Thursday, July 31, 2008

dancing on lughnasa

the feast of first fruits is sometimes called the forgotten festival, because of all the high holy days of the pagan year, few outside the neo-pagan community are aware it ever existed. and unlike samhain, with halloween, imbolc with ground's hog day, and beltane with may day, lughnasa has no fanciful counterpart in modern times.

last night laura and i did one of our group mediumship nights, the first we've done in a couple months. it felt good to work together, even though the energy felt rough, less channeled, less synchronized. the last few days have seemed especially chaotic - the electricians interrupted my morning meditation yesterday and today, and especially, i feel out of sync, strangely unbalanced.

but perhaps it is keeping with the season.

lughnasa is not a comfortable holy-day.

as much rejoicing as there is in the celebration of the first fruits of the harvest, it is also associated with death, and the coming winter. if imbolc is the bright light that shines in the winter, then lughnasa is the dark spot that blots the summer.

the motto of my mother's catholic boarding school was spes messis in semine... the hope of the harvest is in the seed. lughnasa is when we see if the hopes and dreams and desires sown previously are coming to any kind of fruition, the time to adjust expectations, face realities, prepare for what's to come.

as i bounced baby jake on my knee this afternoon, i reflected in this august of my fiftieth year, i have reached a kind of personal lughnasa. i have been aware of a particular richness this summer, a particular fullness. i feel settled and ripe in my bones, in my flesh, in the life i have created, in the work i think i do. and so, on this particularly golden afternoon, as the sun sinks and the heat rises from the wetly green land, i light a lughnasa candle, prepare my offering and dance.

i wish all my gentle readers a similiarly satisfying lughnasa. blessed be.

guilt and other mind-sets

i read a post by another blogger about motherhood and guilt that got me thinking. i believe her when she says she's noticed that most mothers she knows are riddled by guilt when they take time to do things for themselves. her post reminded me of a time when i was married to mister ex.

it was early on a saturday morning, and jamie and his baby sister were watching television in the playroom next to my bedroom. i was still half-asleep when i heard jamie say to meg, let's go get breakfast.

they thumped down the steps and into the kitchen, where the sounds of chairs being dragged across the floor from cabinet to sink to fridge punctuated the early morning stillness.

don't you feel guilty, asked mister ex. lying here in bed when that poor little boy is getting his breakfast for his sister?

well, i remember i said, with perfect equanimity. i suppose i could feel guilty. on the other hand, i could also lie here, enjoy my rest, and when i get up, congratulate jamie on being capable of not only feeding himself but also feeding his sister. that is an enormous lifeskill he has already acquired at five years old, and who am i to take the opportunity to learn it away from him? shall i squash his burgeoning sense of responsibility and independence by rushing to help him when he doesn't need help? or shall i encourage it by hanging back and allowing him to handle things all by himself?

which not only shut mister ex up, but also put to rest any guilt-demon that might've been lurking on the edges of my psyche. you can't take care of anyone, honey, until you take care of yourself, my wise daddy advised me in the dark days of my divorce, and that advice shaped the tenor of my decisions of over the following years. if i had put my children's needs ahead of mine, i would not have been capable of pushing that rock of sisyphus who was my ex up the mountain of our divorce.

and furthermore, the war must end. blessed be.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

what i made today

... though what i nearly finished today would be more accurate!

teaching tarot

the women in the class last night were a fun circle of four friends, all of whom i had met at least briefly before. all of them had more than a passing acquaintance with the tarot - all of them had, to some degree, worked with the cards for many years, some even longer than i have. as they went around the table and described their experiences, i very quickly realized i had a problem.

these women weren't beginners at all.

what, i asked the Angels, could i possibly begin to teach these ladies? my heart had sunk to the level of my knees when i heard the answer - how to put it together

which, of course, is far easier said than done. in all the myriad books i've read on the tarot, its meanings and its uses, the trick of exactly how to derive meaning from the images is frequently only touched on. it's hard to get a grip on something as distinctive and elusive as individual intuition.

but Fools rush in, where wiser ones fear to tread, and so i opened my mouth and let whatever was going to come out, come out. which is exactly, when it comes right down to it, what i do when i "read" tarot cards.

and furthermore, the war must end. blessed be.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

the balancer

last night, before i went to bed, i drew four cards, just to see what dreams may come. the first card i drew, from the celtic wisdom deck by caitlin matthews, was the eleventh card of the major arcana - the balancer, or as she is known more traditionally, as justice.

last night, i simply sat with the card. this morning, after writing out the introduction to tarot notes for this evening's class, i looked up the meaning in the book and saw that, appropriately for me, the ogham tree ms matthews associates with this card is holly. so i decided to read a little further.

according to ms matthews - "the balancer of harmony opens the ways (including the dream-ways) but also guards them. a life lived in full integrity is one that submits all its motivations and actions to truth first, rather than seeking to find out how truth may be bent to serve us."

she leaves me with a question - and which i will leave for you, gentle reader.

what keeps you in balance with the universe?

and furthermore, the war must end. blessed be.

