Just for fun, life

“They call it a ‘divorce boat.'”

At which point I began to doubt that this was necessarily the wisest way for my spouse and I to learn kayaking.

It’s something we’ve always wanted to do but hadn’t really found a way. We checked out kayaking classes and ran up against some teachers who felt that learning to kayak was a major lifestyle decision — nay, a calling — and we would need to approach it with the same solemnity and devotion one might expect from novice monks.
So, we kind of shelved that idea for a while.

Then we had the chance to go on a kayaking dealy with our Druidry group. Score! All we’d have to do is rent a kayak and some life jackets, and we could figure it out, right?

Since we were both going, we could just get a tandem kayak. My spouse has more upper body endurance than I do right now, so he could do the majority of the paddling with me as backup. It’d be easier and safer than taking individual kayaks, where something could happen that’d conceivably result in one of us needing a tow anyway. Easy peasy!

Tandem kayaks are known as “divorce boats” because, as it turns out, paddling a kayak with two people is only slightly more difficult than herding cats or folding origami dragons using nothing but your forehead. If your paddling isn’t in unison, then things get weird. You might hit each other’s paddles, or spin in a circle, or distribute your weight wrong and flip over.

(Speaking of which, did you know that kayaks can be carried on your head?

It’s true! A kayak might seem way too big at first glance, but, once you flip it over and put it on your head, it’s capsized! ᕕ(ᐛ)ᕗ )

Fortunately, our partnership survived the Ordeal of the Tandem Kayak, and nobody even almost drowned. He sat in front, so I just kind of let him set the rhythm, helped with turns, and took over when he needed to rest for a bit. It was way easier and less nerve-wracking than I expected it to be, and we were both honestly impressed that we not only didn’t get dumped in the water, but actually managed to paddle for several miles along the Anacostia River.

A long section of river flows between stands of trees and lotus leaves.

The Anacostia has a bad rap. In the past, this wasn’t entirely undeserved. For a long time, it was used as pretty much DC’s trash dump — to the point where parts of it are still lined with the remnants of “malaria walls.” These were retaining walls designed to help cut down on some of the garbage and assorted filth that ended up in the river, which created stagnant areas that turned into malarial mosquito breeding grounds. While this was once (sadly) helpful, it’s even more helpful to not dump things in the water in the first place. The river itself is much better than it used to be, and there are ongoing efforts to protect and improve it.

A low stone retaining wall sits partially submerged in a river. Tall trees and low-growing shrubs fill the space behind it.

For our part, we all had grabby tools for picking up any bits of floating trash that we passed by, and mesh laundry bags for holding on to it until we could reach a trash can. (As it turns out, they’re pretty much perfect for towing along behind a boat when you don’t want to have to keep muddy water bottles and waterlogged grocery bags in your lap.) Since neither of us was solely responsible for paddling, it made it easier to grab the occasional piece of litter. It’s like the watery equivalent of plogging.

We paused for a bit near clusters upon clusters of lotuses. They aren’t in bloom right now, but the lush greenery, blue sky, songs of the red winged blackbirds, deep twang of frog calls, and the scent of catalpa flowers were still beautiful. We said a short prayer in reverence and gratitude, pausing to take it all in as we bobbed gently on the slow, easy current.

If I had to give one piece of advice here, it’d be to not just put sunscreen on your face, arms, and shins, decide that’s good enough, and let your upper thighs get burned to the color and consistency of glazed ham. I don’t even burn easily, but the sun, lack of shade, and light reflected off of the water was way more brutal than I’d anticipated. Sun hats and cool, long clothing is a must. I went with a broad-brimmed hat, a bright, long-sleeved two-piece bathing suit, a pair of jorts, and some hiking sandals. With the exception of the jorts, this worked out pretty well.

Seriously. It’s only on my upper thighs.
I have Neapolitan legs.
It’s ridiculous, and now every time I wear pants it feels like I’m rolling in ground glass.
The aloe plants in my kitchen aren’t super happy about the situation, either.

Also, wear bright oranges, yellows, and hot pink. The color of your swimsuit/clothing can make a huge difference if you end up in the water and need to be saved. You might be surprised at just how many colors seem to blend in and disappear under water, especially natural bodies of water.

All in all, the experience was 10/10. (I won’t even deduct a point for sunburn, because that was my own dumbass fault.) The only near accident came when I noticed a small stowaway on my hat, and we tried to navigate near an overhanging branch to let them go safely. A boat passed by, and the wake made things get weird for a moment.

(This stowaway was a spider. If you have arachnophobia, you should maybe stop scrolling now.)

(It’s kind of a small spider, though. The picture makes it look a lot bigger than it really was.)

(Also this is not a back widow or brown recluse, so it probably isn’t bitey. Even if it is, it is probably super not a big deal.)

