Dec 6, 2015

Trees, Trails, and Chickadees

The hills have been calling me for two weeks now, but the days have been frigid and icy and the wind wicked - not the kind of weather suitable for much except blankets and books. This week, a warm front moved in and melted the small amount of snow on the valley floor, leaving puddles for happy ducks and revealing green grass, and late autumn seeds for the profusion of quail picking through the yard. I gathered my wildcrafting friends, wise women who know the land and its stories, who hear it speak to them, just as I do, and we went up into the trees and the great rock bluffs to wander for a while.


The snow fell in tiny wisps of almost-flakes while we spread out and followed the trails that called to us. I became enthralled with a grove infested with what seemed like hundreds of chickadees. Their calls, excited peeps, and pecks and scratches on the tall pine and fir were a symphony, and their jumping and flittering from tree to tree, a ballet. You may have your Nutcracker, but I'll keep the wild chickadee troops, who eat massive amounts of food each winter's day and then induce hypothermia each night in order to stay alive through the long, cold months ahead.

There were other paths to follow. High mountain juniper called out to me, and I now have some infusing in oil for an after bath treat for my cold-weary skin. I stopped for a while and listened to the wind as it whispered through the old, sky-high pines. I traced deer tracks for a time, winding back and forth through the trees. I wanted so much to follow the coyote too, to see where it had gone roving, but my friends called out to me from a gorgeous bluff over the hill, and I left that trail of paws for another day.

We found several small trees that someone had cut and left where they fell. Why such waste, there's no way of knowing, but we allowed ourselves to scavenge the boughs of the fir and pine lying there to bedeck our own homes for the season. The drive home, in a vehicle stuffed to the roof with evergreens, was divine.

There was soup to be had at the end of our exploration, hearty warmth handmade by someone who knows her way around bones and herbs. As the cold faded from our own bones, we spoke of transformation, discovering the depths of ourselves, and finding where we belong - even if that is in more than one place and even if that knowing makes us ache.

There is a wolf in me . . . fangs pointed for tearing gashes . . . a red tongue for raw meat . . . and the hot lapping of blood—I keep this wolf because the wilderness gave it to me and the wilderness will not let it go. 
There is a fox in me . . . a silver-gray fox . . . I sniff and guess . . . I pick things out of the wind and air . . . I nose in the dark night and take sleepers and eat them and hide the feathers . . . I circle and loop and double-cross.
Excerpt from "Wilderness" ~ Carl Sandburg

Last night, after crushing a bit of juniper in my hands and bringing it to my cold nose, again and again, I finally drifted off to sleep and went back to that path of paw prints in the snow. I don't know if I ever found the canid that left them, but I woke feeling like I had been wandering all night in the cold.

Tonight there are candles lit, and extra blankets at the ready (as there will be for all the long nights to come) and I can't help but think about the chickadees gathering in their hollowed trees and any other shelter they can find, intentionally dropping their body temperature, transforming their food stores from the day into fuel to keep their body shivering until the dawn.

I don't know that I will mind if my dreams lead me back to the wintry forest. I might follow the trail of paws again, or perhaps I might learn something from those tenacious birds who embrace the cold, and find a way to evolve to suit it. Maybe they can teach me about going deeper, to the very edge of life, only to wake in the morning and begin the adventure again.




Assorted wintry bits:

~ The stars are falling again - the Geminids will put on a show for you on December 13-14th if you feel like looking to the sky. Great info here.

~ My delightful, if grumpy about the winter holidays, friend Hob from The Orphans's Almanac is now into his Nights of Krampus giveaways. You only have 24 hours to get in on each night's fun, so make sure you stop by his blog daily over the coming week to check out the wonderful and wicked goings on!

~ If you want to know much, much more about animals and working with them in a meaningful way as a spiritual practice, then do check out Sara Magnuson's class Animalia. Sara is wise, and passionate about her work with animals/animal spirits and this looks to be a fantastic course.

Nov 16, 2015

Skyfall


All through the night, your glorious eyes 
Were gazing down in mine,
And with a full heart's thankful sighs,
I blessed that watch divine
***
Why did the morning dawn to break
So great, so pure a spell;
And scorch with fire the tranquil cheek,
Where your cool radiance fell?
***
Oh stars, and dreams, and gentle night;
Oh night and stars, return!
And hide me from the hostile light
That does not warm, but burn;

~ excerpts of "Stars" by Emily Bronte


The sky fell today, and it was a stunning show. When I went to sleep last night, with a smile on my lips, the stars were with me. But shortly after I woke, they all began to fall.