Monday, July 28, 2008

...and where it led

i started off the day by meditating to the sound of crystal bowls for fifteen minutes. from scrubbing the shower on my hands and knees, i not only managed to make the bathroom fit for human habitation once again, but got all my unpacking done and put away. according to the laundry schedule meg created out of desperation one winter, today was towels and rugs day - so i washed not only all the towels (three loads, sorted by color) but managed to do all the bathrugs and the shower curtain as well.

from the bath and bedroom, i proceeded to the kitchen, where the bulk of the work had been done by Beloved while i was gone. he even cleaned out the fridge. all i had to really pay attention to was the floor, where the contractors and the dogs have left their dusty, hairy marks.

and then it was on to the big mess. before i turned to it, i meditated again for another fifteen minutes, answered email, played a bit on cafemom, ate some yogurt, some peanuts and cranberries and a banana. i decided to spend today mostly sorting, and packing. i also swept and vacuumed. the few articles of furniture i dusted, i draped in old tablecloths. i was happy i could move a few things into new places.

i have a tarot class to prepare for tomorrow evening, and i was disappointed by a new brand of glue in my dollhouse. the kitchen floor will have to be peeled up and redone, but except for the trim, most of the rooms are done. i'll post some pics tomorrow.

now it's ham and sweet potatoes and watercress salad for dinner.

and furthermore, the war must end. blessed be.

dog days

the general lack of focus in my writing is reflected, alas, in my world, where the mess and the chaos generated by the renovations has reached a critical mass. i am even contemplating calling in my mother.

it has occured to me that an element of deliberation is called for. the inertia caused by the mess itself, as well as my own proclivity to procrastinate, combined with summer's langourous lures, portends a disaster by fall. the task before me appears so big that even the idea of making a list stops me cold in my tracks.

today i will begin by scrubbing out the bath, and see where that leads me.

and furthermore, the war must end. blessed be.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

sunday morning coming down

the thunderstorm that woke me at four am with an immense display of apocalyptic light and sound effects has passed, leaving poor buddy lying like a limp dishrag at my feet. for a dog whose bark sounds like it should translate into "i want to rip your throat out," he's terrified of any kind of loud noise. Beloved thinks this shows how stupid he is. i think it shows how smart.

i spent yesterday in a kind of weird half-way place in my head. it was my turn to read cards at passiflora but no one came for a reading until after i'd had a cup of chilled cucumber soup, an almond-banana smoothie and two cups of lavendar tea. i brought home carrot-ginger soup for supper, and that, with the strawberries i had for breakfast with my yogourt, meant i had a full rainbow yesterday. i was very happy that except for this bit of fog, i was relatively unaffected by jet lag this trip. it's always comforting to have such real-world confirmation that this Eating the Angel Way diet is actually good for me.

today i'd like to attend a crystal class with my friend ruth in torrington, but while i have both libby AND meg around the house, it would be nice to try and get some work done on what looks like to be a very rainy sunday.

or, maybe not.

and furthermore, the war must end. blessed be.

Friday, July 25, 2008

there and back again

as usual, it was wonderful to see my daddy.

it was also wonderful to come home... to my Beloved, my puppies, hot coffee, fresh cream, roses on my desk, and an immense new kitchen-space!!!!

and furthermore, the war must end. blessed be.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

happy birthday, meggie moo

my middle daughter, meg, turns 21 today. born on the cusp of cancer and leo, if her inner nature is a struggle between the influences of fire and water, there was never any doubt in meg's mind who she belonged to. blessed with my father's eyes, and my irish grandmother's name, meg is the child i recognized almost at once as being the most like me.

from the very beginning, meg was, as i came to call it, a one-parent child. she never liked my ex - even as a tiny baby, she preferred my oldest daughter and her big brother over her father. and he, of course, responded badly, so badly that by the time she was ten, meg's attitude toward her father had grown from tolerance into active dislike. from the time she was 13, meg refused to have anything to do with him.

her middle name, for those gentle readers who might be wondering, isn't really moo. jamie was not quite two and a half years old when his baby sister was born. when meg was three days old, we ran out of milk and i, with no other recourse, bundled up all three kids and brought them to the grocery store. meg was so tiny she fit lengthwise in the seat of the cart.

a lady stopped to admire the baby, and noticed my son clinging to the cart. what's your sister's name, she asked.

meggie moo, jamie said, beaming from ear to ear. he was little and blond and positively beatific... a tarnished little cherub brought to life.

meggie sue? asked the lady with a puzzled look.

