Blog, crystals, life

“Fine, but I’m not getting any more rocks.”

I knew it was probably a lie the moment the words left his lips.
Still, I didn’t really intend to buy anything, I just wanted to go to the local mineralogical society’s mineral and gem show for kicks. We didn’t have any other plans, it was close by, and tickets were like six bucks. Why not?

I’ve also wanted to learn more about our local geology. Maryland has an interesting state mineral called Patuxent River stone, which is a form of agate that I think is a lovely, almost luminous color. I really want to find some in the wild, but the minerals I’m most likely to encounter where I am are white quartz, mica, beryl, and serpentine.

With all of this in mind, spending an hour or so at a local rock show seemed like a nice way to pass some of the afternoon. Also, sometimes there are interesting bony boys to look at.

This was before my partner saw the big geode cracking machine. I also think they’re very cool — I was used to getting tiny geodes as a kid and cracking them open with hammers like a tiny caveman, but all I’d get from that is a lot of small, shattered pieces. These machines use a large metal chain, shaped like a bike chain, that applies even pressure to a small area around the geode. They’re similar to soil pipe cutters but have a wheel that allows you to tighten the chain a bit more easily. The end result is a geode that cracks much more cleanly, usually in two halves that follow the natural features of the stone, so you preserve a lot more of that beautiful internal structure.

We talked to the owners of the machine for a bit, asking about the origins of their geodes (remember, always know where your crystals come from) and their mineral composition. That’s the nice thing about shows like this: The people there are super stoked to talk about crystals.

In the end, we decided on two geodes — one large one that was filled with tiny, sparkly, sugary-looking white quartz crystals (and a few double-terminated ones, too!) and a smaller one that seemed to be smoky quartz and blades of either calcite or selenite. They’re gorgeous!

A geode made of layers of opaque brown and transparent black crystal. In the very center, there are flat blades of clear, sparkling crystal.

The show also had some fascinating displays of fluorescent minerals, insects, fossils, and really nice specimens of minerals that had been collected locally (or semi-locally, within a few states or so). Upstairs, where the dealer’s tables were, there were beads, handmade jewelry, carvings, and several gorgeous and very high-end specimens for sale.

A wooden case of preserved moths. They're shades of brown, cream, and orange, and many of them have large spots on their wings that look eerily like eyes.

In addition to the two geodes, we came away with a trilobite from Ohio. I have named him Tobie.

If you’re into geology, like fossils or minerals, or are even into crystal healing, I can’t recommend local gem shows enough. In Michael Gienger’s book Crystal Power, Crystal Healing, he talks about the role that your local geology can play. For example, the effect that living in areas with specific minerals can have. If you’re not learning about what’s around you, you’re doing yourself a disservice.

It’s also just really nice to talk rocks with people who are super into it. Even if you’re not necessarily so, it’s just cool to listen to someone who’s both knowledgeable and passionate about something.

If you’re a collector or crystal enthusiast who’s concerned about the environmental and ethical considerations of your hobby, then local shows are also a huge help. Most of the specimens we saw were clearly labeled with their place of origin. A lot of them were domestically collected, usually by the people selling them. There was a transparency that’s hard to get in a lot of (though certainly not all) conventional crystal shops. Some of the people there have brick-and-mortar stores, too.

These events also often support local hobbyist groups, and are a great way to meet other people in your community. Now that we’re actually setting down some roots here, it just feels good to be involved in stuff like this, even if it’s just as a spectator.

So yes. Support your local mineral people. They rock.

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life, Neodruidry, Plants and Herbs

A Little Late Wassail.

This weekend, my partner and I had the pleasure of wassailing some baby trees.

Traditionally, this was something that was done December-ish, but this particular wassail was for some very young trees that’ll be going in the ground soon. Consider it a kind of baby tree blessing.

Wassailing is a ritual to bless fruit trees, drive away unwelcome spirits, and ensure a bountiful harvest. It involved drinking cider, singing, making noise, and giving offerings of drinks and cider-soaked toast to the trees.

