Wednesday, December 31, 2008

"...and We are the Imagination of Ourselves."

In the East, they call it the Net of Indra. Heathens call it Wyrd.

Lower Metres of the Year

It's the waiting time. Each day now will be longer than the last. I'll flip through seed books and dream. I'll walk the garden in the frost and plan.

I've been letting Robert Frost speak my heart. Today (for Dad) we'll hear from Emily.

The murmuring of bees has ceased;
But murmuring of some
Posterior, prophetic,
Has simultaneous come, --

The lower metres of the year,
When nature's laugh is done,--
The Revelations of the book
Whose Genesis is June.

-Emily Dickinson

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Of the Stones of the Place

I farm a pasture where the boulders lie
As touching as a basketful of eggs,
And though they're nothing anybody begs,
I wonder if it wouldn't signify

For me to send you one out where you live
In wind-soil to a depth of thirty feet,
And every acre good enough to eat,
As fine as flour put through a baker's sieve.

I'd ship a smooth one you could slap and chafe,
And set up like a statue in your yard,
An eolith palladium to guard
The West and keep the old tradition safe.

Carve nothing on it. You can simply say
In self-defense to quizzical inquiry:
"The portrait of the soul of my Gransir Ira.
It came from where he came from anyway."

-Robert Frost

You poetry readers are all familiar with that sensation that a poem was written just for or about you. This one is mine. I'm the "you" in this poem who works in "wind-soil to a depth of thirty feet, and every acre good enough to eat," and I had a "Gransir Ira" who farmed "a pasture where the boulders lie." As for the shipping of an "eolith palladium to guard The West and keep the old tradition safe," Frost did that for us with this poem.

Monday, December 29, 2008

In Hardwood Groves

The same leaves over and over again!
They fall from giving shade above,
To make one texture of faded brown
And fit the earth like a leather glove.

Before the leaves can mount again
To fill the trees with another shade,
They must go down past things coming up.
They must go down into the dark decayed.

They must be pierced by flowers and put
Beneath the feet of dancing flowers.
However it is in some other world
I know that this is the way in ours.

-Robert Frost

Sunday, December 28, 2008

The Sound of Trees

I wonder about the trees.
Why do we wish to bear
Forever the noise of these
More than another noise
So close to our dwelling place?
We suffer them by the day
Till we lose all measure of pace,
And fixity in our joys
And acquire a listening air.
They are that that talks of going
But never gets away;
And that talks no less for knowing,
As it grows wiser and older,
That now it means to stay.
My feet tug at the floor
And my head sways to my shoulder
Sometimes when I watch trees sway,
From the window or the door.
I shall set forth for somewhere,
I shall make the reckless choice
Some day when they are in voice
And tossing so as to scare
The white clouds over them on.
I shall have less to say,
But I shall be gone.

-Robert Frost

Tree at my Window

Tree at my window, window tree,
My sash is lowered when night comes on;
But let there never be curtain drawn
Between you and me.

Vague dream-head lifted out of the ground,
And thing next most diffuse to cloud,
Not all your light tongues talking aloud
Could be profound.

But, tree, I have seen you taken and tossed,
And if you have seen me when I slept,
You have seen me when I was taken and swept
And all but lost.

That day she put our heads together,
Fate had her imagination about her,
Your head so much concerned with outer,
Mine with inner, weather.

-Robert Frost

Friday, December 26, 2008


My two sons, one learning from the other.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Memorial Stones

A son is best, even if he is born late,
when the father is dead;
seldom do memorial stones stand by the wayside,
unless one kinsman raises them for another.

Havamol 72

Saturday, December 20, 2008

This Remembering Business

My dad was president of his senior class, 1947. Below is his "Message to Seniors", published in the "Red and Black," which I assume was a school publication.

Message to Seniors

Grandpa used to tell me about Ernie Hensen. He said that Ernie was the grandest fellow that ever put two feet on this earth. Ernie was a Swede (his folks brought him over when he was just a little tot) with an accent as merry and twinkling as sleigh bells on a winter night. Grandpa said that he and Ernie were always doing something for each other. Ernie would help Gramp into town with a load of chickens or give him some well-water when Grandpa's well went dry in the summer. Or maybe in the fall Grandpa would go over to Ernie's place and help with the butchering or clear a few more trees off the back end of the west pasture. As the years passed, they became great friends. Theirs was not just a passing acquaintance: it was warm, permanent friendship--maybe you could say love.

It was the summer when I was fifteen that Grandpa took me over to Ernie's place and showed me the evergreen (it was a rare species) that he gave as a memorial to Ernie's son who was killed in action in World War II. They had it planted in the front yard, and summer or winter this tree was always fresh and green--a living memorial. Ernie and his family treasured it and took good care of it, too.

Last winter when I heard that Grandpa had died, I thought of that evergreen tree. I thought to myself that here is a tree which is not only a memorial to a war hero but a symbol, a living object which represents a friendship between two old farmers. For this gift between them is like the bond of friendship which tied them together. Like the evergreen, their friendship was something that they both held dear to their hearts, something which was always fresh and growing, which never changed with the season, something that can never fade or fail no matter what may come--even death.

Seniors, we're going out into the world. We're scattering in all directions. We don't have anything like an evergreen to plant that will serve our memory. We have only the memory. Let's plant that in our hearts and never forget the wonderful friends we've had in school and the swell times we've had together. Write to your old friends; send them Christmas cards and wedding announcements, or in any way keep in touch with them. Don't let friends slip off with a casual wave of your hand! This remembering business is one of the finest parts of living.
-President of the Senior Class

"This remembering business in one of the finest parts of living." My dad wrote that almost 62 years ago, yet it's as much a part of his life today as then--probably more so--and he transmitted that respect for memory to me. I don't know how I learned it, except in knowing him. There were a lot of fine things I learned simply by knowing him.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Turkey Stuffing

My mom was a great cook in a rough fashion. She didn’t make fancy food and didn’t know any recipes, but if you wanted a hearty, decent meal, she was the one to call. Her ingredients were simple; hamburger, a roast once in a while, whole fryers (that’s chicken, for those of you too young to remember when chicken wasn’t sold already cut up) and the abundance from our garden. Is there any finer ingredient than a fresh tomato? Seriously.

When my sis and I still lived at home, our mom hosted holiday dinners at our house. One of the most important things we had to do was make the stuffing for the turkey. Because our family traditionally eats the holiday meal at noon, that meant we had to rise very early in the morning to prepare the turkey and its dressing. I have vivid memories of the three of us, my mom, sister and myself, baking, chopping, boiling, toasting and salting.

Now, my mom’s best attempt at a recipe was a telephone call to Granner transcribed to the back of a paper plate with a crayon Mom found at the bottom of a drawer. That’s how she made the dressing every year, on a wing and a prayer. Mom knew, substantially, what went into making dressing and how it should taste, but as for amounts and procedure, that varied from year to year. Her technique was to assemble it all, taste, then adjust, taste and adjust again. The miracle was that it was absolutely delicious, and I’ve never had better in all my life.

Mom’s cooking days are past. Although at 79 years old, she’s still vibrant and active, what little focus she ever had to prepare a large, complicated meal is dwindling and insufficient. That’s not to say she’s “doddering.” At her very best, rather, it was a great effort for her to keep on track. And why should she these days be expected to cook for all of us? Wasn’t that what those early morning hours with her two daughters were all about? Passing on her knowledge to us, disorganized as it might be?!

In fact, in recent years Mom has not done the cooking. I have taken a hand at it, and my sisters, too. Sadly, however, no one has tried to replicate Mom’s dressing. We’ve served Stove Top stuffing instead, but it’s a poor, poor substitute. It’s not that I wouldn’t do it if I could, but I don’t have a recipe!