I surprised myself with the intensity of my sorrow. A human can make all sorts of noises, but the sounds we make during sex and grief are to me, the most profound. Laughter is delicious - very little tops it - but there is such depth in a scream. As the heavens crashed down around me, I had almost no words (which for me, is terribly rare). I managed to slip a few out, each one so much less than I wanted to say, but I can't even be sure that they were heard. Instead my voice was reserved for the most beautiful keening sounds. I have never been able to sing a note, but gods I could be a banshee without trying.

I have, in the past few years, begun to marvel daily at life. I seek joy, and I find it nearly everywhere. But life isn't all joy. It is the neighbour-friend who is lingering in an in-between state, somehow still holding on even though she is riddled with cancer. It is the niece who stepped in with both feet to the kind of muck you can't save her from. It is people going out to a concert in Paris, and never coming home again.

That we keep attempting to walk, or drag ourselves along, under a firmament that is collapsing around us, is how we shape our worlds. It's not so easy to just dust yourself off and keep going. We bring our wounds with us. Our heartbreak. Our scars. They can be a heavy weight. But for me, there is no other choice than to keep crawling forward. Fortunately I have friends that don't ask questions, but simply turn up the Fleetwood Mac and pour half a bottle of red wine in a glass for me. They sit me down, and tell me it will all be alright, even though they know I don't believe them, and they tell me ridiculous stories until I am laughing through my tears. I have wise friends, and friends who are great seers, who believe in me, even when I have no faith in myself.

The moon still hangs in the sky tonight and that's something, I suppose. I am not afraid of all those falling stars. There is some strange beauty in their collision - the kind that makes you ache. I still have hope, although what that is good for, I can't be sure. More than hope, more than even the thought of the coming spring and the new life that might overtake the wildfire-scorched parts of me, I have love. There is a wild, fathomless love in me that seems to rise up, even when I feel like I'm drowning. That is what I hold on to - even when it hurts - all of that foolish love.

I hope you and yours are safe and warm tonight. I hope your friends treat you half as well as mine treat me. I hope you find love, have love, remember love. Find something to hold on to. The sky may not be finished falling yet, but keep your eyes on the moon and don't stop moving, breathing, loving. Don't stop.



Two small notes:

- There is, in fact, a falling star situation happening in the heavens, if you are interested. The Leonids will peak on November 17th and 18th for your viewing pleasure. Read more here.

- I would like to ask, so kindly, that if you feel you would like to leave a comment on this post, please don't send condolences. I don't know that I particularly deserve them, and that is not why I offered this up today. I know that not everyone has a group of friends like mine, or is able to find some soul-deep love to tap into to keep going. I would be so much more grateful for any sharing you might want to do in regards to how you find your way through those times when the sky falls. Thank you for understanding.


*Photographs are courtesy of creative commons and linked back to source

Oct 31, 2015

The Great October Book Giveaway - Divination

The folks taking home the card decks are:

The Green Witch Tarot - Chad

The Earthbound Oracle - Hexe

The Fantod Pack - Rob Phoenix

Thanks again, wonderful folks, for playing along all October. I'm missing that magical month already!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 The It has somehow all come down to this - the last day of October, and the last bit of frivolity here in this month of giveaways. I have had several people ask me why I do this - why I gather books and oddities throughout the year from authors I meet or enjoy, or find something I fancy and buy an extra one for a stranger. It pleases me. It's as simple as that, really.

This blog has been a safe place for my thoughts and my heart for some time now (even during a year like this one when I only get by once or twice a month to post something). Picking up these books (and this year in particular, some extra fun items) is my way of keeping the people who stop by here in my thoughts all year long. It's a bit like a never-ending game of trick or treat for me.

It is also important to mention that it couldn't be done - not at the number of giveaways of this year and last - without the generosity of various authors, publishers, and friends. Some of the lovely people I have featured have gifted me either free books or a reduced rate on purchasing directly from them. I have had folks offer to ship their work to the winners directly, so I didn't have the extra postage fees, and my wonderful friend Aidan Wachter donated an extraordinary gift of his talent.

What you may not know is that I work what essentially amounts to two jobs in October - this year even more than previous years, and I am long hours at the office, while still trying to put my gardens to bed and find some small pleasures in this treasured month. I couldn't run this yearly party without the kind folks who help with these giveaways and those who share these posts on social media and beyond. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Now for the last three giveaways - which are not books, but a bit of divinatory fun I picked up for you.

First up, The Green Witch Tarot from Ann Moura:


I don't own this deck, so can't speak for it, but I have heard whispers that it is quite charming. It is a new release - it has only been out two months, I believe - and is packaged nicely in a set, a book accompanying the cards.


This next oracle deck, I own and love. It comes with cards only, no little white book, but the images are luscious and I have not once thought a book would improve the insight I gain while reading with it. I use this for reading for myself only - it feels very private and special.