This wassail was hosted by someone in a Druidry group to which I belong. Another member put together songs and blessings, and all of the attendees gave their own blessings to a little sour cherry, a baby fig, and a small (somewhat struggling) dogwood.

A red squirrel in the branches of a fruit-laden cherry tree.

(I wished that the fruit trees would produce lots of flowers and nectar for the insect community, and tons of fruit for the birds, squirrels, and human community. To the dogwood, I just said, “Good luck, buddy.”)

The food was incredible. There was wassail cake flavored with lots of bright orange zest, homemade root beer, chocolate-Guinness cake, meat and vegetarian hand pies, tiny apple hand pies, fresh vegetables, ginger snaps, cheese, fruit, and so much more. We’re still without a decent oven, so we brought some extra sparkling water, graham crackers, fancy chocolate, and vegan marshmallows for fire pit s’mores. In lieu of hanging cider-soaked toast on the trees, there were bits of cider-splashed graham cracker.

The singing was fun, the yelling and cheering was fun, and the blessings were heartwarming. There was an adorable dog who did happy zoomies all around the yard, with deep, happy “doggy laughs.” I can’t tell you the last time I went to any kind of house party, so the feeling of gathering with a bunch of kind, warm, intelligent, funny people was almost indescribable. (It also set off my brain’s own personal social anxiety afterparty, during which I questioned every interaction I had all afternoon for several hours.)

It was also really nice to see someone else working on turning their yard into a source of food for their family and the local fauna. It gave me some inspiration for things that might work well in this yard. The warming weather has me absolutely raring to go out and do more to keep my promise to the spirits of this spot, and now I’ve got images of redbuds and sour cherries dancing in my head.

Be in good health!

Blog, life

“I mean, I’m neutered. I don’t understand how this happened.”

It’s often said that orange cats all share custody of a single braincell. This isn’t meant disparagingly; they just have a certain dopey je ne sais quoi.

Nowhere is this more apparent than in Pye’s reaction to JJ.

Sure, he started out with the standard territorial huffiness when she first got here. Once she’d gotten her first round of baby shots, some antibiotics, dewormer, flea drops, and ear drops (she really had basically every parasite and minor problem a stray kitten could have), we decided it was time to test the waters of actual introduction.

Kiko wants nothing to do with her, but she doesn’t seem to want anything to do with anyone who isn’t my partner or me. So, no surprise there.

Pye seemed… baffled? Like here is this tiny creature, who appeared out of the ether, and holy crap is this where kittens come from? I can see the wheel wobble-spinning in his head. He’s neutered. How did this happen? How did he accidentally a baby??? help

Well, no matter. What’s done is done. If there’s one thing this magnificent himbo fool apparently doesn’t want to be, it’s a deadbeat dad.

A small gray cat and much larger orange cat look out of a window together.
He teaches her the ways.

I’ve read that it takes on average eight months to a year for cats to become friends. I think he managed it in three days. They play together, and it’s genuine play. If there’s ever a growl, a whine, or a hiss, it’s quickly sorted out and they go back to playing. My partner was nervous about this — the first time one of them hissed, he wanted to separate them again. I stopped him with the reassurance that this was not only okay, it was a positive development. They’re new playmates, and they need to discover each other’s boundaries and learn how to navigate them. The only way for them to do that is to communicate between themselves and interfering would only hamper the process. JJ needs to learn to play nicely, and Pye needs to learn how to play with someone so much tinier than he is. Sure enough, half a second later they were back to chasing each other.

He’s also tried to groom her, though he seemed to very quickly discover that ear drops taste awful. Nonetheless, he is a dutiful boy and persisted in cleaning this small, weird, somewhat gross child.

The cutest part is when he gets tired. He’ll lope away, go lay down somewhere, and trill at her to follow him. JJ, being a font of infinite chaos energy, does not do this. Instead, she watches him and decides that what she should actually be doing is chewing on his face.
He puts up with a lot.

