Smudge Day

 

Every autumn I look forward to lighting a bonfire and tossing onto it things that are no longer useful to me like an old rag rug Mom made that even the dogs won’t use anymore, and outdated income tax forms more than 7 years old, and a small note describing a relationship that is no longer helpful, or even a portion of the relationship that needs to stop. Smoke removes negative things and purifies them, and us, so the ancient stories tell.

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Smudging is similar and it doesn’t require such a huge flame. It can be done indoors. I try to smudge the guest room between guests, even if I only burn incense. I felt it’s time now to really smoke the negative energy out of that room and my home so I studied up about crafting my own smudge sticks and took myself on a gathering walk outside my door.

For this smudging to remove negative energy I bundled a section of a mullein seed stalk with sage from my garden and dry pine needles. The sage was fresh  and the mullein damp. I didn’t give the bundle time to dry so it was hard to keep it smoldering yesterday when I held it by hand and whooshed the smoke with a group of feathers. Today I initiated a rescued cast iron cauldron that Rusti Shilling discarded. I swear on a stack that’s her name.

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My ideas was to kindle a fire and let it settle to coals to keep the smudge stick smoking. I collected some twigs from beneath a pine tree in my yard but they weren’t as dry as I thought. Crumpled gratitude notes from my gratitude jar flamed easily but not enough to keep the twigs burning. So let’s try 3 tea candles. Three is a good number and I shaped them in a triangle. That did the trick.

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I got the smudge going outdoors on my deck then brought the cauldron into the guest room and set it up on an inverted iron pot to protect the floor, keeping it well away from bedding. I’ve washed sheets and bedspreads and I left all the bedding unfolded on top of the bed. I also opened the closet doors and the adjoining bathroom door, and opened the window a bit. All the while I was telling the unwanted energy and spirits to go away, they are not wanted, they are not useful today, they are free to go. Repeating it over and over as I walked and wafted the smoke through the area.

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This method sustained a lot more smoke and I hadn’t thought to disable my smoke alarms ahead of time. I discovered how sensitive they are to even a little smoke not even in the same room and that’s assuring. I let a little smoke out of the guest room into the rest of the house and then closed the door so the smudge would work most effectively in the areas most used by guests. If you’ve been a guest, don’t take offence. This is something I do to prepare the room for the next guest and I prepared it for you, too. I like the energy of some guests so much I don’t smudge the room for a long time so I can feel the good vibes longer.

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Finally I placed an inexpensive item on the smudge stick that was left by a guest who experienced a really negative energy, intense but brief, while staying here. I expected it to smolder and put out the tinder but instead it flamed up. For safety I took the pot outdoors and let it burn up most of the remaining elements.

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I’m all about safety from fire at my place since I live out of town and no fire truck is able to get here in time to save my home. Rusti gave me this cast iron lid, too, which doesn’t fit the rusty pot but it worked wonderfully to smother the fire.

So now I have released negative energy from the new-to-me cast iron cauldron and my home. Tommorrow I will burn lavender, holy basil, rosemary, and mint to bring healing, protection and calming. I feel like this iron pot will be a handy and safe “fire pit” for me, and I like that it’s portable. Some years, like this one, I haven’t had a bonfire because it’s too dry and grass fire is still a danger. This year I’m starting a new tradition for smudging my home at least once every autumn.

Weekly Photo Challenge: It’s Not This Time of Year Without . . .

 

Shine like Indra’s Net

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis time of year I clean the glass on my china cabinet and all the porcelain dishes within. I can see the outdoors reflecting like a mirror. The dishes shine in autumn sunlight. Just think about all the shiny reflected light we encounter every day. Imagine a net that represents all life in the universe, the web of life.