The Earthbound Oracle, from A. L. Swartz: (click through to her shop page to view these gorgeous cards - I don't feel comfortable swiping the photos of her artwork and posting them here).



The last deck is for those of you who can appreciate a spectral hippopotamus, or an epileptic bicycle. Edward Gorey's dark, delightful, and strange "Fantod Pack" tarot deck is not quite a tarot deck at all. But then, in Gorey's world, nothing is ever quite what it seems. When I saw this perfect oddity, I grabbed one for a friend and one for you, and then upon seeing them sit on my bookshelf over the last couple months, I gave in and ordered one for myself. You can never have too many delightfully odd things in your life.

There is a great article about this deck here, and many more pictures of the cards.


If you would like to have one of these three decks show up in your trick-or-treat bag, leave a comment below. You may tell me which deck you would prefer, and if possible I will match winners to their choices.

We have a busy weekend ahead of us - some of you are already drifting out into this Halloween night, in search of mischief or candy - so I will leave this last giveaway open until Tuesday, November 3rd at 6pm Pacific.

Thank you again for playing along with me all month!


You can find the rules and legal bits here.

All photos are copyright their respective authors/creators and linked back. They are used only to showcase the items to be given away.

Oct 29, 2015

The Great October Book Giveaway - Byron Ballard

Byron's books are going home with:

KellyM and Sam Saye - congratulations!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


When I read our next author's first book "Staubs and Ditchwater: A Friendly and Useful Introduction to Hillfolks' Hoodoo" I felt like I was sitting around a table with my grandmother and aunts, a large pot of tea making the rounds, while they talked about the business of keeping house, and keeping other folks noses out of your business. My grandmother was not from the Appalachians however, she was a British import who could grow spectacular roses with little effort, brew a pot of tea that would fix anything from a headache to heartbreak, and use a potato to dislodge the stinger of a bee that was stuck in your foot. She had a small witch on a broom hanging in her little yellow kitchen, and gods help you if you lifted a lid on one of her pots while they were bubbling on the stove (she knew if you did too - whether she was in the room or not).

Byron Ballard writes in such a way that makes me miss my grandmother with even more than the usual ache. She reminds me of a time when women were in command of their kitchens and gardens and every item had several purposes. A time when the person who kept the home, kept it peaceful and safe with whatever skill and items they had on hand. That time does not have to be "back then" - it can be now, with a little know-how.

Byron has generously offered up two signed copies of her new book "Asfidity & Mad-Stones: A Further Ramble Through Hillfolks' Hoodoo"


I had the pleasure of taking a sneak peak at this book and it is a treat!

"Grab your work-basket and a good, sharp blade, and come along in to the back lots, the meadows, the hills. Byron shows us the folkways of her beloved Appalachian homeland, and shares practical wisdom and workings that she has learned and adapted over a lifetime of practice.

Ms. Ballard tells of ancestors and ghosts, folk-sayings and omens. She offers up a list of herbal helpers, discusses fundamental needs, and shares all manner of works - from blessings to banes. All while weaving an enchanting picture of the land and the spirit of place that holds her heart. 

This is good, get-dirt-under-your-nails craft. By the time you are finished reading this charming book, you should have an impressive toolkit of local plants, dirt, stones, and waters, and a bit of a sore back. 

Dig in deep to this gem, and be sure to carry a buckeye in your pocket, encourage plantain in your yard, mind your dishwater, and pay attention to the moon."


There are two copies of Asfidity & Mad-Stones up for grabs. I seem to be running out of October, so you will only have until Friday at 11pm Pacific to leave a comment here. I will be out in a haunted cornfield that evening, so I'll draw the names when I stumble home, cold and scared silly.

Here are the rules and legal bits.

Photographs copyright Byron Ballard. Quoted text my own.

Oct 24, 2015

The Great October Book Giveaway - Sarah Anne Lawless

Wow - you all love you some Sarah Anne Lawless! Do swing by her shop and blog, she has a new look happening over there and some lovely new products in the works!

The issue of Clavicula Nox is going home with Magaly Guerrero.

The flying ointment will be whisking off to Jen Lawrence.

Swing by tomorrow when more magical books appear!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~



I am a bit late posting this next giveaway today, because I spent a good portion of the late morning and early afternoon up in the hills, wandering through the now naked birch and tamarack trees, across drifts of yellow needles and leaves, and through pine and fir forests that made me swoon.  I know that our next author/artist would approve of how I spent that portion of my day, so I am not too worried that I am finally sitting down to post the next giveaway for your wicked October pleasure.

Sarah Anne Lawless is an author, artist, folk herbalist and witch, who spends her days creating with plant, bone, ink, and whatever she can get her magical hands on. In between chasing around her delightful pixie of a son, she is a wildcrafter, a poison-plant maven, and works with the land spirits where she resides. She weaves spellbinding posts on her blog and her wonderful articles appear in various publications far and wide.