O, the weather is rotten, and I can’t work on the garden shed clean-up, but I can still get to the store, and I’ve conjured up a new project—replicating my mom’s turkey dressing. Yes, I have to go to the dentist and get a permanent crown put on this morning, but I hope that doesn’t take long and doesn’t incapacitate me quite like having my tooth filed down two weeks ago. If all goes well, I’ll be in the kitchen this afternoon, drawing on my memories, 30 years old, and experimenting with loaves of bread, fresh-baked cornbread, celery and seasonings. Wish me luck.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Our Beloved Chiefs

I admit it. I’m a diehard Kansas City Chiefs fan, emphasis on the diehard. Last week, when our beloved Chiefs were 2-11, I wore a Chiefs logo sweatshirt and rooted for them to the bitter end of a bitter game and a missed field goal in the last 2 seconds, just like I do every week. I wasn’t the only one! Fans at the stadium actually got to their feet in support of the defense on a Chargers critical 3rd down. Of course, that may have something to do with the tailgating, which reaches momumental proportions at Arrowhead, and the copious flow of beer.

Our beloved Chiefs have a special magic that I’m not sure is present anywhere else. This team has the ability to inspire hope in the fans, even, for example, at 2-11, and then at the last second to dash those hopes in the most cruel fashion. It’s not just this year. It’s been happening for years as the team puts together great seasons, only to sadistically disappoint the fans once we reach the playoffs.

This year has consisted of one crushing blow after another. There has been promise, hope, stunning plays, consistency from key players, development among rookies, and then they, somehow, some way, from some magic hat, find a way to lose the game. Need I mention the decision to “go for 2” when we were one point down against the Chargers in our first match this year? It would be easier to be a Detroit Lions fan. At least you wouldn’t get your hopes up every week. Those fans KNOW the Lions are going to lose. Not so with the Chiefs. The potential is always there for a win. Blast them!

It was just announced that tight end Tony Gonzalez has been picked for his 10th straight pro bowl, an honor well-deserved. Tony is Superman and a joy to watch. I hope he doesn’t leave next year, but I wouldn’t blame him if he did. No one would. Yet, there’s always that…hope… that next year… Darn, there I go again!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008


While I slept, it snowed so silently that I was unaware. This morning, pretty surprise.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Not Fit for Man nor Beast

Rest of Today [Monday]
Partly sunny [Hogwash!]. Highs near 15 [not even yet]. North winds 10 to 15 mph [when it's not gusting]. Lowest wind chills around 9 below [I heard 11].

It's currently 10 degrees, and the wind is blowing. It freezes the air in your lungs. I know because I was knucklehead enough to go out in it.

Ducks on the river are giddy.
[My six words for the day :) ]

Blog Review

I’m cleaning up my Blog List, removing those blogs that essentially never post. Below is my rationale for keeping those listed that I do (in no particular order).

Six Word Blog—hail Anne Johnson for the invention. Everyone wants to get in on the act and write six word poetry with her. If you’re not keeping up on Six Word Blog, you’re missing out on the best six words of your day. Do yourself a favor and read.

The Secret Sun—Chris is spiraling down into synchromysticism like there’s no tomorrow. If you have the energy, you can try to keep up with him. Just be sure to attach yourself to a tether line from the mother ship. Although I don't share his opinions, I find Chris' mental gymnastics fascinating in a voyueristic kind of way. Lately, I've only been skimming as I lose interest in the content and may end up removing this blog.

Stranger Fruit—Always worth a peek. The Monday Mustelid is terrific, although I read that it may be coming to an end. A pity.

Wild Chihuahuas—If I was restricted to one blog, this would be the one for me. I can’t say enough good things about Pico’s wit, his choice of subjects, clear mind, his open heart.

The Gods Are Bored—Anne Johnson’s blog is always a joy.

The Wild Hunt—Jason Pitzl-Waters is consistent, posting each day. With a level head, he covers current events concerning Pagans. He has an intelligent and caring readership who contribute with thoughtful comments.

The D’Alliance—keeping us informed on the follies and tragedies of the “Drug War.”

Morehead’s Musings—John Morehead is representative of the anti-stereotype in religion and reminds us not to cubbyhole religious people into fanatic cubicles. All Catholics are not rabid anti-abortionists. Moslems are not terrorists. Mormons are not all polygamists. Fundamental Christians are not all ignorant, and so on. There exists within American faiths an inter-faith movement, which not only embraces established religions, but explores the beliefs of minorities, such as the Pagans. Hail tolerance, the path to peace.

Inspirations and Creative Thoughts—Written by MysticSaint, poet, artist and mystic, this blog is an (almost) daily sermon in love, self-exploration, peace and the divine. Wonderful music.

Earth House Hold—This link is most unfortunately broken on my blog list. I’ve tried deleting and adding it again, but without success, so the post date doesn’t update. It will always say “1 year ago,” but don’t let that fool you. It updates every week or so and well worth a look. Currently, Chet is lamenting America’s gross materialism, and I share his grief. Dear Lord, America, just stop shopping! Is it really that difficult to stay home from Wal-Mart?!

Blog of the Grateful Bear—While Bear sometimes goes long stretches without posting, his posts are rich with his gentle nature, and it gives me a warm feeling to keep in touch with him.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Bring the Wood in Early

Preparing for Sunday football. I must remember to bring wood in early while it's sunny and warm, if I want a fire when the temperature drops about 20 degrees, wind starts howling and light (the most dangerous kind) freezing rain begins in the afternoon.

Wichita, Sunday Forecast, Dec. 13
Mostly sunny in the morning...then mostly cloudy with a 20 percent chance of light freezing rain or snow in the afternoon. Windy. Highs in the mid 50s. Temperature falling into the lower 30s in the afternoon. Southwest winds 20 to 30 mph becoming northwest in the afternoon. Gusts up to 35 mph.

Sunday Night
Mostly cloudy. A 20 percent chance of snow or light freezing rain in the evening. Breezy. Much colder. Lows near 10. [!] North winds 15 to 25 mph with gusts to around 30 mph.

[Dad, please do your outdoor chores early, then snug in for a cozy afternoon and evening of NFL. If you need groceries, go in the morning. Call me if you need someone to drive. Thinking of you always, Dad...always.]

Friday, December 12, 2008

Lots of Pots

Here is my shame and, simultaneously, my treasure hoard. This small building was first dubbed the gardening shed; it has become the "toss everything garden related" bin. I've decided to clean it out. *grooooaaan* During the summer months, I avoid this chore by claiming spiders and snakes. During the winter, I avoid it by claiming cold and bad weather. But the day has least to begin.This is the type of treasure one might find in my gardening shed. I discovered this fantastic object in the dirt yesterday while straightening out the wood piles. I will add it to my collection of perfectly useless and perfectly wonderful.Here's the result of the first stage of cleaning out the gardening shed: plastic plant containers. Sadly, I didn't even make a dent inside the shed by pulling all this out. What now?

Obviously, no one needs this many salvaged plastic pots, but it's hard to toss them out. They're so USEFUL. For example, when I want to send home a plant division or share some iris rhizomes with my mom, I scrounge in the shed until I find the right size pot for it, then off it goes to Mom's house, and I don't have to mourn the loss of a container. Indeed, I couldn't pull out all the plastic pots because they're busy being storage for a host of items; nylon string, fertilizer, wooden stakes, flags, hose connectors and more. Besides the fact that I find the pots useful, there's my reservation about filling the landfill with all that plastic. I hate to throw out plastic. While I stew it over, mentally preparing myself for the big throwaway, I'll bring around all those pots I have stored in the greenhouse, not as many as here, but a substantial lot.
I've finally come up against it, the GRAND ASSESSMENT, and I've got to decide how many plastic pots a woman truly needs to be content.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Stand By Me

Thanks to my uncle in Arizona for finding this incredible work.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Family Pictures

Autobiography of Rev. J. M. Ragan

I was born in Morgantown, Tennessee, December 17, 1832. My father was a Methodist class leader, and my mother was a Cumberland Presbyterian, having been converted under the preaching of Revs. Aston and Lansden, the first Cumberlands that preached in Monroe County. I was baptized at the age of six weeks, and in after years was well instructed in the design of that ordinance. August, 1847, at the age of fifteen, I was converted at a camp-meeting at Old Concord in Knox County. I had been so well taught the doctrines and polity of both churches that by the time I was twelve years old, I made my choice. After my conversion, it was my father’s wish that I join with my mother. I was pleased to have his approval.