no, jamie bellowed. he might've been only two, but despite his age and angelic appearance, he had a bellow like a bull. meggie MOO - you know.. like the cow says MOO?

and meggie moo she has remained.

happy birthday, meggie moo, from the mommy who loves you more than enough for two.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

the dark knight

yesterday, libby and i went to see the dark knight with heath ledger. i say with heath ledger because his performance as the joker is the only reason i could be coaxed back into a theatre and made to shiver through three long tortoruous hours of too much air-conditioning, and overly convoluted plot.

don't get me wrong - i appreciate a convoluted plot as much as anyone - more, even maybe, because after all, my books are full of them. but a convoluted plot on a page is easier to follow than one in a movie - in a book you can always turn back, read over, make notes. you can't do that with a movie, unless you're esconced on your sofa in control of the remote.

the dark knight of the film, i think, isn't so much batman, although thats what the film wants you to think. in my opinion, the joker is the dark knight, because he, in his purple suit and dark patterns, and garish, horrific rictus, is the agent of chaos and violent change, the person who shakes the tree just to see how much fruit will fall, who throws the lighted match into the keg of dynamite just to hear how loud the explosion will be. he is anywhere and everywhere, everything, and nothing at all. he is beyond personality - he is a force of nature.

that we cast him as the villian, carve his smile into his very flesh, and then recoil in horror says more about us than any other film i have seen in recent years.

and furthermore, the war must end. blessed be.

ps. i love you and miss you back, donnykellehergoodman.

Monday, July 21, 2008

in the land of always-summer

according to my father, when adam and eve got kicked out of paradise, california is the land they had to leave.

why are the hills so brown, i asked my brother, on our way from san francisco to my father's.

it hasn't rained, he said. it hasn't rained since april.

not since april? i blinked. i understand there are places where it seldom rains. i don't visualize those places as looking like this part of california, where the hills are brown and the houses are surrounded by vegetation lush as any eden.

then how come all these flowers and bushes look so green, i asked.

well, he said, looking a little like the guy who gives away the magician's secrets, there's a lot of irrigation.

see how golden the hills are, my father asked enthusiastically.

john says it hasn't rained since april, i said.

oh that's right, my father replied. it's always sunny - we never have to worry about a party getting rained out. we never worry about the weather.

that's pretty amazing, i agreed. coming from new england, where the only thing constant about the weather is its variablity, weather you don't have to worry about sounds absolutely paradisial. unless, of course, you consider mudslides, wildfires and earthquakes weather.

and furthermore, the war must end. blessed be.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

california, here i come

...less than 12 hours from now, i will be on an airplane winging my way to west.

i really hate to fly.

flying - especially across time zones - is hard on my body - so hard that i, who generally eschews any kind of processed pharmasceutical supplement, travels with a veritable pharmacoepia of prescribed drugs and over-the-counter herbal remedies. i'm even confident i have more drugs in my suitcase than choice of tops.

but california is where my daddy is, and my father is too sick to travel any more. and so, off i go.

and furthermore, the war must end. blessed be.

Friday, July 18, 2008

crisis of creation

a few nights ago, i attended another meeting of the fledgling writers' circle. the topic was fear. our voices rose in turn, one after the other, as the deepening dusk darkened the perimeter of the room like a greek chorus shrouded black.

i'm afraid you won't like my writing, and therefore, won't like me. i'm afraid that what i have to say won't be good enough, interesting enough, funny or brilliant enough. i'm afraid i will never measure up to the expectations of my family, my peers and most of all myself. i'm afraid that i will discover i am not shakespeare. i'm afraid i will never have enough time/treasure/freedom to create. i'm afraid i'm just not that good. i'm afraid i'm wasting my time. i'm afraid that what i write will never see the light of day/find an audience/touch a reader. i'm afraid, i'm afraid, i'm afraid.

me, too, i kept thinking, though i am not sure anyone there believed me. and yet, now, with a manuscript under review since january, and so many projects competing for my attention, i feel almost unmoored, unanchored, and alone. without a set of characters in my head to keep me company, as well as all the demands on my attention in Real Space, i feel adrift, somehow, as if the chaos i so joyfully embraced has betrayed me, leaving me rudderless amidst a suddenly silent sea.

what next, i think. what now?

when i go to that place where my writing begins, i see a dark pool of water ringed with rocks that bears a superficial resemblance to the Hag's Sea in my silver series. but unlike that green and ever-roiling water, the surface of this pool is completely still, the water very black. if i want the story - any story - i will have to dive in. i hesitate, afraid that everything, and nothing, might be there.

and furthermore, the war must end. blessed be.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

a world without internet a world where stuff gets done.