A close-up of a pair of cats. A small gray kitten lays on her back, paws pushing on the fluffy cheeks of a much larger orange cat.
Like, a lot-lot.

It’s also really cute to see the ways that he accommodates her. He lays down to be at her level, rolls on his back, and bats at her slowly. He chases her into the closet, and, as soon as she emerges, he trills and goofily bounds away so she’ll chase him. Seeing the give and take between this 20 pound orange dumbass and this cheeseburger-sized stripΓ©d hellion is honestly really heartwarming.

Now, we just have to work on Kiko.

life, Uncategorized

Sharpies, Spicy Crab Crepes, and Gratitude.

It is Thanksgiving.

I am on the landing of my stairs, stomach full of spicy crab crepes, mind whirling from xylene fumes, drawing esoteric symbols on the walls and wondering if I am half an orphan or just going to be expected to front bail money in the near future.

I’ve never really been big on Thanksgiving. Aside from its history as a holiday, I mostly associate it with being screamed at, having my hair yanked into shapes it was never meant to have, and dressed in stiff, uncomfortable clothing so I could go all of twenty feet downstairs to eat green bean casserole in my grandparents’ living room. The food was good, don’t get me wrong, and I love my grandparents, but I could’ve done without the rest of it.

As a result, my partner and I don’t really sweat it much. We have no big plans — if I’m feeling ambitious, I might make a turkey breast, stuffing, cranberry sauce, baked potatoes, and the like. This year, we figured it made more sense to just make a bunch of whatever we had in the freezer.
Mashed potatoes? Sure!
Peas? Okay!
Chocolate chip cookies? You bet!
Taco pizza, a thing I suggested when I realized I didn’t have mozzarella and only had shredded “Mexican blend” and figured I could also top a hot pizza with fresh tomatoes, peppers, lettuce, and salsa? Absolutely!

In the end, we said, “screw it” and had crepes delivered. They were open, it was early in the day, and neither of us were feeling hungry or energetic enough to go through the motions of putting together a Thanksgiving dinner. We didn’t have a turkey anyway, so nothing about dinner was going to be traditional.
Besides, crepes filled with spinach, avocado, and spicy shredded crab sounded incredible.

I did do my other annual traditions: I made a donation to the Mashpee Wampanoag people, and I called my grandpa.

“You talk to your mom lately?” He asked.

“No. I don’t. I haven’t in ten years or so,” I replied. It’s a conversation we have every time we speak. I don’t think it’s that he forgets — he just hopes the answer will be different each time. It isn’t. It won’t be.

That’s when he told me something strange. Every year, he’d sent her a check. Even though she doesn’t ever talk to him, she always cashed them. Except for the last two.

That tugged on my memory. A few months ago, I’d gotten a message from a distant relation. They’d talked to her for a while, then she’d just dropped off the map. Did I happen to know if she was okay? I didn’t.

Still on the phone, I messaged my ex-boyfriend. He was still friends with her on social media, chiefly due to a combination of morbid curiosity and a love of cringe comedy. No, he explained, she went from regularly posting her usual weird shit to dead silence since last February.

“Maybe she died,” my grandpa replied.

“I don’t know. Jail’s probably more likely,” I figured. She had a well-earned reputation for getting loud and shove-y when she drank, including punching her adult son in the face one evening after a funeral and slapping both of us around when we were small. After decades of not being either arrested or punched back, I wouldn’t be surprised if the world had finally gotten around to making her experience some consequences.

I’d like to say that I was concerned. That it gave me something to think about. Really, my mind could only go one of three ways: 1) She’d passed away or ended up jailed somewhere, and it was sad that she’d ostracized so many people and wasn’t able to pull her head out of her ass before that. 2) She’d gone silent in the hope that the people still in her orbit would feed her ego by vocally and publicly worrying about her. Or 3), she just didn’t give enough of a damn about anyone asking after her to bother to tell them that she was still alive.