When only nineteen years old, I had impressions to preach. Like many others, from Moses down to the present time, I began to make excuses, but the Lord followed me up, and the impressions grew stronger until I felt I would be responsible for lost souls. Now after sixty years in the ministry, I thank God that I did yield, and my good “sword” shall never be sheathed until called to lay it down to receive the victor’s palm. In 1852, my father having moved to Missouri, I was received as a candidate for the ministry by Platte Presbytery. My circumstances were such that I could not attend Presbytery regularly, so was not licensed until September, 1855.

I made my first effort to preach in April, 1853. Then I was often sent by the old preachers to fill appointments and visit vacant congregations. After I was licensed, I took regular work. I was ordained by the Chillicothe Presbytery over my protest in October, 1863. Have never been without regular work until the last three years, and then only through the winter—not able to go out through the cold weather, being eighty-one years old December 1913. But through the summer I preach almost every Sabbath.

The Lord has done great things for me in leading hundreds of souls to the Savior. And when at last I come to lay at His feet my gathered sheaves, I know there will be much chaff, brambles and bitter weeds, and “though the full ripe ears be sadly few, He will accept not what I did, but what I tried to do.”

Of course, when I started out this was all pioneer country, and the people believed in a free gospel—and that was what they got if they got any—I had a great many severe trials and risks of my life to get to my appointments, or my family, in crossing swollen streams, sometimes swimming my horse. But trusting in the “Rock of my salvation,” I did not falter or grow weary of my Master’s service and to Him be all the glory.

When the Union question came up in the Presbytery, the basis was money and popularity. My conscientious convictions led me to oppose it. All the preachers in Chillicothe Presbytery went except myself. Thank the Lord he does not depend on big crowds to accomplish His work.—“The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof, the world, and they that dwell therein.” “A tent or a cottage, oh! Why should I care? They’re building a palace for me over there; Tho exiled from home yet still I may sing, All glory to God I’m a child of a King.”

Source: Our Senior Soldiers: The Biographies and Autobiographies of Eighty Cumberland Presbyterian Preachers. 1915 [To make it more readable, corrections and paragraphs added by moi.]

J.M. Ragan is James M. Ragan, my mom’s great- uncle, if you can imagine that. His brother, Elbert, was also a Presbyterian Minister. One of their sisters married the man who was to be my great-great-grandfather. What fascinates me is the thin, precious thread that connects me to J.M. Ragan, that is, my mother’s fading memory of her grandfather, who everyone knew as “Lum.”

Lum was the nephew, you see, of James M. Ragan. As such, when J.M. Ragan speaks of “many severe trials and risks of my life to get to…my family,” it’s to his wife or mother or sister he travels, maybe even among these, his nephew, Lum, whom my mother knew and remembers. Along this thin filament I travel to J.M. Ragan. Once having reached him, he then serves to lead me to his father and mother and their parents before them. Before you know it, I’m in England or Ireland, Holland or Denmark, even to Zurich of Switzerland, where Adam Glattfelder and Verona Segi had a son, Johannes, in 1571, my very great-grandfather.

Although I now present this relatively coherent, family picture, before I found the above autobiography, I possessed only fragments, which I was laboriously piecing together. 1) I had my mother’s memory (fading). 2) I had census records of a Ragan family, which appeared to have originated in Tennessee and migrated to Missouri. 3) I had the maiden name of Lum’s mother, Ragan. With hope and glue, I had put the fragments together, but without any real proof. Yesterday, I found the autobiography and the obituary of my great-great-grandmother (in which the names of her parents, husband and children were all provided), which painted the picture in whole and supported all my conjectures. It was a triumphant day.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Quail Nuggets

Cooking game is a specialty art within the art of cooking. While I can't claim to have mastered it, I have become cognizant of the problems and gained an appreciation for what can be achieved...with practice.

Years ago I was served the baked dry and shot-filled product of a quail hunt and knew there had to be a better way to prepare these little birds. After much trial, I found it, and it's the only game dish I claim to cook well.

Begin with the torso (minus head and legs) of fresh shot quail, stripped of skin and feathers. (This part is done for me by the hunter, so I have only the bone-in breast when I get the meat.) Starting at the keel, run a knife under the breast muscle and free it from the bone--two sides, two breasts. You'll have a larger piece of meat and a smaller. I cook both.

After producing these boneless breasts, I wash them again individually, checking each one for shot and feathers. There is nothing more disgusting than cooked feathers. It's also unpleasant to bite down on shotgun shot. Stripping the breast meat from the bone is the only way I know to guarantee no unpleasant surprises, and this method was my first breakthrough in making a good meal out of the hunt. Now, as the oil in the pan heats, I lightly dredge the breasts in flour, salt and pepper.

Next comes the finesse part. You have to cook these little "nuggets" just long enough to cook them through thoroughly, but not long enough to let them toughen or dry out. The oil should be hot enough to sizzle when you place the meat in it. Add all the breasts at nearly the same time, turn them once when they're golden-brown, not tan-brown, but golden, bordering on dark. The second side cooks faster, because the oil (and the nugget) heat up. Remove just as soon as the second side is light golden and drain them on paper towels. They're small, so they cool quickly. I invert a plate over them to keep them warm while I assemble the rest of the meal.

Serve with mashed potatoes and gravy made from the pan drippings. (Bless you, Mom, for teaching me to make gravy.)

The same procedure can be used for pheasant, but the last time I did, the meat was slightly tougher than the quail. I think I needed to cut the meat into smaller portions, so it would cook through faster, and I could get it off the heat before it dried out. I'll know better next time...perhaps tonight, since my hunter is in western Kansas right now with both pointers, the old dog and the pup.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Pretty Day

Today, robins in flocks and a Carolina wren searching a basket in the rafters of the garage.

Friday, December 5, 2008

You'll Enjoy this Musical

See more Jack Black videos at Funny or Die

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Ducks in Winter

From my back windows, I look down the bank onto the river. In all seasons, ducks are up and down, mallards mostly, but not exclusively. The last few years we've even had a few Canadas, since the sandbar on the far side grew larger.

Ducks in winter *think* differently than ducks in summer. First, there's no gender between them in the winter. Groups are random, without regard to male and least that's what I've noticed. Secondly, ducks are happy in the winter. The colder it is, the happier they seem. And bring on sleet along with the frigid wind, they're in a joyous tizz-dizz.

Silly ducks.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Burning Wood

I haven't heard the furnace kick on since I started a fire in the woodstove a couple hours ago.

The silence is music to my ears.

Big Winds

Forecast for Wichita, KS, Dec 3:

Winds N at 20 to 30 mph. Winds could occasionally gust over 40 mph.

Wind Advisory remains in effect until 3 PM CST this afternoon. Sustained winds of 30 to 35 mph... with gusts to around 45 mph can be expected through mid-afternoon before gradually diminishing to 10 to 15 mph this evening. A Wind Advisory means that sustained winds of at least 30 mph and/or wind gusts over 45 mph are expected. Winds this strong can make driving difficult... especially for high profile vehicles. Use extra caution.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Preparing for Christmas

Over the weekend, I prepared for the holiday. I dusted and vacuumed the living and dining rooms, and I rearranged the furniture. I also spread a pretty, red plaid, throw blanket across the arm and back of the sofa. I replaced the dark statue on the piano with two, tall, burgundy candles in smoky, glass candlesticks. Decorating done. No dusty boxes of ornaments. No tangled lights. No shopping. Gifts will be the family heritage book I'm preparing, copies for everyone on Christmas Day.

Peace now reigns in my home, and I can honestly say, my friends, that less is better.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Mediterranean 2006

Do I need a reason to share two of my favorite photos?

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Thanksgiving Eve

What did I do on Thanksgiving Eve? Well, I spiffed up the guest room for my nephew and his wife's visit--this is the nephew who's more like my brother. I made salads, one with onion, one without, as I do EVERY year. I made hors d'ouevres which are "to die for," and it was hard to fill the pyrex because we kept eating them. I baked a pie, pumpkin...Pioneer--or is it Pilgrim?--Pie. O! MY! IT IS SO GOOD. But then how can you go wrong with 5 spices, sugar, evaporated milk, 2 eggs and pumpkin? Everything is ready for tomorrow.