hanging by a cable

last monday morning as i was blissfully answering email, my connection to the internet suddenly blinked out at the same time the television libby was watching in the next room went black. above libby's screams, meg wandered into the mix carrying baby jake.

you better go outside, mom, she said. some guy with a big truck just ran into a wire.

with dark foreboding in my heart, i went out to investigate. it turned out that the garbage truck which had come to remove the full dumpster and leave an empty one, backed into the main cable wire - the one that connects us to the world - as it was coming down the driveway.

with no internet and no television, i felt as if i'd been sucked back into the nineteen-forties. (there's even a war i can listen about, too, on the radio.) with a shaking hand, i dialed comcast the cable company. (i see i date myself unwittingly. a close reader would surmise i am old enough to remember a time when phones had dials, not buttons. so technically i punched in the buttons.) i explained the situation, the person on the other end listened sympathetically and pronounced the first date available for a cable repairman to come.

august fourth.

AUGUST FOURTH? i repeated.

august fourth.

that's three weeks, i said. i can't be without internet for three weeks. that's insane, that's absurd. don't you have anything at all sooner?

august fourth, she said.

and so i did what any good forties housewife would have done, although maybe not in the throes of whatever it is junkies call it when confronted by the possibility of abrupt, long-term withdrawal. i called Beloved.

what's wrong, annie, he asked the moment he heard my voice. (i think he was afraid someone had died.) don't worry, darling, he said, when i finished my sorry tale, sounding as manful as ever errol flynn did when speaking to olivia de haviland (or maybe desi talking to lucy.) i'll get right on it.

i'm not quite sure what Magic Beloved worked, but within forty-eight hours, a very nice man showed up in a comcast truck, climbed up the side of the house and fixed the problem.

and furthermore, (if only) the war must (could) end (so easily.) blessed be.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

sunday morning, 7 AM

seven am and the world is still asleep - at least here in my world it is. sam and buddy are snoring off their breakfast, meg and libby and Beloved are dancing in dreamland. i fed and walked the puppies, made coffee and put a first coat of paint on the kitchen (hamilton green, for anyone who's curious)and touched up the walls of the master bedroom with yarmouth blue.

it's cool and gray this morning - after i finish this, the garden is calling me. or maybe its the weeds taunting me. there are no sweeter hours in the day than ones like these, i think.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Big Sister is watching

my little sister called me in tears this week, asking for advice on how to deal with our mother - otherwise known to me and my siblings as Mater Maxima, especially in my sister's universe.

without going into all the gory details, it involves my youngest brother - the one with Down's - long-ago promises, money, wills, and a new house - all of which are potentially inflammatory subjects taken one by one. combine them all, add Mater Maxima to the mix, and you have the potential to create enough poisonous fall out to engender a nuclear winter for at least a generation or two.

but those are only the surface issues, the peripheral issues, believe it or not. in talking to her about the situation, i very quickly determined that the trouble was not really about how to deal with The Supreme Mother, but rather, how to deal with my sister's husband.

the real issue is that my sister is married to a man who bullies her. always the peacemaker and the diplomat, my sister doesn't seem to be aware that while we can recognize her husband's many fine qualities, we can also sense a power inequity in the relationship, and we don't particularly like it. and while i personally feel that the marriage need not end completely, i believe that the issue which is creating the inequity must be addressed.

you know im hard to get along with, too, my sister told Mater Maxima.

i never found sheila hard to get along with, i said to my mother. (of course i always had the drawer to threaten her with.) no, said my mother, neither did i. (of course my favorite nickname for her is She Who Must Be Obeyed)

nan overreacted, my sister told The Supreme Mother.

no, i didn't, i said to my mother. when she says she's hard to get along with, she sounds like someone with a black eye claiming they walked into a door.

no, you didn't, my mother said to me. we agree with you. but we don't know what to do about it.

there isn't much, i said. but we can present another view of reality than the one she thinks she has to believe. we can Name what we See. especially if she asks.

and furthermore, the war must end. blessed be.

Friday, July 11, 2008

herbal and other remedies

this morning, in addition to the post i made on when weeds whisper, i received a letter from a friend of mine on the virtues of tumeric. since it's not the first time i've heard similiar, i've learned enough to realize that this may be a gentle nudge in the direction of a Suggestion from the Powers-That-Be, since this week i've been troubled by an elbow that seems slow to mend.

this morning, the bach flower essence i chose for myself was centaury, the remedy that addresses the needs of those who find it hard to take care of themselves. the book that sits on my desk is titled "healing the space within by beautifying the space around you."

the other health issue i've been dealing with this past week is a vaginal yeast infection, and for those of you gentle readers for whom this is simply TMI, my abject apologies and an advisory to stop reading now.