I am offering up two very special gems from Sarah:

The sold-out, visually stunning issue of Ixaxaar's Clavicula Nox: Magic & Mayhem which holds within its pages, Sarah's article "Intoxication, Seership, and the Poison Path" which she signed for you.

From Ixaxaar:

"Honouring the Covenant to the forbidden teachings of Traditional-Diabolism & Sorcery.
Included in this witchcraft issue: The Commemoration of Lord Qayin by Nicholaj de Mattos Frisvold, The Curse of the Burning Grave by Frater Ben Nachash, The Way of the Night by Asenath Mason, West Country Curse-Magic by Gemma Gary, Djävulspakt- Infernal Pacts in traditional Swedish Witchcraft by C.A. Nordblom, Intoxication, Seership, and the Poison Path by Sarah Lawless, Wyrd by G.
Professionally printed, illustrated magazine, thick brown covers, perfect binding, 60 pages."


And one of Sarah's incredible flying ointments - Saturn: belladonna, henbane, poplar buds, monkshood, yew. I have happily partaken in a few bewitched balms from Sarah, and love them. 

You can find Sarah's shop here, and read up on her flying ointments here.


Please feel free to leave a comment telling me which item you prefer - if I can match winners to items, I will. I will draw two names on Tuesday, October 27th at 6pm Pacific and update this post with the winner's names.

You can read all the rules and legal bits here.

The photograph of the Saturn flying ointment is used with permission, and copyright Sarah Anne Lawless.

Oct 21, 2015

The Great October Book Giveaway - Judika Illes

The Encyclopedia of Spirits is going home with: William Jones

Magic When You Need It is going home with: Stephanie Clayton

Congrats!

Another wicked duo will be up for grabs tomorrow...

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I find it a rare thing to hear an author spoken well of across varying groups of practitioners. Often, I hear a book or a writer mentioned, and there is someone else in the room who immediately starts rolling their eyes, or wants to tell you why that particular author is not worth your time. I can honestly say that I've never heard anyone speak ill of our next author.

Perhaps the amount of research and information she pours into her books, is the reason there is a wide reaching appreciation of her work, or it may simply be that others have discovered what I have - she is a truly lovely human being who adores this magical world, and wants to share it with others.

I am pleased to be sharing two of Judika Illes' books with you:


Encyclopedia of Spirits: The Ultimate Guide to the Magic of Fairies, Genies, Demon, Ghosts, Gods and Goddesses

"...a comprehensive and entertaining A to Z of spirits from around this world and the next. The spirits in this encyclopedia represent every inhabited continent, deriving from many cultures, eras, and spiritual traditions. Some, like the goddesses Kwan Yin and Ma Zu, currently possess millions of devotees while others are barely remembered. Within this book, you’ll find individual spirits of varying degrees of power as well as type (genres) of spirits from all over Earth."




Magic When You Need It

"Magic When You Need It serves as your magical emergency kit. This simple to read, easy to use, mini-grimoire contains 150 tried and true spells to eliminate and remedy the emergencies you already have as well as spells to prevent them."



If you would like to add one of Judika's books to your library, please leave a comment below before Friday, October 23rd at 6pm Pacific. Feel free to let me know which book strikes your fancy!


Rules and legal bits are here.

All photos and quoted text are copyright Judika Illes and used only to promote these books for this particular giveaway.


Oct 17, 2015

Death Rites and Remembrances: My Grandfather's Music

The delightful Magaly Guerrero hosts a blog party each October under the "Witches in Fiction" banner. Each year she chooses a new haunting theme, and this year the idea surrounds celebrating or marking the memory of loved ones that no longer walk with us in the flesh.

I have a small story to share, if you want to pull up a chair and sit a while. It won't take long, but there is a campfire here, and I'll pass you a cup of hot chocolate if it pleases you. The neighbour brought fresh apples from his trees this week, and I made tarts. Help yourself.



My grandfather (top right) stands with his siblings and parents outside the castle that his father built for his mother upon coming to Canada. The "castle" was a grand house sporting a roof with faux turrets. More impressive than the house, were the grounds my great-grandmother kept. Secret garden rooms and hidden sculptures were found all over her yard, and I spent long days getting lost out there among the plants and wildlife, and protesting every call from my mother to return inside.


My grandfather played the spoons. He played the piano too, and when his fingers could no longer stretch out and press down on the keys, he took up the guitar because he was able to hold the rudimentary tool he created to strum the strings.  He played the harmonica at times. Not well, but no seemed to mind.