A little strange, but I set up virtual graves for my maternal grandparents at Find A Grave, then I left them each virtual flowers. You can't thank people who are dead, but then all that type of thing, thanks, gifts, favors, that's for the edification of the giver anyway. I am thankful for my grandparents who were so enormously important to me as I was growing up.

It was my grandma who picked me up from school when I was sick, because my mom worked at Boeing. In the summer during school vacation, grandma--Granner we all called her, both as a proper and a common noun--was our babysitter. She cooked enormous breakfasts and then left the food on the table for us to eat on until lunch. MY GRANDMA MADE CORNMEAL MUSH THAT WAS SO GOOD IT WOULD MAKE YOU WEEP. Grandma loved the color red--she often wore red shirts--loved flowers and candy. She wore her hair in numerous braids that she coiled on her head. She had thick, curly hair, so the long braids were dense, and she used a lot of hairpins to hold it up. I called her grandma once instead of Granner, which made her laugh because I was so formal. ...I miss her.

My grandpa was a "character." He used to push his dentures forward and clack them to amuse all the grandkids. Boy, o, boy, he did love his grandkids--there were a lot of us, and we were always over there, at granner and grandpa's house. He was a horse trader (and his father before him) and knew EVERYTHING about horses. He always had a few in town on their lot, and he kept more pastured at our house in the country. Except when he was in the hospital, I never saw him without a belt and western-style belt buckle. He wore cowboy shirts, cowboy boots and dress-type pants. When he went out, he always wore a cowboy hat. That's how he grew up, always lived and worked, and he looked odd out-of-doors if he wasn't wearing a hat. It was never a cheap hat either, only fine hats, one of straw, one dressier of gray felt.

Both grandma and grandpa loved to play cards. Grandma bought the kind with big numbers because she couldn't see very well, although I don't remember her ever wearing glasses. Grandpa had trouble holding his hand, because he had lost the ends of a few fingers in various accidents over the years. Grandpa used to be a poker player in his younger days, and he cheated when he played cards. All the grandkids knew it, but he was never called on it.

Best times of my life were standing at the corner of the card table while the grown-ups played---wishing with all my heart I could play, too--watching grandma eat chocolate-covered candies from a box, grandpa smoking cigarettes he rolled himself and fumbling with his cards.

Right until the end--when grandpa's hands were too clumsy and grandma's hands too stiff from arthritis to handle the cards properly--we would still play. Grandkids would take their turns at shuffling and dealing, and one or the other of us would help them pull out a card from their hand or tell them what was on top of the stack when they couldn't see it. If Grandpa's cheating was more and more what?! We knew how much they loved to play, and we loved to play with them.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Bedding Down for Winter

Yet another species of mushroom thriving on this stump in my back yard. It was a fine day we decided to leave it.
To some people, dirt and leaves. To me, two garden beds beautifully prepared for winter. In one, the autumn leaves of maple, oak and sycamore piled high. In the other, the soil is ready for the winter wheat I planted shortly after snapping this pic. The two, tall stems mark a tigerlily, which, by virtue of its beauty and hardiness, has won a permanent position in my otherwise uniform bed.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

#2 vs #5; Close Game Expected, Right?

What in the world happened last night in Norman, OK? I watched the first half, fell asleep during the second, woke up to see OU had something like 65 points, then went to bed. Texas Tech? Explanations?

Blog Toy

Here's a fun toy, brought to our attention by Pete Rahon in Korea, the Typealyzer.

I was a ...


The independent and problem-solving type. They are especially attuned to the demands of the moment are masters of responding to challenges that arise spontaneously. They generally prefer to think things out for themselves and often avoid inter-personal conflicts.

The Mechanics enjoy working together with other independent and highly skilled people and often seek fun and action both in their work and personal life. They enjoy adventure and risk such as in driving race cars or working as policemen and firefighters.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

This Morning in Tucson

Credit: e-mail from my uncle in Arizona

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Prop 8 Issues

CowHen provides an intelligible update to the legal situation in California concerning Prop 8, and The Wild Hunt in the post, "Update: What About Our Faiths?" warns that discrimination against any minority group is a threat to the rights of all minorities.

Prop 8: Legislating Against Love

Everywhere I'm reading of this terrible result in California on Prop 8 and in Arizona on Prop 102. Ever since the election, I've wanted to speak up. In small ways, I've done this, and I'll continue to support those I know who are intimately affected. I've also wanted to place something here on my blog in a "consciousness raising" effort, as Pico puts it. Much has been said, and the effects experienced by those who are mourning, thus we begin to understand the negative impact as well as the level of injustice perpetrated against people who are our friends and our family members.

Below are links to Pico's excellent essays on the subject, followed by a blog post written by a friend who lives in California, once legally married to her true love, now wondering what it all means.

Pico's Blog, Wild Chihuahuas

Individual Essays on the Topic:
That Straight Blind Spot
The Marriage War: Strategy Considerations
Gay Marriage, Immigrants and the Border Lands

Krissy's blog:
"A can of worms…

The blog that I started to write at 5am would have been very different than the one I am writing now. I went down to the county office this morning to get our official marriage certificate since we had not done that yet. As I sit and ponder this paper in front of me that states that I am legally married and as I lay awake all night last night and think...

It is currently legal for same sex couples to marry in California. All documentation has been changed to "Party A" and "Party B" instead of husband and wife, ceremony wording changed to be all encompassing, marriage equality is the status quo if you will.

All night I thought about things I wished I could have said to the "Yes on 8" people. How can you people vote for discrimination? Do they not see it is discrimination, plain as day? How can you vote to eliminate rights based on a Judeo-Christian definition of marriage (separation of church and state!)? How has my marriage negatively affected your life? What on earth do your signs mean that Yes on 8 is about religious freedom and parental rights?

...It's not 100% passed, but if passed, this AMENDS the state constitution to define marriage. A state court will NOT be allowed to declare this unconstitutional. "By adding the language of Proposition 8 to the state Constitution, which is the highest source of law in the state, the California courts would be required to uphold traditional marriage." (taken from the yes on 8 peoples website)

You want a fight you stupid ignorant people, you got one. We had the right to legally marry. You have voted to amend a state constitution to ELIMINATE THAT RIGHT.

The 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution states that:"no state shall ... deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws."

Similar to how Brown v. Board of Education overturned the Plessy v. Ferguson ruling of separate but equal, I have to have some faith that so shall this be overturned (hopefully in sooner than in 58 years). That marriage v. domestic partnership, segregation could you call it? Separate but supposedly equal? ...shall not prevail."
Permission was granted to reprint this blog post. Thanks to Krissy for sharing and for her efforts to defeat this amendment. Thanks also to Pico for his continuing insight, passion and talent in sharing both.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The Girl Effect

Watch. Understand.

The Girl Effect: "A woman or girl will reinvest 90% of her income into her family. A man will invest 30-40%."

Smoke on the Water

O, my, a lot of hair, a few mullets, and I may be a nerd, but I thought this was amazing.

Smoke on The Water with Bruce Dickinson, Tony Iomi Brian May - For more funny videos, click here

Monday, November 17, 2008

Speaking of Football...

I visited my mom and dad this afternoon, looked at old photos, laughed at our old-fashioned hairstyles and ridiculous eyeglasses. I also picked up a notebook of my dad's hand-written reminiscences, intending to type them out for him. I came across this pearl.

Dad wrote:
"How do I watch Sunday Night Football with John Madden? The same way I used to watch Monday Night Football with Howard Cosell--with the sound off."

[Sorry, Dad, for stealing your blog material!]

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Enjoying Football

I watched seven football games this week. I wonder if that's excessive.

Gotta go...Sunday's games start in about an hour.

Friday, November 14, 2008


Ever since I woke from my drug-induced hibernation, I've been working frantically, feverishly, furiously and some other emPHatic, Freaking "F" words on my Family tree. That's about 2--3?--weeks now--I keep track of time only randomly. The best I can say this morning is that it's Autumn.

Those who've done heritage research already know it's dangerously compelling. For those who haven't, let me tell you to clear massive amounts of time for this addictive activity if making the attempt. Like most things, I'm trying to do it on the cheap. I started with a free 14-day trial at I think I'm now into the $30 for the first month. I don't have "tree-maker" software other than nimble fingers at the keyboard transmitting to my word processing program.