rather than rushing to swallow a magic bullet, ive been sitting with this imbalance in my inner flora, treating myself rather gently with yogurt and vinegar, and in general following the advice of susun weed in these matters. it seems more better than not, but it isn't a slow, steady improvement. it ebbs and flows, peaks and dissipates, allowing me time to sit and ponder this irritation in my mother-space... a manifestation of some imbalance in my most inner-space.

and furthermore, the war must end. blessed be.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

making progress

the workmen were here on the dot of seven-thirty, and construction commences once more. it seems that the project, like so much of everything else in life, is composed not of steady progress, but of sudden fits and starts. i have settled on the color of paint for the living room and am now picking one for the kitchen/eating area. strangely, the shade i like best so far is the same shade of robin's egg blue i have in my writing room.

the dollhouse is stripped and sanded and just about halfway primed. libby and i need to make a trip to the paint store for more brushes and color samples. today my plan is to focus on the things around the house - both big and small - that need tending.

and furthermore, the war must end. blessed be.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

hancock and obama

i dont think it's any coincidence that the best superhero movie i've seen so far with will smith in the starring role comes at the same time that a black man has been nominated for president. the crowds calling for hancock to save them ring with the same fervor as obama's supporters at a rally.

fiction - any kind of fiction, whether it is presented in a short story, a play, a novel or a movie - always tells us something of the truth about ourselves and the world we create for ourselves. like the tarot, it holds up a mirror and dares us to really See. i think this happens because in printed fiction, the words are used to create images in the mind, and in movies and plays of course, the story unfolds in images directly.

what is amazing about this movie is that its hero's angst is genuine. this is no namby pamby peter parker plagued by self-doubt. hancock knows exactly what he can do and does it with a devil-may-care panache that leaves billions of dollars of damage in his wake. wow, i thought, the real people getting creamed in this movie are the property/casualty companies... which may be yet another reason i found the movie so supremely enjoyable. go hancock.

and unlike all the other superheros, who predictably rise from ashes both literal and metaphorical to accept their superhero roles, hancock has no memory of a past other than waking up in a hospital with nothing but a couple of ticket stubs to a movie which was playing at the time - frankenstein.

hancock, with his deep sense of isolation, identifies on some level with frankenstein's monster, and therefore, behaves monstrously, until a chance encounter with someone named of all things (in my universe at least) ray (ick) - but as in sun ray, i think - leads him to the light. but the juxtaposition of the monster, which was more human than its human creator, and composed of many parts, and hancock underscores, at least for me, this connection to obama - a man who is frequently presented in the news, at least, as someone both familiar and foreign all at once, a man made up of many parts.

in the end, hancock embraces his destiny and the world becomes a better place. i suppose we can only hope for a similiar outcome in the fall.

and furthermore, the war must end. blessed be.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

sheila's doll house

when i was in college, i saved up all my spare change one year and bought my little sister sheila a dollhouse out of the sears catalogue for christmas. it arrived in thousands of pieces and a big flat box, and my stepfather spent hours in the basement putting it together.

sometime shortly after i moved to connecticut, the dollhouse arrived at my house, battered, somewhat disheveled looking, but more or less intact - sort of like me. i spent the first summer in connecticut without my children fixing it up as best i could for meg and libby. it came along when we all moved to pond house, and that first christmas, don bought libby a houseful of doll furniture on ebay.

for the last five years or so, the dollhouse has stood on the now non-existent deck, sporadically played with by visiting children. every once in a while, i used to rearrange the furniture but it really wasn't very comfortable out there, and not condusive to sitting for more than a few minutes at a time.

according to the clutter-busting books i've been reading, the dollhouse typifies the sort of baggage one should toss... an ancient relic that represents not much more than a part of my long-ago past, the sort of detritus that detracts from valuable space and only adds another place for the dust-bunnies to hide.

but i like to play with dollhouses. one of my favorite pastimes as a child was to build them out of boxes and books, because in the name of some perversity too twisted for me to understand even now, i had tons of furniture - but no dollhouse to put it all in. in retrospect, it forced me to be constantly creative, to think in big pictures, to consider aspects of three-dimensional reality i might otherwise have ignored all together.

but, oh, how i always wanted a dollhouse.

i thought this summer that libby and i might fix it up. last night, we went to the craft store, and bought among other things, paper and felt and a little saw.

and furthermore, the war must end. blessed be.