A small orangish spider on the brim of a black wool sun hat.

I’m excited to go again. I had a ton of fun, and I know how to do even better next time. Our group also had long stretches of the river pretty much to ourselves, too, so it was honestly a pretty beautiful and profound experience.

Link round up

Good News Round Up: 6.17.2022

Hello! Have you ever wondered what your dog’s thinking? As it turns out, scientists might have an answer for you — sort of. This is a collection of posts and articles that I thought were interesting, funny, or just made me feel a little better about the state of things. I hope they can do the same for you.

A Glimpse Into the Dog’s Mind: A New Study Reveals How Dogs Think of Their Toys. Apparently, dogs have a “multi-modal mental image” when it comes to their favorite playthings. That means that they most likely focus on what is, to them, an object’s most significant sensory features — like its smell. Scientists discovered this by having dogs search for their toys under varying conditions, and observing which senses they seemed to rely on the most for specific objects.

Plants Appear to Be Breaking Biochemistry Rules by Making ‘Secret Decisions.’ As it turns out, plants make decisions about their respiration in ways that we didn’t anticipate. They can actually choose how much carbon they release, by deciding how much they retain for building more biomass. This all happens via a molecule called pyruvate. Most interestingly, plants can actually track what sources their pyruvate comes from, and factor that into their decision making process.

This DIYer Made the Coolest Boho Bookends for Only $1.75 , and They Look Straight Out of a CB2 Catalog. Are you into biophilic design? This is a design philosophy that uses natural materials, like wood and stone, which have beneficial impacts on our mental well-being. This super cheap, easy DIY uses a scrap of travertine limestone, and there’s no perfectionism allowed — the perfectly imperfect, organic shape of the material is part of the appeal.

Binding and Burying the Forces of Evil: The Defensive Use of “Voodoo Dolls” in Ancient Greece. The popular image of the “Voodoo doll” has little to do with the practice of Voodoo. The classic image of a human-shaped object that you stick pins in to cause harm is much closer to the concept of the poppet, a vehicle for sympathetic magic. This paper discusses the use of effigies as a means of binding and suppressing evil in ancient Greece, as well as similar binding rituals in Egypt and Assyria. It’s a long read, but an interesting one.

Researchers identify the origins of the Black Death. We all know that the bubonic plague came from fleas that carried Yersinia pestis, but how did the fleas get it to begin with? One popular theory held that it came from wild rodents in East Asia, but archaeological evidence and ancient plague genomes tell a different story.

Project: SigilPen. I often have to explain that Neodruidry is my religion, but witchcraft is a method. I use modern Druid magic, and I use witchcraft, though the two are very different. Either way, I love magical alphabets, sigils, and the concept of language and symbols as a form of magic on their own. SigilPen is a way of creating neat, accurate sigils using a magic square (kamea).

A lot of online sources for sigil magic fall into the trap of using a single magical square — usually the Square of Saturn — rather than choosing the kamea that’s aligned with what you’re actually trying to do. SigilPen allows you to choose whatever square you want to work with, and helps you translate your word, phrase, or name into a sigil. The site has several other very interesting tools for modern magic, aside from the SigilPen.

Pretend I folded this up and passed it to you under a desk.
– j.

Link round up

Good News Round Up: 6.3.2022

Hello! I was going to make a post yesterday, but was forced to take a brief hiatus. Apparently racoons and possums can just show up and dig through people’s trash, but when I do it, it’s “trespassing” and I “need to put some pants on.” Ridiculous.

Anyhow, here is a small round up of news and articles I found interesting or inspiring, or just made me feel good:

“Great Day” For Bumblebees As Californian Court Rules That They Are Fish. Due to the oddities of legal language, California’s laws regarding the protection of threatened and endangered species don’t include insects. However, the definition of “fish” is worded in a way that could allow bumblebees to qualify, granting them legal protection.

Painting the Porch ‘Haint Blue’ Is a Great Way to Deter Wasps. Want to deter other sting-y bugs without harming bees? The answer may lie in a color called “Haint Blue.” Originally, the Gullah people used this color to deter ghosts and malevolent spirits from trying to enter the home, hence the name “haint” (“haunt”). As it turns out, it can confuse wasps too.

Scientists Discovered The World’s Largest Known Plant, And It’s Over 100 Miles Long. Seagrasses are one of those plants that can reproduce via rhizomes — by sending out specialized stems through their substrate that allow new leaves to emerge. These are all effectively clones of the parent plant. Recently, scientists discovered an absolute unit of a seagrass. While DNA testing individuals in a large deep-sea meadow, they made a surprising discovery: It was all the same plant!