The Rig-Veda, an ancient religious textcontains about 250 hymns to Lord Indra, India’s mythological king of the gods. At least one of the hymns tells of Lord Indra’s Net, the web of life. Every juncture of it has a jewel that reflects all other jewels. The Net represents the interconnection of all life in the universe. The ancient hymn describes Indra’s Net as an endless web of threads throughout the universe. Horizontal threads are space while vertical threads are time. At every crossing of the threads, there is an individual and each one a crystal bead. Every crystal bead reflects the light from every other crystal in the net and also from every other reflection throughout the entire universe.  This cosmic web might look  like this according to Terence McKenna in Approaching Timewave Zero:  Part 1:

“One way of thinking about it is to compare it to one of those mirrored disco balls, which sends out thousands of reflections off of everybody and everything in the room. The mirrored disco ball is the transcendental object at the end of time, and those reflected twinkling, refractive lights are religions, scientific theories, gurus, works of art, poetry, great orgasms, great souffles, great paintings, etc. Anything that has, in Nietzsche’s phrase, the “spark of divinity within it,” is in fact, referent to the original force of the spark of all divinity unfolding itself withing the confines of three-dimensional space.”

Now, think about this for a while. When you shine your light more brightly, you bring everyone else’s up with you.

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For Weekly Photo Challenges:

Shine    chttps://dailypost.wordpress.com/photo-challenges/shine/

and      It’s Not This Time of Year Without . . .

 

Delila state of mind

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They always said DeLila daydreamed too much; she needed to pay attention to her work.

They always said DeLila was rather spacey . . . drifty . . . flighty . . .

Some said DeLila’s imagination was too fantastic; she wasn’t grounded in reality.

One said DeLila would never amount to much.

Another said she was likely to one day just flit away and never come back.

You know what, that’s just what she did.

 

Weekly Photo Challenge:  State of Mind and reposted today for Magic. I wish more people would, if just for a portion of their day, use a state of mind more like DeLila, who I invented here. We could just pop ourselves into a bubble and let the breeze carry us somewhere else. I have no doubt many bloggers practice this way nonetheless. I used this photo recently in another post but it felt appropriate for this week’s challenge. I love the weekly challenges, I ponder them all week and look at my world through a different lens because of the themes.

By the way, after I composed this flash fiction I made a quick internet search for the name Delila which I chose for no good reason. I found this story and songs of Delila, a Kurdish song writer, drummer, protester, warrior woman who was killed by a Turkish soldier. She was not at all like the character I invented here. Her music is delightful and mesmerizing, though I don’t understand the lanuage of her lyrics. 

 

Keeper of the keys: day 6

Last morning shift checking out keys to the gates. It’s slow business in the office so I can pack and clean and photograph skulls or their attachments. I didn’t get all the skulls like the beaver on the window sill or the mountain goat on a corner shelf. Staff bring them in when they find them. They fit in with a place that’s all about wildlife. If you like to write or draw monsters, these aught to suggest some creatures to design.

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Wolf next to the front door. It changes directions occasionally. Sometimes I move it, sometimes it’s just different.

 

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Coyote in the background. 

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I cleaned this California Big Horn Sheep skull with a soft paint brush. The pile of tiny sawdust on the dresser told me it had insects gnawing within. It was covered with a dusty towel that I put in the laundry and covered it again with a clean sheet. A cotton ball with a dab of cedar oil set nearby will protect it from bugs. I can imagine this form as the foundation for “the monster behind the closed door upstairs”. Don’t open the door. I know it’s a trope, but still . . .

 

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It’s really heavy! The last 3 Big Horn Sheep in the Andrus Wildlife Management Area died of pneumonia. This one was found in the fence above Brownlee Dam with it’s neck broken. The biologist thinks it might have been fleeing for its life from something and ran off the cliff above the rock fence. Running from a predator might be a rather common cause of death in nature. Remember those 2 suicidal quails yesterday?

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This small horn was on a side table next to several deformed antlers in the living room. It’s not very big, maybe as long as a new pencil.

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What a perfectly shaped pair of antlers on the dining room wall.