He loved to sing. He was part of a gentleman's choir for years, and when he was 90 he began performing solo in retirement and nursing homes to entertain "the old folks." His eyes and memory started to fade a bit (but only slightly) and so I spent some time tracking down a list of old songs he gave me, and I created a large-print song book for him to carry around so he might have a bit of backup if his mind lost a word or two of a favourite tune.

Few of his children inherited the musical gene, and even fewer still of his grandchildren. Many of us have wished that we carried even a small portion of his talent in us.

I don't know that I have a memory of my grandfather that doesn't include hearing him sing, or recite a funny poem or lyrics, or seeing him take up any item within his reach and try to make music appear from it.

I saw my grandfather, my father's father, the day before he died. He was 99, and only a few short months away from his 100th birthday. We had planned a big bash for him, as well as a family reunion, and he was very excited. But his body was failing. He was tired. My cousin and I sat with him that day, and he told us stories and sang for us, and I knew by his breath and manner that he was moving away from us. I called the family that night, aunts and cousins, and told them to come.

I didn't return the next day. I had my quiet moment with him, and told him the things I wanted to say, and thanked him, and kissed him, and knew we wouldn't meet again while I was in this body. I can't remember what I did the next day, but I received messages from family telling me how glad they were to have rushed to his side. He was delighted that day - his tiny apartment was brimming with people who had come to sit by his side and tell him stories and sing with him. My cousin told me that he kept asking "is everyone here for me?"

The man that wandered through his life with music on his lips and in his hands, sang to his family on the day he died. As people went home he grew quiet, and at last, with my aunt by his side, he drifted on the music he had given us, into the next world.


When it comes to making music, there is almost no talent in me. I tried out choir and band in high school, but my voice isn't much, and I grew frustrated with reading sheet music. The few instruments I tried I gave up on because my short fingers wouldn't cooperate with stretching out to hit a chord or a key. My hands are better suited as spades for the earth, than for traveling nimbly down a piano. Recently though, I picked up a pair of spoons. I was putting away the dishes, and I found myself wedging them between my fingers and trying to rattle them the way my grandfather did. It turns out that my chubby fingers are good for something - they held those spoons perfectly.

Perhaps there is a bit of his music in me after all.

The Great October Talisman Giveaway - Aidan Wachter

The "Wolf Moon" talisman will be going home with...

Kashmira 17

Congratulations, lucky duck!


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


The month is somehow half over already, and I have not gotten up to my usual amount of mischief. I still have some ideas up my sleeve, and there are more forest journeys to take, and moons to howl under. In the meantime I thought I'd shake up this bookish month with an extra special treat. My brilliantly talented friend Aidan Wachter has offered up a wicked talisman for your October pleasure.

This beauty, titled "Wolf Moon" is Aidan's nod to Circe:


I have several of Aidan's charms, and each one is wildly special to me. His craftsmanship is spectacular. As pretty as his photos are, there is nothing quite like seeing his work in your hands, and around your neck.

You can order any of his designs for yourself, here, or you can contact him directly about custom work. You might also want to leave a comment on this post, because on Tuesday, October 20th at 6pm Pacific, I will be giving this little bit of lunar wolfishness away.



The contest rules and legal bits are here

The photograph is copyright and property of Aidan Wachter and used only to show his offering to this giveaway.

Oct 14, 2015

The Great October Colouring Book Giveaway

The colouring books are heading home with the following people:

Just Add Color: Day of the Dead:  thevapyrwithin

The Mindfulness Coloring Book:  lesadora

The Shakti Coloring Books:  LJ Dogsmom

Congratulations and happy colouring!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

One thing you should know if you are new to this little blog is that I am Canadian, and we toss the letter "u" around like confetti on New Year's Eve. We especially like it cozied up to the letter "o" in particular. This post is titled correctly. However, these next books to give away...they look a bit naked without the "u" in their title.

In this case, they are in fact naked, and waiting on your hands to fill them. (This is sounding naughtier than I planned.) Colouring books for grown ups are all the rage of late, but I have been squirreling away my nieces old books for years. When I can't turn my mind off, when meditation just doesn't work, I dig out something to keep my hands busy for a while. There is an entire market springing up around adult colouring books, though there are differing opinions on whether colouring is truly therapeutic. Why not try it, and decide for yourself?

I have three different colouring books for you to play with:
(You will also get your choice of classic Crayolas or pencil crayons)


Just Add Color: Day of the Dead - from Sarah Walsh, published by Rockport Publishers



The Mindfulness Coloring Book by Emma Farrarons, published by Boxtree



The Shakti Coloring Book by Ekabhumi Charles Ellik, published by Sounds True



If you want to get your colouring on, leave a comment below, making sure there is a way for me to contact you if you win (linked comment or email address). You have until Friday, October 16th at 6pm Pacific. If there is a book that calls to you, let me know and I'll see what I can do about matching up winners and their choices.