I look around at my desk(s)--arranged in a functional L-fashion--and realize the research has taken over my studio. There are piles of print outs, scribbled notes with lists of siblings, dates of birth, a county map of Missouri, my calculator to figure ages quickly, my old (and pathetic) family tree book laid out. Among these is a stack of books, Sagas of the Icelanders, Njal's Saga, The Poetic Edda, and I realize I'm the descendant, the inheritor of the spirit of the folk in those books. I know now, most intimately, that I'm not just begat from the northern regions where they lived, but I care about the same thing they cared about, that is, family.

At the beginning of every Norse saga, there's always a genealogy, and usually more throughout the book as the author uses these family trees to define the characters. The sagas, unique as a literary form, shun dramatic exposition. They are about action, physical description, poetry and terse judgements like "All of his sons were accomplished men," and "...he defended himself so valiantly that he did not give way under their attack at all." But...the people of that time, familiar with heroes of these sagas could picture the character of a person if given their family tree.

To the modern reader, these genealogies seem dry. However, I'm familiar with worse from reading medieval literature, and as I became more knowledgable with saga figures, I began to appreciate these litanies of ancestral lines. In fact, I now eagerly search them for familiar names, piecing together the people in this saga with those from another.

From Bolli Bollason's Tale (trans. Keneva Kunz), here's an example of this style of introducing the relationships (characters) in a story.

"At the same time as Bolli Bollason lived at Tunga, as was spoken of earlier, a man called Arnor Crone's-nose, the son of Bjarni Thordarson of Hofdi, lived on the farm Miklabaer in Skagafjord.

Another man, named Thord, lived with his wife Gudrun at Marbaeli. They were fine, upstanding farmers with wealth in plenty. Their son Olaf was still a boy at the time and a most promising young man. Gudrun, Thord's wife, was a near relative of Bolli Bollason, as her mother was his aunt. Gudrun's son Olaf was named after Olaf Peacock of Hjardarholt.

At Hof in Hjaltadal lived Thord and Thorvald Hjaltason, two prominent leaders.

A man called Thorolf Stuck-up lived at Thufur. He had an unfriendly nature and was often uncontrollable when angry. He owned a very aggressive grey bull. Thord of Marbaeli had sailed on merchant voyages with Arnor. Thorolf Stuck-up was married to a kinswoman of Arnor's and was one of the thingmen of the Hjaltasons. He was on hostile terms with his neighbours and was used to making trouble, of which the people of Marbaeli bore the brunt...."

Notice the phrase "as was spoken of earlier." There is no earlier in this saga; those are the first four paragraphs. The author is, therefore, referring to another story when "Bolli Bollason lived at Tunga," thus reminding his listeners/readers of the events and people in a previous tale.

Now, what I was saying...I realize, though over a millenium separates me by birth, I AM these people. Not only do I care to know these ancient lineages in order to understand the story, I'm just as fascinated by my modern family relationships. And I'm not the only one, but one of a kindred, and my "folk" have not, in over that millenium and more, not much changed their style of sharing the information. Compare this letter written by a relative of mine (a family treasure, by the way) to the saga example above.

"Then next came Wesley and all I know about him (don't remember ever seeing him) is that my dad said he and Grandpa D. (Henry) never got along too well; they both had "Ditzenberger tempers" and often had regular fist fights, so when he got old enough he left home and eventually settled in Oklahoma and there he married a part-Indian girl by the name of Captolia and they had one daughter named Myrtle, who used to visit Grandpa and Grandma Ditzenberger every few years--she was a pretty blonde with real curly hair, so she must have taken after Uncle John, my grandfather, and Uncle Bert as far as her curly hair was concerned but she was wild as an Indian and Grandma couldn't handle her and I think she sent her home to her mother one time after a short stay. As I recall what Dad said, Uncle Wesley had died and her mother, Captolia, didn't have much control over her...."

That was written by a woman with the surname of Stonebreaker more than twenty years ago. Lineage, action, physical description, these were her stock in trade, same as the saga writers. The pretty blonde, daughter of a part-Indian girl and the son of a German immigrant named Ditzenberger, the girl no one could handle, was my grandmother (Granner), who died in 1992. From her I inherited my height and my cheekbones. Maybe I inherited other things as well, but I'll leave the character traits to the judgement of others.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Superior Scribbler

It was mountains harder than I expected to choose five blogs for the Superior Scribbler award. Those I chose are all very different, though it wasn't intended.

These are my picks.

The Gods are Bored: This was the easiest to decide. Anne Johnson has a god's spirit with fairy wings. When I wrote to President-elect Obama, I told him about Anne's post, The Sign. She recently began a new blog in which each post is six words. It's genius.

Inspirations and Creative Thoughts: Mysticsaint is the writer. He keeps my mind open to the wider world, and his devotion to love inspires me. His musical choices are astoundingly beautiful.

Dependable Renegade: Brilliant photos and captions. I would have DR linked on my blog list except for one failing--the followers leave inane comments. As long as you don't read the comments, the blog is terrific. Don't get too far behind, though, because a lot of material goes up each day, and it's highly topical.

Whatever It Is, I'm Against It: This line is from a song by Groucho Marx, which serves as Whatever's theme song. This blog deserves an award just for posting the video of Groucho singing it. The posts are great, too. :) My blog list is really for my own use, therefore I haven't linked Whatever because I always reach it through CowHen. I want to read more of this blog and will one of these days.

The Wild Hunt: I can't go a day without Jason Pitzl-Waters. Bless you for your fine, consistent, dedicated work, Jason.

I couldn't choose Pico at Wild Chihuahuas, because he's already a Superior Scribbler, but he's an essential read. Occasionally, Pico takes a small break, and that's a great disappointment those one or two days. His latest essay, "The Marriage War: Strategy Considerations," is representative of the intelligence and compassion (along with a sharp wit) I've come to expect from this Small Desert God.

Superior Scribbler Award Rules:
Each Superior Scribbler must in turn pass The Award on to 5 most-deserving Bloggy Friends.
Each Superior Scribbler must link to the author & the name of the blog from whom he/she has received The Award.
Each Superior Scribbler must display The Award on his/her blog, and link to This Post, which explains The Award.
Each Blogger who wins The Superior Scribbler Award must visit this post and add his/her name to the Mr. Linky List.
That way, we'll be able to keep up-to-date on everyone who receives This Prestigious Honor!Each Superior Scribbler must post these rules on his/her blog.

The Money Hole

In The Know: Should The Government Stop Dumping Money Into A Giant Hole?

I swear. Genius sometimes at ONN.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Book of Love

Once again, I'm indebted to Pico at Wild Chihuahuas for finding the perfect youtube for the moment.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Queen Sigrith's Day

Yesterday, Sunday, was the 9th, the monthly Day of Honor, the day when a historical, semi-historical or mythical hero is honored as a virtuous, courageous or spiritual inspiration to modern Heathen practitioners. Pagans discover these paragons in literature and archaeological evaluation. The path of Reconstructionism, especially, leads pagans into study, also into experimentation with artifact (i.e. Thor's hammer), symbol (i.e. labyrinths, runes) and custom (i.e. sumbel, blot). Because there is no dogma, the pagan is a perpetual seeker. Ironically for Heathens, they eventually discover that the journey is the destination.

Yesterday was Queen Sigrith's Day. She is honored for her courage in refusing to deny her belief in the gods. She reminds Heathens, too, that the faith is of "kinsmen before", thus a tradition, a "handing down of statements, beliefs, legends, customs, etc., from generation to generation, esp. by word of mouth or by practice." But even more, Queen Sigrith, while insisting on her independence from the foreign god of King Olaf, demonstrated the noble path of tolerance.

She says it all best herself. Therefore, from the Saga of Olaf Tryggvason, trans. Lee M. Hollander...

"Chapter 61. Queen Sigrith Refuses Baptism

Early in spring King Olaf journeyed east to Konungahella for the meeting with Queen Sigrith. And when they met they discussed the matter which had been broached in winter, that they were to marry; and matters went very well. Then King Olaf said that Sigrith should be baptized and accept the true faith. She replied in this wise: “I do not mean to abandon the faith I have had, and my kinsmen before me. Nor shall I object to your belief in the god you prefer.”