It did put me back in the Thanksgiving spirit, though. I’m thankful that I’m not there. I’m thankful that I don’t have to deal with this in any but the most indirect of fashions. I’m thankful that my partner and I, despite not coming from the healthiest dynamics, have chosen and worked on having a loving, supportive, functional relationship. I’m thankful that JJ has finished her round of antibiotics and is experiencing a little stray kitten glow-up. I’m thankful that there will be taco pizza tomorrow.

And then I climbed to the top of my stairs, busted out a magnum Sharpie, and drew on my wall.

Just for fun, life

“Get in, loser. We’re going shopping… For DEATH.”

The Dadlands.

A barren, scorched landscape populated solely by… dads. There are different tribes of dads, from the grill dads and their seared meats to the travel dads and their ability to leave early and make good time.

Sunday night, we heard their story.

The Dadlands is a one-page tabletop RPG, something like Dungeons & Dragons. Unlike Dungeons & Dragons, you don’t really have to have a character sheet, dice, or desire to be a part time volunteer accountant. No. Instead, you make your own dad and strap on a fanny pack with red and green tokens. Red ones represent chaos, like the chaos of setting off illegal fireworks or jury-rigging something with electrical tape. Green ones are order, like going the speed limit or setting an early bedtime.

Every action is decided by pulling a token at random, without looking. If you pull the correct corresponding token(s), the action is success-

Honestly, you can probably just read the rules right here.

Anyhow, we went to go see The Dadlands live one-off at the DAR Constitution Hall in DC. (It’s a lovely venue but get a ride there — trying to park would be a nightmare.) Brennan Lee Mulligan was the DM, while the McElroy brothers and dad were the Dads. I won’t give away the story here, but I will say that they introduced a mechanic that required the players to play cornhole, and it was the most suspense I think I’ve ever felt in my life.

(There was also a rousing chant of “CORNHOLE FOR YOUR SOUL” at one point.)

It got me thinking, too. I have access to a yard now. I have power tools. I could make a cornhole board.

I could print the Dadlands rules.

I could rustle up a handful of fanny packs and some tokens.

… I’m going to have a Dadlands party.

Cosplay would be optional, of course, but recommended.
It’s also pretty easy to Get the Look:

A pair of white New Balance sneakers, white athletic socks, a pink floral Hawaiian button-down shirt, a white tank top, a pair of khaki shorts, and a black fanny pack.

Refreshments would be barbecue and a variety of canned beverages. Crispy Stellas, Buds, Coke Classic, Liquid Death, the works.

Now I just need to figure out who in my social circle has a secret Dadliness in their heart. Gender doesn’t matter — it isn’t the Dad on the outside, it’s the Dad on the inside that counts. As Rory Powers once said,

You don’t need kids

To be a Dad

You don’t have to have a penis,

Or even be a man,

You just need Levi jeans

And to be a little drunk, yeah!

It’s a Dad Squad, it’s a Dad Squad!”

This Paranormal Life, episode #271: The Legend of Momo – The Monster that Terrorised Missouri

I’m gonna find a Dad Squad and make them play cornhole to survive a post-apocalyptic hellscape, and it’s going to be amazing.

life

JJ’s Bizarre Adventure.

My partner and I have been looking at getting a third cat.

This is partially due to the very particular ways in which Kiko and Pye can’t stand each other — he’s a gigantic, friendly doofus who is simultaneously desperate for Kiko’s approval, and incapable of understanding that she does not want to play with him. Kiko is intimidated by Pye’s size, and also obsessed with baby cats of any description. So, we figured a young cat would help by either being a buddy to Pye (or at least redirect some of his misplaced desperation for buddyship) or be a companion for Kiko. We figured a young cat would be best, because then they’d have an easier time fitting into Kiko and Pye’s profoundly weird dynamic.

I’d even done a few tarot readings on the subject. Everything seemed to look good from that end, though the cards warned me that it’d involve a flurry of activity and very rapidly-changing situations before a happy ending.

