book burning. Somehow I don’t believe it’s the case.

At the top of the post I wrote about a book not being a danger to society. No book is a danger to any free and open society that is a democracy in practice as well as in name.

The only danger to society presented by books is they create and foster a society of thinkers. Who would want a world of intellectually curious critical thinkers?

Monday, October 1, 2007

Gratitude Monday: The Wild Dogs Are With Me

The forest on the western edge of town.

I saw a fox yesterday when I went out for a mid-afternoon walk. A red fox lives in the forest at the edge of town and I've seen it from time to time, usually in the evenings.
I thought it was unusual to see it out and about in the day like that, but I don’t know much vulpine lore. It may have been out for its afternoon constitutional, just like me.

It saw me as I saw it. We were both headed southbound so it turned its head to me. For about two full seconds I had a wonderful full side view. I saw its red coat and its dark bushy tail.
I knew better than to move. Sudden movements scare forest critters away. That’s the last thing I wished to do.
It gave me a casual, if guarded, look and went on its way.

I was grateful for our moment together. It reminded me that I live on the edge of a town cut out of bush. Around me I have trees and muskeg, even some fields. A river borders the west.

I’m thankful for the convenience of town and the closeness of the wild. Some mornings, when I am out early enough, I hear the coyotes singing to the moon.

I grew up with this sound. Howls can be eerie and they made me shiver. It scared me then, but I miss it now. I’m glad I get to hear it now and again, and I’m grateful the wild dogs are still with me.