Goodbyes with staff and I’m headed up the highway to visit my 94 year old aunt in Cambridge. Whoa! I left my coffee press in the dish rack! Back at the ranch the staff were talking about me and thrilled to see me in the drive way. They wanted to learn how to make the sourdough rye bread I baked for them. I showed them where to find it on my blog and offered to give them the starter I had with me (more at home) but they want to do it all from scratch including creating their own starters. One of them had hollowed out the end of the loaf I gave him and stuffed it with baked quail, cheese, and vegetables. The other had sliced his and stacked slices with mozzarella bites and vegetables open faced like tapas. He ate his slices with baked quail and wine. We talked about writing and art and ghost stories, lots of ghost stories from Hells Canyon. They urged me to use suicidal birds in a story and to create a character based on the technician. He would carry a hatchet everywhere he goes and we could call him the Kindler (he chops kindling and other things). The biologist told us about his epic character. He has written more than 25 adventures for it. He also used to create radio shows with a friend. It was an enthusiastic conversation and I’ve no doubt I’ll be back to visit these new friends.

keeper of the keys: Day 5

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Crust and crumb, the sourdough rye bread turned out just fine. It raised more than it usually does at home. I gave the biologist and the technician each the end parts and kept the mid section for myself. It’s mottled and I like that, not the way I planned but it adds visual interest. I used the whole wheat recipe substituting rye flour for the whole wheat and adding 3 tablespoons dark baking chocolate powder plus a little chopped up fresh rosemary. Superb texture and flavor.

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The piece of bread in the bag was baked at home, much denser loaf. Today I decided to take an afternoon nap. No such luck. Something struck the wall next to my bed hard like a football in the wrong place. Shortly afterwards it happened again. I heard the staff yelling at each other outdoors and I knew I didn’t need to get up. I’d hear about it later.

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They call these suicidal quail. Both were fleeing the talons of a falcon when they crashed into the side of the house. The biologist held them for a while to see if there might be a heartbeat. When I came down stairs he warned me there is a dead bird in the fridge and told me their story. He gently placed the still warm carcass in my hands and together we admired the feathers. So tiny around the neck. How precisely the hues change and form patterns.

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Feather tips felt smooth, but lifting them they revealed fluffy down next to the body. I imagined how the feathers held warmth when the bird puffed up in winter. Staff took the birds home for dinner.

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I painted more autumn scenes that afternoon and evening. It felt odd painting inside a specific frame, the shapes of leaves I had traced. For practice with techniques perhaps this limitation was just what I needed. I could concentrate on the process and not feel like I have to compose to the edges of the paper. This is the first time I haven’t taped down the edges. It worked OK on Canson 140, but I prefer Arches 140.

It’s my last evening shift. I packed a few things but left the rest for the morning sensing that I won’t have many hunters picking up a key so I will have plenty of time to move out.

 

keeper of the keys: day 4

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Coffee brews in the press and I have a little time before I open the office at 7. Let’s check the sourdough sponge set up last night. Look at the mark where it raised when the yeast were in their feeding frenzy and reproducing like crazy before death, like any organism. And then the sponge fell as it should after the protein in the flour was devoured. Oh! those bubbles! Looks just right and smells like beer. The surface is moving with gasses. I’m hoping bread at nearly sea level, where I am now, will turn out as well as that at 350 feet when I’m home. Natural yeast can be fussy. This should turn into rye bread like the piece in the bag. Tomorrow. I add more bread flour and water, cover the bowl with a small plate again, and walk away to open the office.

A few hunters stop in for a key or to exchange one for a different location. I take a reservation by phone. The Andrus Wildlife Management Area has gates to 6 different drainages or roads. Sunday morning is not very busy but in the evening I recorded surveys with 9 keys that were dropped off. It’s been a 3 day weekend for those who didn’t work Veterans Day holiday.

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Today I take the chairs off the table and make room for water color painting. Seating for 12, this could be the mead hall or else it serves a whole lot of castle servants. What a great place to spread out projects. It’s overcast, might rain, so I go for a walk to collect leaves from different types of trees.

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The idea is to trace a leaf and paint a landscape inside the shape. Water color takes patience, just like sourdough baking. While paint dries between layers I make a vegetable and rice curry soup with fresh tomatoes I brought from my garden.