Our search started with DC’s humane association. They had (and still have!) a good selection of kittens right now, even though summer is generally considered the “height” of kitten season. We picked out one boy, a little orange and white tabby, and put in an application. Everything sounded good — he’s friendly, affectionate, playful, and unlikely to bogart Pye and Kiko’s shared braincell. Perfect!

His fosterer emailed us back promptly. She was happy to schedule an online meeting to talk about him, but, she warned us, he has a 50/50 chance of having megacolon. While not fatal, megacolon can be a somewhat difficult condition to manage. It often requires expensive prescription diets, or even surgery to remove the affected portions of the colon. No problem, we figured.

The meeting had to be rescheduled when the fosterer got sick. Communication fell by the wayside for a little bit. We thought he might be a “foster fail” — he sounded like such a sweet little guy, and his fosterer obviously wrote about him with great affection. We figured we’d wait a little longer before emailing again.

That’s when I got a message from my ex. We’re still on very good terms; we split up because he wanted to settle down and have kids, and I didn’t. He’s married a great lady and had two adorable children, and I’m living the lifestyle and pursuing the goals that I want, too. Most of our messages consist of shitposts, which is why I was kind of surprised when he said he’d found a kitten.

A tiny kitten. A sick, skinny kitten. Wandering the street.

“Are you going to keep it?” I asked.

“I can’t!” He replied. He’d adopted a second cat not long before — adding a third, sick cat would be too much. They were going to take her to their local human association.

“dogg i will legit drive up there and adopt this tiny cat,” I immediately typed back.

And that’s how my partner and I found ourselves driving for three hours round-trip to go pick up a tiny, sneezy laploaf.

A small gray tabby kitten sits on the lap of a person in gray jeans and a green hoodie. They are in the back seat of a car.

She’d wandered up to the family while they were outside, cold, wet, and meowing for food. Her eyes and nose ran with discharge, and her belly was round and swollen. Once they got her indoors, she was ravenous and exhausted.

Taking her home was an adventure. She sat on my lap, teething on my ring in between curious looks at my partner and me. It was a long trip for such a little nugget, but she handled it well. She watched the wet trees go by through the window, gazed wide-eyed at the taillights of cars disappearing down the highway, and kneaded my knees with her paws.

My ex’s son called her JJ, and they initially thought she was a he. We still call her JJ, though that’s been the jumping off point for a constellation of ludicrous nicknames. She has what are probably worms and an upper respiratory infection (and what will probably be an expensive vet visit this afternoon), but she’s friendly, playful, and very curious. She hates when you go in the bath without her, hurls herself into laps with wild abandon, snoozes happily in my arms, and is enraptured by YouTube cooking videos. I call her “JJ Jetplane,” because she purrs like the engine of a 747. We haven’t introduced her to the other cats yet, though they’ve had a few sniffs and glimpses of each other. We’ll see what the vet says about her (specifically, how contagious she is) and go from there.

She’s a sweet, precious baby, and she has already learned how to have me wrapped around her tiny black beans. She taps my leg to be picked up and cuddled and argues with me with the smallest meows — more like a nearly soundless “keh” than an actual meow. I’ve lit candles, petitioned gods, and crossed my fingers that everything goes well on Monday, but we’re going to do the absolute best we can for her no matter what.

Environment, life, Neodruidry, Plants and Herbs

Persimmon Foraging Quest

Hello! If you’ve been reading here for a while now, you may have come across the Persimmon Quest.

This is an annual quest my partner and I go on every autumn. We call around or visit grocery stores in order to find out who actually has persimmons (preferably the astringent kind, but non-astringent will also do). Then, we purchase and eat massive quantities of persimmons.

The first time I had one was when I still lived in California. It was a Fuyu persimmon (Diospyros kaki), crunchy and sweet, and I was sold. When I had my first perfectly ripe Hachiya, like a water balloon filled with sweet, flavorful jelly, I was smitten. When I realized that one of the trees planted here by one of the former occupants was probably a persimmon, I was ecstatic.