Monday, July 7, 2008

the pettibone ghost

on thursday, my friend laura and i took libby to see the pettibone ghost exhibit at the phelps tavern museum in simsbury. our tour guide was a charming new england lady who managed to evoke something of the manner of her forebears in a most authentic way. one had the sense that the stories she told of the people who had lived and worked and married and birthed and died on these lands were the same stories that got told around the dinner table when her family gathered on the holidays.

on the other hand, she was quite clear that while the inn itself may indeed be haunted - she demurred to pass judgement, she said with a prim quirk as much a relic as any ever found in an attic - there was no historically documented record of an abigail pettibone...which is supposed to be the name of one of the ghosts who haunts the pettibone inn, which is seven to ten miles down the road.

abigail just doesn't appear in any of our records, said the lady, and then showed us a sampling of the fanactically detailed documents which the town fathers have been keeping since the seventeenth century. one had the sense that if someone didn't appear in the records of the simsbury town fathers, one could safely assume someone didn't exist.

we had moved into the second room of the tavern when we heard a curious knocking from the first room. it sounded as if someone - or even several someones - had either opened the door and come in, or was jiggling the door. our guide left us to check it out.

they're here, i mouthed to laura, as libby rolled her eyes, even though she knew exactly what i was talking about.

when our guide returned, she said there was no one there and she had no idea what made the noise. on the upper level, i couldn't resist touching a stone of the original chimney as it rose up through the house. the stone was warm to my touch, even though a fire had not burned in that hearth in decades.

one of the most interesting parts of the exhibit, i thought, were the three shoes the workmen had found during the restoration that had turned the building from a private home to more of its original state. dark with age, and creased with dust, the shoes had belonged to a man, a woman and a child. the imprints of their feet were plain - it was clear there were two right shoes, and one left.

it's an old new england custom, explained the lady. its not mentioned much in the records, but we frequently find shoes buried around the chimney - a shoe from each of the original occupants. it's supposed to bring good luck. i wondered if the ones who'd left their shoes there thought it did, but that's the sort of question libby rolls her eyes at, so i didn't bother to ask it.

as we were leaving i happened to glance across the street to the cemetery, with its long rows of stones and monuments, stretching all the way back to the seventeenth century. look, laura, i cried - there they all are. and to libby's utter mortification, laura and i waved and yelled hello.

picking paint

Beloved spent the weekend flinging decades worth of detritus into the dumpster. i spent the weekend ruminating over paint. i narrowed my selection to four shades. the top one looks too yellow, the second one too gray, the third one too dark.

i liked the last one from the first time i saw it in the store. here's a few more photos. what do you think?

and furthermore, the war must end. blessed be.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

sources of inspiration

these are the pillows i happened to see the other evening, as i was contemplating what to do about the color scheme. Beloved doesn't seem to understand that i need a sense of where it's all going before i feel i have a framework within which to make the thousand and one decisions we are going to have to make.

for me, it's not simply a question of choosing what we like - it's a question of choosing what we like relative to everything else that we also like. as i said to Beloved this morning, i'm trying to create a vision that hangs together as a cohesive whole. each part has to work together, and some parts have to play the backdrop so that the important stuff stands out.

you clearly care a lot more about this than i do, said Beloved, before he said the magic words: annie, do what you want.

and furthermore, the war must end. blessed be.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

warm, welcoming and comfortable...

...spiritually-aware, harmonious and ordered.

these are the six adjectives i settled on to describe the feeling i wish my house to evoke. i also found a color scheme last night... quite by accident... as i was gazing moodily into the distance, thinking about nothing in particular.

three of the scattered pillows on the sofa in my writing room coalesced into a palette both soothing and warm, and appropriately pastel. (Beloved and i had a bit of a spat over what constitutes the definition of "dark" wood yesterday.)

the colors are cream, taupe and robin's egg blue. now it's off to the paint store for samples to put on the walls... and maybe even the floor :).

if i can find the camera in all the mess, i will post some photos of what i find.

and furthermore, the war must end. blessed be.

Friday, July 4, 2008

do you believe in magic?

well, sometimes.

i've been pondering the questions one gentle reader posed a few days ago, which is essentially this, at least as i understand someone who not only believes in Magic, but has been known to use it on occasion, how do i respond to books that include the use of magic and people who use it?

for me as a reader, i am willing to believe anything the writer can make me believe. in other words, i don't read stories in which magic is used to learn how to use Magic. i read stories for the Story. magic, when it appears in a story, in its simplest terms, is really about the manipulation of either power or energy and sometimes both. however it works, it has to make logical sense within its own universe. as long as it does that, i dont care how far off the mark the writer is from the way i experience and manipulate Magic.

on the other hand, to read a story in which the characters experience magic in a similiar way as i do, is a delight. there is a new author, sarah addison allen, whose debut novel Garden Spells, is an absolutely charming story that reminded me of practical magic - only better.

as far as the more stereotypical presentations of charmed and such, i don't pay much attention. the good thing about them is that they introduce the ideas of magic and spells and witchcraft in a way that is a bit different from previous ideas about witches - at least the girls on charmed are young and cute rather than old and warty. anything that asks the public to think about anything in a new way can only be a good thing in the long run.