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Sometime in the afternoon I add more flour and water to the sourdough and by bedtime it has bubbled up to the top of the bowl. In a larger bowl I mix the dry ingredients with my fingers and then stir in the fermented sponge. For this rye bread I substitute rye flour for the whole wheat amount and add 3 tablespoons of dark baking chocolate to give it stronger flavor and a rich color. Rosemary, yes, chopped up and added for interest instead of caraway seeds. I hold back on the olive oil, using less than a full table spoon. I hope it will rise well. I stir it and then knead it a little in the bowl but the flour mixture doesn’t integrate well with the wet. It looks mottled. Hoping for the best I cover the bowl with a big loose fitting plate and a light dish cloth and leave it on the counter over night.

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A friend called just when I needed to walk away from a painting and we talked for a long long time. All the while I studied skulls and antlers and horns that have been gathered from the wildlife area. They are on the walls and coffee tables and window sills. Everything needs dusting. If this were not home to a wildlife management area anyone could wonder about someone who would put bones around their living room. As a naturalist they interest me. As a writer they inspire me.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt’s so late when I get off the phone I don’t have energy to write today’s post. I turn the wolf skull to face the door when I turn off the light. Up stairs in  bed I read some twisted stories in  The New Black, A Neo-Noir Anthology edited by Richard Thomas. 

Previous posts of my stay as keeper of the keys are here and here.

keeper of the keys: day 3

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My new best coffee! I get up at 6 AM to get ready to open the office at 7. It takes me a while to wake up. I brought a bag of instant powdered coconut milk for creamer. Mixed with honey in pressed coffee the flavors astound me! This one cup coffee press it’s great for a single mug.

Checking out gate keys to visitors was easy and I’m surprised most of them want to chat a while instead of rushing to their hunt. It’s a pleasant way to start the morning. I nearly filled the wood bin and then made pumpkin soup for lunch, stirring in coconut powder instead of canned coconut milk. Scrumptious with a mug of mushroom coffee! My husband rolled in with a friend and our 2 German Shepherds. The dogs stay in the van at the ranch so they can’t harass the resident wild turkeys. I made a pot of espresso flavored with coconut milk and coconut sugar and we sat  on the porch in the sun watching wild turkeys in the yard.

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I took a map and keys to 3 gates, locked the house (office inside) and we went off in search of the roads.  We entered Lake Road access gate and found this small ancient dog house nearby. Our dogs are too large to get in. There is a loading chute and corral at the entrance. We encountered a stream crossing right away (no bridge) and looking at the road ahead decided it truly was best for an ATV, not our big wide Chevy Express. Let’s hit the highway for the next access gate.

It was hard to find the Woodhead gate right across from the Woodhead campground. Duh! But the gate is behind a pond and no signs point to it. This road, too is not suitable for a van for very many miles. At least it’s not a steep drop off like Lake Road. Eventually we would have come to a peak and pine forest but I had to open the office at 4 so we turned around. I notice my office hours are the same time as the best light for photos, sunrise and sunset. I’ll be back in my 4X4 truck some other time to capture betters photos.

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Brownlee Dam, the first of 3 dams on the Snake River in Hells Canyon, is just out of view to the right of the reservoir. For this photo I turned around and now we’re looking down hill. I’m in Idaho. The land across the river is Oregon.

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See the road on the Oregon side, pretty high above the water? It’s not Lake Road but just like it. NOT taking the van on it! Looks like fun for a mountain bike. Yikes. When I was a child, not even in school yet, my family would take Grandpa’s Jeep on roads like that pulling a silver camper. What a hoot! Mom was wrong. Dad didn’t kill us all.

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We’re pretty high above the canyon but still can’t get cell phone service here. I thought the Carpathian Mountains were steep when I visited Transylvania but I’m not sure they are steeper than these. Back just in time to open the office, goodbye to my guests,  and I swapped keys for hunters who are staying the week in Hells Canyon, took some phone reservations, and checked in returned keys. I gave one chukar hunter a tour of the bear trails around the house and under the wild orchard and black walnut trees. So much scat! I don’t find any fresh walnuts on the ground. Do you suppose bears or turkeys eat them? They’re a hard nut to crack. Um . . . not for a bear. He stayed and we chatted a while about wild plums and elderberries and recipes for foraged harvests while we watched the turkeys eating grass seeds and apples. They fly up and knock the fruit to the ground and then fight over it.