A Druidry group I belong to recently offered a small foraging expedition. One of our members is a biologist, and he’s kind and generous enough with his time to lead seasonal foraging walks. Last spring, we hunted for ramps. Now that it’s persimmon season, we went to track down some trees.

And oh, did we ever.

Three bags of soft, bright orange American persimmons, along with a sprig of coralberry and some dried mountain mint.

Several of them were already bare, picked over by wildlife and wind. Some were still laden with fruit that fell at the slightest touch. We picked only the ripest, squishiest ones, leaving the rest to soften in the sun and feed other things.

My partner and I came away with several pounds, which I cleaned and froze for future use. They’re very different from Japanese persimmons — we snacked on a few as we foraged, and it was striking just how much the flavor seemed to vary from tree to tree. American persimmons (Diospyros virginiana) are most similar to Hachiya-type Japanese persimmons, in that they’re very astringent before they’re ripe. When they look like they’re nearly rotten, they’re at their best.

Most of the ones I tasted were almost floral when compared to a Hachiya. Still very sweet and soft (with a slight astringent bite in a few places), but floral like lavender lemonade is floral. The comparatively large seeds got in the way a bit, but I’ve read some interesting recipes for roasting and grinding them to make a coffee substitute. As someone who doesn’t drink coffee, I’m intrigued! If I can get a foraged equivalent for Dandy Blend that isn’t dandelion root, I’ll be excited.

I haven’t yet decided what to do with the persimmons themselves. I might separate the seeds and pulp, then freeze the pulp again in an ice cube tray. I figure, if I want to add them to smoothies, sauces, or desserts, I can just thaw out some cubes of prepared persimmon mush fairly quickly and easily. I could even pop a cube or two in a jar for making persimmon kefir. (One member of the group was considering doing fruit leather but based on my experiences trying to make strawberry leather in the oven, I don’t think I want to tackle that without a dehydrator.)

There was a lot more to see than just persimmons, too. Dogbane (Apocynum cannabinum) with its stringy bark (good for stripping and braiding into twine). Horsenettle (Solanum carolinense) with its bright yellow, tomato-like, deceptively delicious-looking poisonous fruits. Fragrant tufts of mountain mint (PycnanthemumΒ muticum), gray and brittle with age. The most striking were the coralberries (Symphoricarpos orbiculatus), their tiny, bright magenta fruits standing in vibrant contrast to their bright green leaves.

I found these berries particularly intriguing. As it turns out, they’re a valuable native food plant for birds, grow in shade, can stabilize banks, don’t have any major pest or disease vulnerabilities, and thrive on neglect. I’m still looking for native/non-invasive plants to help feed the yard’s hard clay soil and reverse some of the damage from supporting a lawn, and coralberry fills a very important niche here. From what I have read, coralberries aren’t of much value as food for humans. That’s okay, though. Not everything in the yard has to — or should — be for me to eat.

Plus they are so pretty.

I’m considering growing some mountain mint, too. Like other mints, they can take over a yard. Since they’re a native plant, I think it’ll be easier to keep them at a reasonable level than, say, the old peppermint that’s slowly eating part of the back yard. Interestingly, it’s closer to bee balm (monarda) than it is to peppermint, and there’s a faint bee balm-ness to its scent that gives that away. Mountain mint also attracts an incredible variety of native pollinators and predatory wasps, and is both edible and medicinal. Medicinally, it’s treated almost as a panacea — it’s considered a digestive, carminative, emmenagogue, expectorant, and more, though I haven’t thoroughly researched the active constituents myself yet. If it can serve as a home-grown, native substitute for peppermint tea, I’ll be all for it. The flavor does lead me to think that it’d be great for seasoning poultry or wild game, and I’m eager to try.