Then King Olaf became very angry and said hastily, “Why should I want to marry you dog of a heathen?” and slapped her in the face with the glove he had in his hand. Whereupon he arose, and she too.

Then Sigrith said, “This may well be your death!” With that they parted. The king returned north to Vik, and the queen east to Sweden."

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Contacting President-elect Obama

President-elect Obama has provided a venue for citizens to express their ideas to him during this transition period. Please take the opportunity to contact him at and let him know what you think.

(Unfortunately, the drug war problem is not on the list of "checkable" issues, but there is a field to write in "other issues." Be sure to add "Marijuana Law Reform" in that field.)

I wrote, urging first of all for peace, abroad and at home. I said we could do nothing effective or meaningful until we had that, and I reminded him that peace also meant domestic peace, that we could not continue the drug war focused against young people and minorities, and we must end the horrifying violence against women in their homes.

I wrote, reminding him that prosperity is meaningless without peace (and peace meaningless without liberty) and asked him to consider peace his primary directive in the presidency. O, I know everyone cares uppermost about the economy right now, but that's why I wrote as I did. Environmental conservation, renewable energy, immigration, these and others are important issues to me, but if we WAR, of what concern are they? And how can we solve them when our finances and passions are spent on violence?

I closed with congratulations for his (our) win, thanked him for his efforts and for his willingness to assume this awful burden and expressed my deepest wishes for his well-being, both personal and public.

I don't know what else I can do, but express my support and urge others to do the same. Please take a few minutes to fill out the form provided at We want to keep this precious opportunity open and the energy flowing in the right direction. Ignore the cynics. Brush aside the hatred. Keep moving forward with the hope the President-elect has inspired, and we might, just might, establish the peace, liberty and prosperity we seek.

Friday, November 7, 2008

How Obama Won

He unleashed the fury of Anne Johnsons across the nation. For the good of your soul, read the link.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Yes We Can

We can do this. We can bring peace. We can show compassion. We can be accepting of differences and rejoice in our similarities. We can strengthen our defense and offer our protection to others. We can heal myriad ills.

Yes We Can.

I'm ready to make the attempt. I've been waiting my whole life for this. So, so ready.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Marijuana Reform Will Happen

I can feel a change a-comin', there's a wave of calm washin' over me
And I can feel a change a-comin', there's of wave of calm washin' over me
-Marcia Hines

That's how I feel this morning as I discovered that marijuana law reform was approved in several state elections, from Massachusetts to Hawaii. Read the results here at NORML's blog.
State by state, the will of the people is being expressed. Within five (seven years at the outside), I believe the law of the land concerning marijuana will be reformed. At the least, it will be decriminalized. At best, it will be legalized, become a viable cash crop, subject to health regulations and taxation. It's high time America took control of marijuana production, sale and use, removing it from the hands of illegal dealers, and into the sphere of legal, profitable, taxable use of industrial materials, recreational and medicinal substances.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Salvage and Critters

I'm a salvager. I mean I keep junk and try to find ways to use it. A lot of this junk ends up in the private part of my garden, where I reserve the right to do ANYthing that pleases me, no matter how "junky" it might look to anyone else. For example, I kept the rubber float from a broken toilet, because it looked cool. You know the thing I mean? The black, oblong ball inside the tank. The float had its rod intact, and I saved it that way for some seven years or so, along with all my other junk. Then last year, I was scrounging through my collected "treasures," searching for a "finial" for a hose guide--a section of pipe--I had just pounded into a corner of a garden path. Without finials, I have learned to great detriment, I'm liable to poke my eye on plant supports, hose guides, etc. when I'm bending to work. I spotted the toilet float, rod intact. Neat as a pin, the rod slipped down into the pipe section, and the black float rested on top--Perfect Finial!

Religiously, I keep old sections of carpet, car mats, discarded blankets, shower curtains and the like.* The shower curtains are invariably used as tarps or--here's a great tip--placed under the car in a garage to catch drips. Now, a lot of carpets have a plastic backing or some non-biodegradable material--car mats, especially. These are perfect for laying out in my garden in small places that I can't reach to weed or for covering over the connections of my garden hoses to protect them from weather. Aesthetically, it's awful when I first lay them down, but a light cover of leaves, straw or wood chip, and you don't even know they're there. Yet, not a weed all summer! The tougher materials last year after year. I have a square of blue, outdoor carpet about a yard long each way that I've used for many years, and it shows no sign of wearing out.

Saturday, I was doing some autumn cleaning in the garden, pulling out cleome stalks--Ow, the thorns!--taking down tomato cages and putting them away, sweeping fallen leaves from the paths and dumping them in the beds, etc. One of the chores was to take up this blue square of carpet. When I did, the soil below burst into activity. Underneath the carpet, secure all summer, a family of rodents--voles, I think--had built a maze of tunnels. I counted about five, but there may have been more...they were scurrying in panic, so hard to tell. I ran for my camera, figuring I wouldn't get back in time before they disappeared and figuring they would be too fast for me to shoot.

No one will ever accuse me of being a wildlife photographer, but here's one shot I managed to get off.

*Some of these products contain materials a gardener wouldn't want in their soil. I know some people won't lay out colored pages of newspapers, because they don't like the inks.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Autumn at Rivergarth

It's been a while since I posted pics from around here. It's as beautiful as ever. Here's from my south deck this morning. The oak tree is turning color, and the maple has shed leaves, carpeting the lawn. Below, there are spots of pansies, beds of flowers I had to fight a battle to have. Most likely this is the last year I argue to put annuals in the yard, just too much hassle and heartache. I'll keep my pretties private next year.

In the second picture, my quince bush went bonkers and bloomed again in time for a gentle, October frost. Last night, apparently, a spider was taking advantage of the last days of warm weather.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Rune Names

*Elder Futhark runes in apple wood, yet to be sealed, arranged by Aett.*

from The Rune Primer, by Sweyn Plowright

"We have no record of the names of the Elder Futhark runes. We cannot really be certain they had any. We do, however, have names for the Younger and Anglo-Saxon runes, & the Gothic alphabet. The consistency between these systems leads us to believe that they reflect and preserve much of the tradition of the Elder row.

"Neither can we be certain of the language spoken at the time of the Elder runes. Very few inscriptions survive, and these tend to be too short to reveal much detail about the language. We do know that the common tongue was made up of mutually intelligible dialects across the Germanic tribes. Linguists have reconstructed this "proto-Germanic" language by comparing the various later Germanic languages and applying the principles of linguistic change over time.

"Thus, by looking at the Anglo-Saxon (Old English) and Younger (Old Norse) rune rows and comparing their names and meanings, we can make an educated guess at the most likely Elder Futhark names. Then with a knowledge of the reconstructed proto-Germanic, we can get a fair estimate of the form those names took."

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Albert Einstein with a Health Plan

Thanks to Pico at Wild Chihuahuas for finding this gem from Howie and Julie.

Monday, October 27, 2008


*Futhorc runes in apple wood*
Then I began to quicken and be wise,
and to grow and to prosper;
one word found another word for me,
one deed found another deed for me.
The runes you must find and the meaningful letter,
a very great letter,
a very powerful letter,
which the mighty sage stained
and the powerful gods made
and the runemaster of the gods carved out.
Odin for the Æsir, and Dain for the elves,
Dvalin for the dwarfs,
Asvid for the giants,
I myself carved some.
Do you know how to carve, do you know how to interpret,
do you know how to stain, do you know how to test out,
do you know how to ask, do you know how to sacrifice,
do you know how to dispatch, do you know how to slaughter?
Better not to pray, than to sacrifice too much,
one gift always calls for another;
better not dispatched than to slaughter too much.
So Thund carved before the history of nations,
where he rose up, when he came back.
from Sayings of the High One, Poetic Edda, trans. Larrington

Monday, October 20, 2008

Colin Powell's Endorsement


Below is a post I discovered on the internet, written by a godi, a priest of the Asatru, Troy Wisehart, who was kind enough to give me permission to republish it. I’m happy to share his personal statement, which exemplifies the virtue by which a modern Heathen may live when inspired by the Eddic texts.