As always, here are the rules/legal bits.

Thanks for playing!



All images are copyright of and linked back to their respective authors/publishers.

Oct 10, 2015

The Great October Book Giveaway - Amy Stewart

These are the lucky folks taking home Amy's books:

Jennifer - The Drunken Botanist

adventuresinverdance - Wicked Plants

Congrats!  I'll contact you tonight!


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Our next books are from The Drunken Botanist herself, Amy Stewart. Amy is a New York Times bestselling author who writes fantastic books about gardens, pests, plants, poisons, and booze. How could you not love her? She has just released her first fiction novel, but you are getting a chance to grab one of her wicked garden tomes.

First up, we have "The Drunken Botanist: The Plants That Create the World's Great Drinks."
"This New York Times bestseller uncovers the enlightening botanical history and the fascinating science and chemistry of over 150 plants, flowers, trees, fruits, and even a few fungi—all with a delightful two-color vintage-style interior, over fifty drink recipes, growing tips for gardeners, and Amy Stewart’s trademark wit. "


And next, "Wicked Plants: The Weed That Killed Lincoln's Mother & Other Botanical Atrocities"
"Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the garden! An A to Z of plants that kill, maim, intoxicate, and otherwise offend, with frightfully fascinating illustrations by Briony Morrow-Cribbsand Jonathon Rosen."

If you are in the market for some extraordinary herbal reading and exploring, leave a comment below (making sure that I can contact you). The dull rules and legal bits are here, for those that haven't seen them yet. As always, feel free to let me know which book grabs your interest, and I'll do my best to pass them out accordingly if possible.

I have a big Canadian Thanksgiving weekend ahead of me, so I will circle back to draw two names on Tuesday, October 13th at 6pm Pacific. Good luck!


 All pictures and quoted text are copyright Amy Stewart and are used only to showcase these books for the giveaway.

Oct 5, 2015

The Great October Book Giveaway - Red Wheel/Weiser Books

The two Debra's have swept this round - Debra She Who Seeks and Debra Nehring! And because you have requested different books, you shall have your wish. I will be in contact for your mailing addresses.

Thanks so much to Weiser Books, and to all of you who stopped by - do swing back early tomorrow morning for the next set of books up for grabs!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


If there is a publishing house that is staffed with nicer folks than the lovely people at Weiser Books, I would be terribly surprised. For the second time, these generous book lovers have offered you, dear readers, a duo of this year's releases from their wonderful catalogue.

Special thanks to Eryn for going above and beyond and Judika for keeping me connected!

First up, we have Courtney Weber's gorgeous study on the goddess Brigid:
"Brigid—mother, daughter, healer, bard, warrior, fire goddess, goddess of the oak, animals, and magic. Brigid of the spring, her festival Imbolc, oversees fertility of all kinds. Brigid is many things to many people. In this enticing book, Courtney Weber offers up a wide-ranging exposition and celebration of all things Brigid, who is arguably the most popular figure in Celtic mythology and religion. Meet Brigid in her various incarnations—Celtic Pagan Goddess, Christian Saint, and Voudon Loa. 
Each chapter ends with guided meditations and exercises that help readers tap into Brigid’s healing powers. Inside you’ll find Brigid-focused spells, blessings, recipes, and rituals for love, harmony, protection, and much more."

Next, you might want to grab Orion Foxwood's book of old-style witchery, The Flame in the Cauldron:
"For the first time, Foxwood reveals some of his own deeply personal rituals and spells directly from his own grimoire of witchery; he highlights the differences (and similarities) between Wicca, "traditional" witchcraft, and old style witchery. By weaving his own path to witchery throughout the book, he gives readers examples of how to identify the way toward this path. 
There is a revolution among the Pagan and Witchcraft communities, a movement away from prescribed ritual and neopagan practices and a reaching back toward what Foxwood says is in the heart of any true witch: a thundering call deep within their very blood to become a healer, a reckoner, a protector of magical arts, and a guardian of the wild woods."

You can check out Weiser's wonderful catalogue of books anytime here. Also, if you are a Twitter-type person, follow them there - they are very close to ten thousand followers and are planning to give some books away themselves when they reach that milestone!

Leave a comment below if one of these books inspires you. You can let me know which book you would like if you win, and I will try my best to accommodate you.

Please be aware of the rules and legal bits here.  You must leave me a way to contact you - if you are not commenting with a profile that links to an email for you, then please leave an email address in your comment in whatever form you are comfortable with. (For example: Jen AT gmail DOT com.)

I will draw the winning names on Friday, October 9th at 6pm Pacific (9pm Eastern). Good luck!




*Photos and quoted text are copyright Weiser Books and are used only to showcase the giveaway items.