i think the way to create believable characters who use believable magic is to focus on them as characters first, who have needs and desires and flaws. magic in a story is not exactly the same as Magic in the Real World, just as characters in a story aren't really people, no matter how closely from Real Life they may have been drawn. your job is not to make the reader believe in your magic, but to make the reader believe in your Story.

i find that's when i need all the Magic i can muster. :)

and furthermore, the war must end. blessed be.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

dancing with the dark side

a month or two ago, I received an email from a writing friend about a new writing circle she was starting a few towns over. i liked the idea of a circle, and i like her, so i thought i would show up the first night and find out what she had in mind.

one thing i like about my friend karen is that she is amazingly thorough. despite being nearly nine months pregnant and the mother of a two year old, she had clearly put a great deal of work into the circle even before its inception. i am never sure about groups, but i appreciate hard work.

our first writing prompt is supposed to be about our fears. i appreciate a challenge, too. here's what i wrote instead of my blog the first morning my internet was down.

“Having trouble?” Her voice is like the purr of a Cadillac’s engine. I hear it deep inside somewhere… but where, exactly, eludes me, just the way so many words, so many sentences and images and metaphors have eluded me this morning.

I hear the echo of a distant laugh.

She knows I’m after her.

She is Published Writer. She is hard and sleek and prefers to wear high leather boots – shiny black, of course – and a lace-up leather corset. Her favorite toys are whips and knives, and she is quite merciless.

She steps out of the shadows and I see the glint of her long white teeth, her blood-red lips, her long red nails. “Feeling brave, are we?” She chuckles. Over the corset she’s wearing a black and white hounds-tooth checked suit. No boots today; her stockinged legs end in pointy black pumps. Her hair is the color mine used to be.

“Maybe,” I say. I’m wearing jeans and my sweatshirt with the ratty sleeves, the one that’s soft and blue as my baby blanket. My feet are bare.

“So what do you want?” She lights a cigarette, blows the smoke in my face. I want to blow it back, but I don’t smoke.

“I want to ask you – no, I want to tell you – to leave my first drafts alone.”

She sneers, rolls her eyes, takes a long drag. “Are you kidding? The way you write, you might as well wander around all day with a paper bag over your head. Who are you trying to fool? You need me –“

“You’re right, I do need you. I need you to make phone calls and read reviews and talk to Jenn, and if we’re ever going to have an editor again, I need you to deal with her. Or him. I need you to – to make the revisions, to sense what sells. But I don’t need you ravaging my first drafts.”

She puts her face close to mine, and I can smell the blood on her breath. It’s my blood, every drop, and deep inside my chest, my arms, my throat, I feel the scars begin to ache, the places that she’s mined and fed. Not for the first time, I hate her. She licks her lips and says, “You think you got all the time in the world, sister? You’re not getting any younger, you know. At the rate you write…”

“You know, that’s the trouble, right there. You’re mean. I don’t like you. You don’t just ravage the drafts, you shred them. You’re hard and you take away all of my joy.” I look over to the wall, where a slim white wraith of a woman is chained. “You took my Muse. I want her back.”

“You gave her to me.”

“You didn’t used to be so mean.”

She laughs, snaps her fingers. “It’s a mean business, sweetheart. And you need me to survive in it.”

“Maybe I don’t think you’re worth it.”

“You blaspheme!” Her face contorts, her lips thin as they pull back from the razor edges of her fangs. Her body swells, lengthens. She is an enormous Cobra, dancing above my head.

“You’re very scary,” I say as calmly as I can, because – besides blood - she feeds on fear. “This is why I can’t have you around the first drafts. You just proved my point.”

Again she shrieks, and the huge head lunges forward, fangs dripping venom. But the snake body collapses as she shrinks, morphing back into a woman, a tiny woman, who runs shrieking into the void: “We’ll meet again, my pretty!”

so many blogs... little time.

yesterday, as i was bringing sam and buddy home from their annual vet checkups, i happened to hear the local talk-radio guy bemoaning the fact that now, in addition to daily papers and internet news, he's also a blog-junkie and spends hours a day reading and commenting and emailing individuals who write enormously interesting blogs.

wow, i thought. i know just how he feels.

my two days, one hour, five minutes and twenty nine seconds without the internet showed me what it must be like for a heroin addict to go cold turkey. i didn't break out in physically cold sweats, but i was close. deprived of my daily infusions of pixels from cyberspace, i felt disconnected to the point of feeling marooned on an island of Real Life.

on top of that, Real Life has been demanding more and more of me. with libby home from school, my days are not so free, even if my house - at least where its not torn apart - is getting really clean. the construction - or should i say destruction - commenced at a blitzkrieg rate: where once stood a deck, there is now nothing but air.