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I closed the office at 5 and boiled brown farm eggs for dinner from the little Alpine store in Indian Valley. That place deserves it’s own blog post, it’s so eclectic. The sun disappears behind the mountain early so I brought in another load of firewood and put the wheel barrow back in the garage next to the tractors all the while gathering leaves with interesting shapes for water color painting tomorrow. That sound? Turkeys began flying up from the creek to roost in trees above it. I wondered if it was too dark to get photos but digital cameras are amazing at letting in light at twilight. Oh, the sound of these huge wings fluttering! It’s the sort of ruckus that stirs my imagination to write horror stories and paint scenes inspired by great beasts perching above me in the night. That was last night’s entertainment. Look what I can do when there is no distracting TV noise, none here.

And now I’ve edited photos, done some writing, relaxed with lemon-ginger India Tulsi tea, prepared sourdough to proof overnight, and washed my face. Time to do dishes and then go to upstairs to bed and listen to my audio book Far Far Away by Tom McNeal. It’s a dark fantasy, something about a ghost and the Brothers Grimm and lurking evil, in the fashion of Neil Gaiman. If it doesn’t rain much tomorrow I’ll get out and explore more of the Andrus Wildlife Management Area.

 

Keeper of the keys: Day 2

I’ve been advised to start stories not at the beginning but somewhere else, perhaps the middle or the end. I’ll share a few journal notes this week from my experiences as volunteer gatekeeper for a wildlife management area in Hells Canyon. Today is not the first.

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I’ve been squatting long enough my toe joints hurt but I don’t want to move. Turkeys following in line, spread to a V, marching knees high, advance quickly toward me as I crouch beneath an old black walnut tree. I want to become so much part of the environment they don’t fear me, they forget me and they move closer unaware. I can’t take it any longer. Before bracing my weight with my finger tips I check the ground  in case there is bear scat. Don’t touch ground here without looking. It’s everywhere. All around the house, in the gravel, up the banks beneath the thicket of wild ancient fruit trees. Shit. That’s what it is. Why do we call it scat? Bears shit in orchards. They shit anywhere they please and don’t much think about it. I think. Bearshit. It’s everywhere I look. Or step. Or kneel.

Day 1 – First day living at the ranch to check out keys to the gates. I arrived at 3:30, no staff at the house yet so I took out my camera. The sun was about to go behind the mountain. I love the sounds here, the creek and turkeys and then deep silence in the evening.

Day 2 – evening – Turkeys are somewhat scary the way they walk and peck at each other, wings spread wide and beating the air. When they roost in tall trees over the creek I feel like they might dive at me. But they don’t. But they might. I feel it. Sometimes I am typing this story, these notes, and I see a shadow cruise swiftly past the window out in the yard, the air space over the yard. It’s a turkey, but might it be something else? It’s dusk, what’s the science word for this time of day becoming night? It feels like when I am walking up my road at home and swallows are darting after insects and then for a brief time when it’s almost too dark to detect images as they truly are I sense bats the same size darting among the swallows, all of them feasting on flying insects. It’s a feeding frenzy. And soon the swallows are gone and it’s only the bats and mammoth moths devouring bugs all night. I need monsters flitting about doing the same thing. I need imaginary predators imitating my pets imitating predators, waiting so patiently, so alertly, so ready to snap up their prey.

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That sound? Has something with wings landed on my roof peak? Is it waiting for me to forget it’s presence, unwary, and go to the wood pile or to my truck for a bucket of paints? Will I forget it’s there, let it be part of the environment until cautionless I walk out into the dark of night, witless and mindless as a turkey, and it swoops down and snaps off my head leaving my neck spurting blood and my legs still walking as though they haven’t yet received the message they have no head managing their performance? It could happen.

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BTW I made it to the truck and back fetching a small jar of sourdough starter I had left behind the seat. Still I left the flashlight there. The moon is getting fairly full. No matter. I’m writing horror snippets and at this point something very big with wings is surely perched on the roof patiently waiting like any wise predator for its unwary prey to emerge mindlessly from the door. And I’ve learned that turkeys talking in the night sound something like wolves.

I’d better get back to writing now.