Paper Constructions Confine Skeletons to Uncanny Spaces in Jason Limon’s Paintings. “The uncanny structures trap his recurring skeletal characters in cramped boxes and funhouse-esque constructions, where they attempt to disentangle themselves from their surroundings. Rendered in muted pigments, or what the artist calls “repressed tones,” the paintings utilize the anonymity and ubiquity of the bony figures to invoke emotional narratives.”

How to Paint a Dresser So You Don’t End Up With a Sticky, Streaky Finish. If you’re living a low-waste, “buy it once” lifestyle, it helps to know how to refurbish things. This guide can help you repaint furniture so it lasts.

Geologists plan to crack open ancient crystal that may contain life. This is fascinating, but I’m also pretty sure I’ve seen this horror movie.

2,100-year-old farmstead in Israel found ‘frozen in time’ after owners disappeared. Whoever lived there left in a hurry — researchers found still-intact storage jars, a weaving loom, and more!

Research Does Not Support the Adage “Boys Will Be Boys.” As it turns out, children who exhibit stereotypically gendered behavior in one category are not more likely to do so in other categories.

3 Tips To Release Stuck Emotions, From A Therapist & Trauma Specialist. I have trouble with stuck feelings converting to physical symptoms — like tightness in my upper back. If you’re like me, these tips can help release those emotions.

Rebelious Princess – Ana de Mendoza y de la Cerda, Princess of Éboli. While I was searching for medieval and Renaissance portraits to see what might have inspired the Isabellas, I came across the story of Princess Ana. She lost an eye, perhaps to a fencing accident, was widowed at a young age, had an affair with a king, entered a convent, decided it sucked, left the convent, was caught up in political intrigue, and eventually placed under house arrest — where she apologized for nothing, and, let’s be real, probably died with both middle fingers upraised. I love her.

329 years later, last Salem ‘witch’ is pardoned. A curious group of middle schoolers had taken up the cause of Elizabeth Johnson Jr., who had no descendants to clear her name. While Johnson wasn’t executed, neither was she pardoned — until now.

DC Spring Animal Sightings, Ranked From Worst to Wildest. DC might be a city, but some of the wildlife here is… well, wild. Here are the spring animal sightings, including a rabid fox with an appetite for congressmen, savage turkeys, an Assateague pony who was just being a bit of a dick, and a hungry bear in Silver Spring.

Have a good weekend!
This is an order.


Warren and his Harding.

After years of listening and watching live streams, my partner and I finally got the chance to see one of The Dollop‘s live shows. (If you’re not familiar, The Dollop is an American history podcast by Dave Anthony and Gareth Reynolds.) Not only does it go into all of the stuff history class just kind of ignores or glosses over, it’s funny as hell.

“But,” you might be asking, “What does this have to do with witchcraft or Druidry?” Historically, Druids were top-level advisors, doctors, and military strategists to leaders, and most leaders are, as it turns out, so staggeringly, bafflingly weird and incompetent that the fact that they manage to leave the house each day without accidentally choking on their own pants beggars belief. It also helps to see the origins of the absolutely bonkers way that the US deals with minorities, religion, minority religions, human rights, and conservation.

Last Saturday, we got to learn some… things about former President Warren G. Harding.
Especially about his best friend, “Jerry.”

His dick.
Harding named his dick.
He named it Jerry.
I’m not even going to get into who/what “Mrs. Pouterson” was.

Apparently, Wa-wa-warren Harding, Ohio’s Greatest Fuck Machine, wasn’t just a sex addict. He was also addicted to writing letters about sex. Often on official letterheads. Prolifically.
It should be unsurprising how many scandals this nearly led to. Harding ended up having to pay secret child support not only to a woman less than half his age (who he started grooming when she was a teenager), but also hush money to the friend of his wife (and wife of his friend) who threatened to expose all of the James Joyce-level pervert letters Harding had sent her over the years. All 1,000 pages of them.

By the way, Harding was married the whole time. His wife, Florence, suffered greatly from kidney trouble, has historically been described as “severe” and “dour” (read: firm and competent), and was arguably the only influence in Harding’s life that let him be a halfway functioning human being.

She also regularly found out about her husband’s indiscretions. Like when he was getting his bone on in an anteroom/cloakroom of the oval office, and had a member of the secret service stand at one entrance. This was so he could knock if Harding’s wife showed up. Harding could then tuck Jerry away in his pants and dash out of the other door, and pretend he’d actually been Presidenting the whole time. No word on what Harding’s sex partner was supposed to do, other than hide among the coats.

I could go on, but I honestly would like to stop thinking about Warren Harding’s junk and never have to remember it again. You should probably just listen to The Dollop. It’s educational, it’s funny, and it shows that even if history doesn’t always repeat itself, it absolutely rhymes.