Oct 1, 2015

The Great October Book Giveaway - Neil Gaiman

These books are now heading out to haunt:

~ Birgit
~ Autumn Earthsong

Congrats! I'll contact you shortly!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Once upon a time, I gave away four books in the month of October. I enjoyed it a great deal and decided to continue the tradition the following year. I thought that perhaps I should name my October book party something clever, and the name "All Hallows Read" came to me, which I thought was perfect! And it was perfect - so perfect that Neil Gaiman had already thought of it. Thanks Neil.

Fast forward several years later, and I'm now giving away oodles (a scientific term) of books, and Neil and I are good. I have since forgiven him, and discovered his reimagined "Hansel & Gretel" with dark and stunning illustrations by Italian artist Lorenzo Mattotti.



Neil talks a bit about the horror of Hansel and Gretel for him as a child, and why you should make children aware of dark things, in this brief interview.

I have two copies of this gorgeous fairy tale up for grabs (sadly, unsigned, but still fabulous). If you want to revisit this story, curled up with a blanket on a cold October night, leave a comment below. I will draw two names on Monday, October 5th at 6pm Pacific (9pm Eastern) and update this post to let you know who the lucky folks are.

Thanks for joining me again for another October of mischief! If you don't see something that tingles your spine, stick around. Something else is bound to creep up.


*Giveaway rules/regs are right here. Simply make sure this is legit where you are and we are good.

*Photos are used only to showcase the featured title. They are linked back to source, and are copyright Neil Gaiman and Lorenzo Mattotti.

Sep 30, 2015

The Great October Book Giveaway 2015


Welcome to the 5th annual Great October Book Giveaway!

This yearly party is my way of giving a big virtual hug to all the folks that have connected with me over the years, especially everyone who has ever stopped by to read a post here at Rue and Hyssop. This little blog holds a big place in my heart, and so do all of you (squeeze in - we will all fit, I promise).

The Goods:

Books. And more books. Plus a few extra super-cool things that came my way this year via awesome people of the interwebs.  


Whenever possible, books were purchased from the author directly and autographed for you. There are also a small handful of unautographed books coming directly from publishing houses. I'm no virgin when it comes to Amazon, but I still prefer to buy books from authors, publishers, and small bookstores whenever possible. Please support them too!

The Details:

*  I will post a giveaway approximately every four days this month.  You've got those five days to leave a comment on the blog post for that particular giveaway, and then I'll draw the winning name(s) and post the next giveaway. I'll leave dates and times in the posts, so you know when you need to have your entry in by.

*  Please ensure that there is a way for me to get a hold of you.  I'm not going to allow anonymous comments because I get terrible spam if I do, but you can use Open ID or a registered account to comment. For now I'm going to leave the comment moderation feature off, but if it turns out that I've got to spend time each day deleting comments, it may have to come back on.  Let's hope the Halloween gods get rid of the trolls for us.

* You will have exactly one week to respond to my request for your mailing address, and I'll send your book out within a week of receiving that info from you.  If you don't respond within 7 days, I will have to draw a new winner for that particular book.

* I am in Canada.  I will send the books to Canada, USA or overseas (according to the legal rambling below) at the most cost-effective shipping rates.  This means your book may arrive anywhere from 5 days to 5 weeks after I mail it.  (In Canada - approx 5 business days.  To Germany - approx 5 weeks.)

Legal Bits:

* This giveaway (or "sweepstakes") is open to all residents of Canada, (exluding Quebec residents) the USA, Great Britain, Europe, South America,  who are 18 years of age or older. This giveaway is void where prohitibited by law.  Please be aware of the contest/sweepstakes laws in your area.

*  Canadian residents will be subject to a skill testing question before being able to claim their prize (this is standard law in Canada).  The skill testing question will be in a form similar to: 1 + 2 - 1 =

*  This giveaway is not for profit and no purchase is necessary to enter.

*  This giveaway is sponsored/administrated solely by this blog/blog author and is not affilitated with or sponsored by Blogger, Facebook, Twitter, or any other entity, nor can they be held liable.

* By leaving a comment intending to enter into the draw for the giveaway (or "sweepstakes") you are knowingly agreeing to these rules/conditions.


I have chosen all the books featured this month myself.  I have not been paid to feature a book, nor have I been asked to advertise for anyone.  This giveaway is not endorsed or sponsored by anyone other than Rue and Hyssop.

Make sure you are back here on October 1st to put your name in the cauldron, and keep checking in!  Click the pumpkin photo in the sidebar on the right to see the latest giveaway and leave your comment there.