That’s what I love about foraging trips. Not only do I come away with tasty food, but I also get a better idea of ways to try to heal the land I’m now responsible for. Seeing a wide variety of native plants shows me what this patch of grass could be and tells me how I can help it get there. I’m excited!

life, Neodruidry, Plants and Herbs

So I says to the maple tree, I says…

A big part of permaculture is observation.

You don’t just test your soil, see where the sun hits, then plant a bunch of things. It’s a slow progression during which you watch the land to see what grows where, how it thrives, and who visits it. You let the dirt tell you what it wants and meet it in the middle, so everyone gets to eat and thrive.

I figured one way to help this process would be to just… well, ask. I took myself, an offering, and some incense, and climbed up the hill to the big red maple in the back yard. There’s a perfectly butt-shaped arrangement of some of its roots near its base, so I settled myself in, rested my back against the trunk, and let myself kind of fall into it.

It’s a process that’s hard to describe — if pressed, I’d say I “breathe” along with the tree. This is probably a bit hard to conceptualize since trees don’t breathe the way we do, but gentle breathing and just feeling things out for a while seems to put me into a very comfortable looping sensation. I feel the water moving up the xylem, sap flowing through the phloem, waste moving back down to excrete into the soil through the roots. I feel a sympathetic flow from my feet to my head, then back down and into the soil. Sometimes, this is just a way to relax and get out of my own head (and into a consciousness that’s very alien to my own). Sometimes, it’s a helpful way to get information.

In this case, I got a lot of messages about water.

I wasn’t really surprised — red maples have shallow, spreading root systems and produce “dry shade” under their canopies. The soil here is heavy clay, and there’s a fairly steep hill. There’s also a ton of non-native grass and not much biodiversity. The angle, hard, slick soil, a tree that blocks rainfall to the ground, and thirsty, high-maintenance grass made the water messages make sense. It doesn’t look like a desert, but it’s a place that just feels subtly thirsty.

I left the experience resolved to put in more ways to catch rainwater — barrels, a stock tank, something. I wasn’t sure what else to do. What else could this water-hunger mean?

Flash forward to Pagan Pride Day. At one point, I sat for a tarot reading. It was full of “wild hares” — cards that seem to leap from the deck unbidden, as if demanding to be part of the reading, without anyone having to draw them. The resulting message was one of herbs, plants, and a figure that would help me realize my vision.

“Neato,” I figured, and didn’t think much of it.

Flash forward a bit further. My partner and I are at a hardware store to return a defective trowel and buy more mulch with which to murder the front yard. While he gets it, I browse the shrubs outside. There’s a triangular gap between the house, porch, potted rose bush, and rue plant that I’d like to fill with something tall and fairly thin. A voice asks me how I’m doing, and if I need help with anything. I look up to see an older man in a purple shirt. He’s the plant supplier for the stores in this area, he says. We end up having a long conversation about plants, soil, pH, sunlight, tattoos, and taxes. He tells me that the heavy clay is trouble. Without organic matter, it’s too compact for roots to penetrate and doesn’t absorb water well.

What I need, he says, is leaf compost.

And there it was again. The way to get more water isn’t just to trap it, it’s to undo years of raked leaves and monoculture. Layers of compost (good thing I have a big tumbler), paper, yard waste, and shredded wood. Part of the reason the red maple’s roots jut up through the grass is because the clay makes it difficult to exist otherwise. There’s no softness, no air space, no absorbency, no acid.

We’re layering rotted leaves and shredded wood over the clay now. Sprinkling it with mushroom spores and seeds that will sleep in the cold until spring. Eventually, we’ll get there.

Environment, life

In which the squirrels pay their tab.

So, remember how I accidentally got a bunch of squirrels hammered a bit ago?

They paid their tab.

Like I mentioned in that previous post, permaculture requires a lot of fallow time, at least initially. There are a few things I could plant, but otherwise it’s mostly observing, identifying what’s already there, and tending to the raised beds in the front yard. In this process, I’ve decided on a few plants that I think will do very well.

So, imagine my surprise when I went out and noticed a bunch of seedlings of these same plants, newly growing adjacent to the squirrel kegger.