"Wodhanaz is that which integrates the many into a conscious whole and describes the entire process. ~ I am a Heathen who follows the ancient path of my ancestors known as Asatru (1) and I have sworn the oath of the gothar (2). Life flows to me and through me, and I choose what remains in me. Because I am a microcosm of the multiverse, I bring from the darkest depths to the highest heights that which is needed for me to be able to receive from the realms of light what is required of the deepest abyss. I take from the dark as well as the light because I am my own master. I follow Odin's path as outlined in the Havamal (3), and Freyja (4) is my protectress. I walk between the worlds in the branches and roots of Yggdrasil (5) and sing the runes. Believing that I am my deeds, I ally myself with the Aesir and Vanir (6), whom I consider to be the forces of harmony and beauty, against that which is of chaos and destruction and each conscious choice of right action strengthens the power of my soul and positively contributes to my hammingja (7) and orlog (8). I am free of hatred and resentment because I recognize those feelings as a form of submission to the focal point of those emotions. I absolutely reject all betrayal, beginning with myself and refuse to take into myself anything whose origin is the bringer of distress, she who is the lover of the trickster and the mother of the children of Jarnvid (9). Having once lost everything, I let go of all that I fear to lose and in so doing recover what is mine. I exist tri-partite in time for I am my ancestors as well as my descendents. My soul resides in my blood and will one day return to that from which it came, bringing with me the sum total of my deeds as a contribution to the folk soul in the next cycle of existence. My destination is the journey, and its purpose is to experience and feel so that I will learn and grow and achieve personal power which is preparation, awareness, intent and the ability to focus through the vessel of the self. In this way I will not be consumed or destroyed. I have come into being, and by the process of coming into being I have established the process of coming into being."

The following notes are my additions, and I don’t mean to attribute the ideas to Mr. Wisehart, although we would, no doubt, have productive discussions using them as starting points.
2. gothar, collective priesthood of the Asatru community.
3. Havamal is one of the Poetic Eddas, similar in tone to wisdom literature.
4. Odin is a god seeking wisdom. His “path” is one of honor and virtue. Freyja, as
Elsa-Brita Titchenell explains in Masks of Odin, “represents the higher, spiritual faculty of intelligence.” It is to Freyja’s hall, Sessrúmnir at Folkvangr, that half of mankind ascend. She is the lover the enlightened sought.
5. Yggdrasil, the World Tree, the Tree of Life.
6. Aesir and Vanir are, roughly, the two tribes of Norse gods. The differences between them and what they represent to the Asatru is beyond the limit of space and purpose here.
7. hammingja is, roughly, individual and familial soul power.
8. orlog, roughly, primal layer of being.
9. Jarnvid, Iron Wood. “She,” “the trickster” and their “children” represent testing forces, obstacles which prevent us from recognizing and then realizing ourselves as gods, but they are also the forge fires through which we are tempered.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Egil's Saga

Here’s an example of the dusty analysis, 54 pages, I choked my way through in preface to reading Egil’s Saga.*

These stories are familiar….

…their understanding of the consequences of foolishness and folly, especially in its relationship to character, is uniquely plain, unvarnished and direct.

Thus Icelandic sagas and tales seem far removed from modern literary subjectivity, and yet, the gossip and the comments of other characters supply a practical and readily understandable psychological context. Characters speak up. They say what they want and what their intentions are. Other characters disagree with them and judge them. The saga writer sometimes remarks upon public opinion concerning these events. The result is that the sagas are psychologically complex and yet economical in their analysis.

…turn the page to begin the saga. YeeOW!

Egil Skallagrimsson strides to the shore of the tumultuous Northern Atlantic, cuts the ropes mooring his brother’s ship and extorts his release into humanity’s fray, through which he hacks his way like a god.

"Economical in analysis"? Nay! Extravagant, it’s that. “Plain”? No. There’s nothing “familiar” about this story. In the familiar world, no one intentionally pukes out his guts into the eyes, ears and mouth of his host. Neither does one begin his reign of terror with murder at age seven or ransom his own head with a poem to a king or insist on standing in place of a weaker man in a duel. Far from being familiar, Egil’s Saga is extraordinary, both in history and in the nature of a man.

Nearly napping by the time I finished the introduction (yaa-awn) and began the saga, I was definitely not napping once the story began. With Egil Skallagrimsson, I laughed:

(On earning his life in exchange for a poem)
Ugly as my head may be,
The cliff my helmet rests upon,
I am not loathe
To accept it from the king.
Where is the man who ever
Received a finer gift
From a noble-minded
Son of a great ruler?

(On his own old age)

My head bobs like a bridled horse
It plunges baldly into woe.
My middle leg both droops and drips
While both my ears are dry.

I thrilled:

(on taking revenge) Bern-Onund ran up to the shrubs. He was wearing a helmet, carried a shield in one hand and a spear in the other, and was girded with a sword. But it was Egil, not a bear, that was hiding in the shrubs, and when he saw Berg-Onund he drew his sword. There was a strap on the hilt which pulled over his hand to let the sword hang there. Taking his spear, he rushed towards Berg-Onund. When Berg-Onund saw this he quickened his pace and put the shield in front of him, and before they clashed they threw their spears at each other. Egil darted his shield out to block the spear, at such an angle that the spear glanced off and stuck into the ground. His own spear struck the middle of Onund’s shield and sank in so deep that it stuck there, making it heavy for Onund to hold. Then Egil quickly grabbed the hilt of his sword. Onund began to draw his sword, but had only pulled it half-way out of its sheath by the time Egil ran him through with his sword. Onund recoiled at the blow, but Egil drew his sword back swiftly and struck at Onund, almost chopping his head off. Then Egil took his spear out of the shield.

Hadd and Frodi ran over to Berg-Onund when they saw he had been felled. Egil turned to face them. He lunged at Frodi with his spear, piercing his shield and plunging it so deep into his chest that the point came out through his back. He fell over backwards dead on the spot. Then Egil took his sword and set on Hadd, and they exchanged a few blows before Hadd was killed.

I cringed:

(at seven years old, upon losing a game to an older boy) Thord handed Egil an axe he had been holding, a common type of weapon in those days. They walked over to where the boys were playing their game. Grim had caught the ball and was running with the other boys chasing him. Egil ran up to Grim and drove the axe into his head, right through to the brain.

I lauded:

(surprising his son in supporting him at the Althing) From the assembly, a band of men was seen riding alongside the river Gljufura, their shields glinting. They rode into the assembly led by a large man wearing a black cloak and gilded helmet and carrying a shield decorated with gold by his side. In his hand he held a barbed spear with its socket embossed with gold, and he was girded with a sword. Egil Skallagrimsson had arrived with eighty men, all armed for battle.

I marveled:

(on working a curse) He took a hazel pole in his hand and went to the edge of a rock facing inland. Then he took a horse’s head and put it on the end of the pole.

Afterwards he made an invocation, saying, “here I set up this scorn-pole and turn its scorn upon King Eirik and Queen Gunnhild”—then turned the horse’s head to face land—“and I turn its scorn upon the nature spirits that inhabit this land, sending them all astray so that none of them will find its resting-place by chance or design until they have driven King Eirik and Gunnhild from this land.”

Then he thrust the pole into a cleft in the rock and left it to stand there. He turned the head towards the land and carved the whole invocation in runes on the pole.

By the end, I cried:

(on the death of his son)
Myself I know
That in my son
Grew the makings
Of a worthy man,
Had that shield-tree
Reached manhood,
Then earned the claim
Of war’s arms.

Always he prized
His father’s words
Highest of all, though
The world said otherwise.
He shored me up,
Defended me,
Lent my strength
The most support.

Even in old age, Egil doesn’t give a quarter, thwarting those who thwart him, exerting extraordinary strength, flaunting superior intelligence and spewing cussedness (strangely both generous and honorable) right to his death.

I wonder if the commentator read the same story I did. Far from being “economical in analysis,” the saga is wealthy in detail and almost exaggerated in the analysis of Egil. Coming away from it, I know Egil, from motive to deed. I better understand his world and time, his gods and his folk. I can hardly wait to read the remainder of the tales.