i have a decorating lady coming over at ten oclock to take a look at the whole mess. i hope i dont throw myself at her feet and sob. i have some tidying up to do - haha - before she gets here, but this afternoon, libby and i are going off to see an exhibit called "the pettibone ghost" in simsbury. it's about the ghost who haunts an old tavern about half way between our house and my grandmother's place. i pass it every time i go there.

the place has an interesting vibe - everytime we've tried to go there, something's stopped us - and every time i think of eating there i feel faintly sick. and yet, they say they have good food.

one of the comments i came back to asked a really interesting question that i continue to ponder even while life continues to suggest other topics. and so, ms robertson (i hope i can call you linda, please call me annie) congratulations on your first publication (do leave details next time you visit). i am pondering the answer to your question:

when you read books with magic in them, even knowing you are reading fiction, especially if they are set modern, do you ever find yourself judging it as too fantastic or too real or do you suspend disbelief and dig in?

but in the meantime, gentle readers, what do you all think?

and furthermore, the war must end. blessed be.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

happy birthday, miss elissa

my relationship with my stepdaughter elissa is one of the two more difficult relationships i have with my children. (the other's with my son, jamie, whose behavior reminds me of his father more frequently than i care to remember him.)

in elissa's case, the lion's share of the fault - if there is one - lies in my opinion on her mother, who encouraged elissa to despise her father for no reason other than he chose not to remain married to her mother. on the other hand, i arrived with not just one rival, but four for her father's affections. never made to share anything, elissa was understandably puzzled when the demands on her father's heart quintupled. how could there possibly be enough left for her? the child's fear of abandonment coupled with the mother's need for revenge ignited a fire that i fear will continue to smolder long into elissa's adulthood.

or maybe not.

last night, she came over with two friends to celebrate her twenty-second birthday. over cake - an especially pretty cake in just her favorite flavor that caught my eye the other day at shaw's - she casually mentioned to her friends that "anne can talk to dead people."

i was tired. i really didn't want to be a party game. this sort of thing makes Beloved particularly uncomfortable - he always looks for the exits if the conversation takes a serious veer into the psychic. but her friends looked like sweet girls, girls who wanted to look a little tougher than they actually were - just like elissa. and there were so many bright young spirits around the one who looked at me with eyes as wide and liquid as bambi's.

well, whoever would've thought that, said Beloved, when they left two hours later. elissa spent two hours here on her birthday and most of them with YOU.

i guess stranger things have happened somewhere.

and furthermore the war must end. blessed be.

arte y pico

among the three hundred plus emails i managed to wade through yesterday afternoon was one from my dear friend rose of Walk In The Woods of winsted, connecticut. she was kind enough to present me with an AWARD! - the Arte y Pico Award. i am both awed and humbled she would select me for this honor.

as she explains on her blog, WhatRoseMadeToday:

This award, originally started by Esey, was created to be given to bloggers who inspire others with their creative energy and their talents, be it writing or artwork in all medias. And, I must add, to receive an award such as this from a peer and associate makes it an especially special honor. :)

The Arte y Pico Award is meant to be paid forward to bloggers who are deserving of it. rose has presented me with the award and I would now like to recognize the following five blogs:

Stacie's Homeschooling Blog
Eat Man Drink Water
Cabin Fever in Alaska
Cynwrites: a blog for grownups
Diary of a Wicked Stepmom

So, gentle readers, I invite you to visit each of the five blogs I've listed.

If you have been selected for the award, please pay it forward, following the steps below:

1) Choose 5 blogs that you consider deserving of this award based on creativity, design, interesting material, and overall contribution to the blogger community, regardless of the language.

2) Post the name of the author and a link to his or her blog so everyone can view it.

3) Each award-winner has to show the award and put the name and link to the blog that has given her or him the award.

4) The award-winner and the presenter should post the link of the "Arte y pico" blog , so everyone will know the origin of this award.

5) Please post these rules!

The Arte y Pico blog is in Spanish. I can't seem to make the English link work. To read it in English, go back to rose's blog. i am currently attempting to fix this problem, but nothing i do seems to work. :(

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

a day without the internet.... like a day that didn't happen.

at least, not according to my blog.

a bad storm on sunday afternoon during jamie's graduation party knocked out our modem, and consequently, it was almost exactly 48 hours until our connection was restored. i signed on to find SEVEN comments - THANK YOU to all who took the time to consider the answers (they were most illuminating as was stacie's feedback, cause she's actually been HERE - i should ask questions more often, i see) and over 300 emails. most of them were from freecyclers, but still... 300 emails is a lot to cull through.

so here it is, a brand new month. joe the builder and his crew showed up early. my brother had the good sense to plan to leave today. now half the deck is mostly demolished. the other half is packed up in my living room.

to warm, welcoming, comfortable and spiritually attuned, i am determined to add ordered to the list.

and furthermore, the war must end. blessed be.