A squirrel peers down from a branch.

Seriously. My delinquents planted tomatoes (so many tomatoes), beans, and a whole host of other plants I’m excited about. It’s late in the season, so I don’t know how well they’re going to do right now, but still. I’m basically feeling like the hillbilly trash Snow White of gardening right now.

It was slightly annoying to have a band of rowdy rodents making and chugging bathtub squirrel gin in my platform feeders, but I’m not even mad.
Well done, my dudes.

(I’m still not buying you more cranberries, though.)

life, Neodruidry

Letting my mind and spirit free.

I’m writing the after a soak in loads of epsom salt. My muscles are sore and tired, but the kind of “vacation” sore and tired you get from a day of activities you’ve long looked forward to.

Can I tell you how much I love Pagan Pride Day? In the past, it was just nice to go to a place where I felt less isolated. This year, my partner and I were able to go, hang out, and just enjoy the company of good people from the Druid group I’m involved in.

We sat under the spread of an oak tree that occasionally dropped a gentle rain of acorns on us when the wind blew right, eating fruit, shaved ice, and very good Filipino food (provided by Rollz On Wheelz). There was music and dancing, and friends and acquaintances who passed by, stopped for a chat or an introduction, then drifted back into the crowd. My partner and I walked by all of the vendors, secretly pointing out what we’d bring home that afternoon and what we’d hope to see next year.

I picked up handmade soap, Florida water, supplies for offerings, a beautiful devotional bracelet to my patron deity, and a horseshoe for the front door. I also obtained a large, crocheted axolotl, and the seller and I laughed about his adorably wonky eye — as it turns out, we’re both people who gravitate toward things that are slightly off. Not always things in need of repair, but things that are a little out of the norm and likely to get overlooked. He was the last one of his kind, and I knew that leaving him behind was going to eat at me. He’s also made of very, very soft chenille, is delightful to hug, and I apologize to no one for my strange sympathies for inanimate objects.

Admittedly, the event had a strange kind of melancholy for me, too. I was talking to two people about the generational differences between witches and Pagans, open and closed practices, gatekeeping, “Witchtok,” and the seemingly shrinking role of elders in the ever-expanding online community. The internet has provided more interaction and connectivity than ever seen in history, but at a cost — the wisdom of experienced people is easily drowned out by teachings that can be inaccurate at best, and dangerous at worst.

I say it was melancholy for two reasons: For one, I feel a pain in my heart for people looking for a place for themselves. I was one for a long time. I was happy with an eclectic practice, but opportunities to learn from experienced practitioners were few and far between. I kludged together what scraps of information I could get but becoming part of a more organized tradition gave me something that eclecticism and patchwork internet teachings didn’t. This won’t be the case for everybody, but damn do I wish that people had access and opportunities that would let them discover and decide for themselves rather than feeling like their only options are books and social media. I know I would’ve loved to have had that opportunity years ago, even if I might’ve turned it down at the time. At the very least, I wish I had been free to make that choice for myself when I was young.

For two, I feel melancholy because it was a bit of a memento mori. Every day brings me closer to being an elder, or a spiritual ancestor. The idea of mortality isn’t really what bothers me — I more than made peace with that a long time ago — but the feeling of ever-plodding obsolescence is. It’s like a sense of loss for something that isn’t gone yet. I don’t really know how to describe it.

So I guess all of this is to say that I love feeling like I’m in a place I belong. It reminds me of the warm, vibrant, thrumming dance of life, with all of its sweetness and bitterness and joy and sorrow and love and loss. I love the drums and the hum of insects. I love the smells of incense and late summer wind through oak leaves. I love the candy sweetness of syrupy ices and the coolness of Florida water on my temples. I love the warmth of tree-dappled sunlight and the smooth coolness of polished bone.

Arright, I’m gonna go before I get more emotional. I need to get the cabbage butterflies off my broccoli anyhow.

Here ’til the lettuce peeks to see the salad dressing,

j.