*The Sagas of the Icelanders©2000 with Preface by Jane Smiley and Introduction by Robert Kellogg. In this collection from Penguin Classics, Bernard Scudder is the translator of Egil's Saga.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Crazy Good Thin Lizzy

Wednesday, October 15, 2008


I know that I hung on a windy tree
nine long nights,
wounded with a spear, dedicated to Odin,
myself to myself,
on that tree of which no man knows
from where its roots run.
No bread did they give me nor a drink from a horn,
downwards I peered;
I took up the runes, screaming I took them,
then I fell back from there.
Sayings of the High One, Poetic Edda, trans. Larrington

Tuesday, October 14, 2008


Sorry for the dearth of posts lately. I started a new medication which makes me sleepy. For a week, I've been asleep more than awake. No telling when it will end.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Tobacco Hornworm

According to this Wiki article on hornworms, the one I found is probably "wandering." Apparently, there were several of these wayfarers in the driveway this morning. Next season, they will transform into magical creatures, sphinx moths, that will patronize my four o'clock flowers as they do each year. I put this particular one back outside to finish its journey.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Siegfried faces Liudegast

After much disappointment over the Saga of the Volsungs, post pending, I'm giddy again as I read The Nibelungenlied (trans. Hatto). I'm a sucker for a well-written fight and there are few better than that one in The Nibelungenlied between Siegfried and King Liudegast. A taste:

Towards him the noble intruder galloped in fine style, and now lord Liudegast had marked him down, so that the two of them set their spurs to their chargers' flanks and vehemently levelled their spears at each other's shield, with the result that the King was soon in jeopardy. In the train of these thrusts. these princes' mounts bore them past each other at such a pace that they might have been wafted by the wind; whereupon, wheeling with splendid horsemanship, this fierce pair tried their fortunes with their swords. Then lord Siegfried struck blows that filled the plain with their sound and sent fiery sparks flying from his enemy's helmet as though from huge torches. Each met his match in the other, since lord Liudegast struck many cruel blows in answer, and the strength of each was brought mightily to bear on the other's shield.

Heart-pounding. Here's the same scene in rhymed verse (online trans. Needler). Both versions are fantastic. Thrilling, irrespective of the translation, when the original is of such quality!

Who he was I'll tell you / that rode his men before,—
A shield of gold all shining / upon his arm he bore—
In sooth it was King Luedegast / who there the van did guard.
Straightway the noble Siegfried / full eagerly against him spurred.

Now singled out for combat / him, too, had Luedegast.
Then full upon each other / they spurred their chargers fast,
As on their shields they lowered / their lances firm and tight,
Whereat the lordly monarch / soon found himself in sorry plight.

After the shock their chargers / bore the knights so fast
Onward past each other / as flew they on the blast.
Then turned they deftly backward / obedient to the rein,
As with their swords contested / the grim and doughty fighters twain.

When Siegfried struck in anger / far off was heard the blow,
And flew from off the helmet, / as if 'twere all aglow,
The fiery sparks all crackling / beneath his hand around.
Each warrior in the other / a foeman worth his mettle found.

Full many a stroke with vigor / dealt eke King Luedegast,
And on each other's buckler / the blows fell thick and fast.
Then thirty men discovered / their master's sorry plight:
But ere they came to help him / had doughty Siegfried won the fight.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Gracie "on Point"

It isn't necessary to teach a "pointing" dog to point. It comes pre-packaged in their genes, an inheritance from wolves, selected for generations in these breeds. Very, very, young pointing puppies will point game. What you teach the dog is to "hold," that is, not to pounce until released on command. Once the hunter is in place, the dog is allowed to flush the birds (or the hunter might), which rise in a heart-rushing flurry, and the hunter takes his shots. This all works beautifully with bobwhite quail, which covey. With other species of upland birds, there is some variation, but that's the principle.

Here, Gracie is learning that no matter how hard she tries, her point and pounce instinct won't yield her the game. A wing is attached to a pole by means of fishing line, then shown to Gracie, who instinctively "points" it, meaning she freezes stock still, all her focus on the prey. As she becomes steadier on the "hold" command, she'll be praised to reinforce it, and the greater part of her pointing education will be in place.

Of course, she also has to learn good manners. She knows most of those already, the no's of the house, to come, sit, etc. She also has some experience with gunshots and reacted well. Now, her big tests will be in the field. I'm not sure my hunter's goals with Gracie, but if he's ambitious, he'll also teach her, along with "hunt 'em up," to quarter and retrieve. She's a wire-haired, so the ability is in her. She only needs guidance.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Banned Books Week

Grateful Bear reminds us that this is Banned Books Week. For lists of "Frequently Challenged Books," check the American Library Association's website.

Here's from their site for the top 10 "challenged" books for 2007. I don't read from current genres much, so I've missed all these except the oldie, “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” by Mark Twain. I notice sexual content is a common complaint, seven of the 10. Violence only made the list once!

How did Americans get into this mindset that violence is preferable to sex? More importantly, how do we get out of it?

1) “And Tango Makes Three,” by Justin Richardson/Peter Parnell
Reasons: Anti-Ethnic, Sexism, Homosexuality, Anti-Family, Religious Viewpoint, Unsuited to Age Group

2) The Chocolate War,” by Robert Cormier
Reasons: Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language, Violence

3) “Olive’s Ocean,” by Kevin Henkes
Reasons: Sexually Explicit and Offensive Language

4) “The Golden Compass,” by Philip Pullman
Reasons: Religious Viewpoint

5) “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” by Mark Twain
Reasons: Racism

6) “The Color Purple,” by Alice Walker
Reasons: Homosexuality, Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language

7) "TTYL,” by Lauren Myracle
Reasons: Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language, Unsuited to Age Group

8) "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,” by Maya Angelou
Reasons: Sexually Explicit

9) “It’s Perfectly Normal,” by Robie Harris
Reasons: Sex Education, Sexually Explicit

10) "The Perks of Being A Wallflower,” by Stephen Chbosky
Reasons: Homosexuality, Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language, Unsuited to Age Group

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Gospel of Philip

Because Chris Knowles over at The Secret Sun mentioned The Nag Hammadi library today, thus pulling the book off my shelf, I will furnish one of the passages from these incredible manuscripts before I replace it back between the Tao Teh Ching and a collection of Confucian, Hebrew and Christian writings. The Bible, from which I also quote in this post, I'll set back on the corner of my desk where I keep it along with a novel by R.A. Salvatore (the master), from whom I study the difficult art of writing action scenes. From the Gospel of Philip:

Light and darkness, life and death, right and left, are brothers of one another. They are inseparable. Because of this neither are the good good, nor the evil evil, nor is life life, nor death death. For this reason each one will dissolve into its original nature. But those who are exalted above the world are indissoluble, eternal.

Names given to worldly things are very deceptive, for they divert our thoughts from what is correct to what is incorrect. Thus one who hears the word "God" does not perceive what is correct, but perceives what is incorrect.

Hebrews 5:14 says, "But strong meat belongest to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil." Gospel of Philip is strong meat.

Monday, September 29, 2008

The Great Schlep

See more Sarah Silverman videos at Funny or Die

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Favorite Keywords

People are incredibly interesting and interested as their google search terms prove. Below are some of my favorite keywords from the list that folks have used to find my blogsite.

thomas jefferson scottish women
I wonder if, anywhere, he found what he was looking for.

ewo lika info sex home free
Love this one! But why did it hit my site!?!

and the flames wrought havoc in the hot bone-house
Sizzle--probably looking for DT.

why is dodge city really hot in the summer and cold in the winter
Yes, why?!

an angel in the skies of kansas?
There is, there is.

Blog Review

Periodically, I look over what my readers are reading. For so long, interest was greatest in my posts for Egyptian Walking Onions! Although that trend continues, two other interests have surpassed Onions in popularity. Here are the latest results.

Kennings and Kennings for Mead: 9.5%

Virtues: Qualities We Admire: 9.2%

Egyptian Walking Onions, The Craze for Egyptian Walking Onions (EWO), Egyptian Walking Onions II: 8.5%

Foreign visitors, interestingly, make up 32.25% of my hits. I don't know if that's a lot or a little.