**Comments on this post are not included in any prize drawing. Please comment on the current giveaway post (click the image in the sidebar on the right that looks like the one above - it will take you to the current giveaway). Or, if you have found yourself somewhere on the mobile site, click the "Rue and Hyssop" header at the top of the blog, and scroll down until you see the current giveaway.**

Sep 25, 2015

On Lines and Expectations and Perfection

"She loved the lines around his mouth."
~ 5 Days in May, Blue Rodeo

Another birthday has come and gone and this morning I looked for a while at the lines that are appearing around my eyes and starting to reach out, toward my temples. It's an odd thing, to wake each morning believing that you are still just moments past your teen years and then discover that two decades have passed. I routinely get mistaken for someone much younger, but I'm quite happy to be settling in to this early autumn of my life. Just as the tree outside my window is turning a remarkable golden colour, I see my edges mellow, and enjoy the sense of calm I have found while life flies madly around me. A whirlwind of leaves rip free in the blustery north winds and yet the tree bends and releases without a fight, knowing there is always more to come.

There is so much more to come.


I sat for a while this week with my friend's 93 year old mother. She is tiny and frail and yet still so strong. She has outlived a husband and a son, and so many friends. She tells me the same tales (often several times during a visit) of what her life was like in Bangladesh, how she spent her time sewing at the convent for the nuns, and the jubilant gatherings that happened almost every evening at her home as family and neighbours came by to visit.

I watch her face as she speaks. It is the closest thing I have seen to perfection. Her lines, in the winter of her life, fly from her eyes upwards toward her temples, and then downward over the apples of her cheeks - the feathers of a phoenix waiting to be reborn. They are as exquisite in her laughter as they are when her eyes well up with tears as she speaks about her lost son. A face so full of life that it is etched into her divine coffee skin in fractals prettier than any computer could conjure.

One day, I wish to have phoenix feathers that tell tales of my life and loves and losses. For now, my little lines are just starting to deepen, showing more when I smile than when I cry. They will be seared into my skin a little more each year over the remaining summers of my life spent in gardens and wandering hillsides. They are often hidden behind my hair that I wear long and wild, bucking every comment of "you know, at your age..." Yes, yes. At my age...

At my age, the "grey" strands that are appearing are coming in pure white, and are camouflaged by the blond that they snake through. At my age I wander alone in the woods, go to theme parks even though they scare me, and would absolutely jump out of an airplane again. And again.

At my age, my oldest niece has moved out after living with me for two years, and now I find myself with no excuse to refuse the offers to set me up on a blind date with a friend of a friend of a friend. I find it odd - this idea that unless there is someone in your life, your home, your heart, to fuss over, that you should be lonely - at any age. I have told my friends that I have never been lonely. Not once. Not when I was engaged to a man that was never around, or throughout my single years, or while taking road trips by myself. Not even in my twenties when I thought that I loathed myself - I've never been afraid of my own company, and the host of unseen others that wander with me.

At my age, my caregiving is slowly transferring from my nieces to my parents. But mostly, this year at least, I've been taking care of myself. I've been delighting in movement (from ass-shaking dancing to long yogic stretches) and creating oil blends to bless my sun-weary skin. I've been gathering my friends more, around fires and wine glasses and dinner tables. We speak of all the things that happen to us "at our age" which is intriguing and eye-opening because I have friends ten years younger than me and friends a dozen years older, and how wonderful and strange to hear all their "at my age" stories.


Should I have the blessing of time, I suspect that over the years I will disrupt all sorts of people's expectations of what might be acceptable of a woman of my age. I haven't yet had turquoise hair. There are still a few settings I have in mind where I'd like to tumble all naked and unruly with someone. I intend to keep giggling at inappropriate moments. I have no plans on ever letting a season go by when I don't find some childish wonder in the world around me.

I will earn my phoenix feathers. I will tear apart the world's ideas of what might be appropriate at my age - whatever that age becomes. And perhaps one day, when I am 93 and my nieces sit and talk with me, and I tell all kinds of stories of the wildness of the early autumn of my life, they might look upon my face all tattooed with lines and find it perfection, and wonder what they might do to earn phoenix feathers of their own.







Sep 16, 2015

Tools of the Game

The light was slanted and golden yesterday as I made my way along the lake to the next town. The trees, just starting to blush at their topmost places, looked lit from beneath like they were on display at a gallery. The residual smoke drifting up the Valley from the wildfire still burning in the south softened the sky and created an amber haze. These first weeks of September have been stunning.

I'm enjoying the feeling of the heightened summer energy dispersing as if it were the mist in the hills, while the autumnal spirit slips out of the rapidly cooling lake and river waters and blows in on the north wind to fill us with thoughts of comforting meals, a fire in the hearth, and some good ghost stories.

Summer was wild and long and so very warm, and yet...every month now, every season, seems to have floated by on the shoulders of the cottonwood fluff, and then the dandelion, and the milkweed seeds, and on...and on...

I whisper often, "Grandma, you were right, it all moves so fast."

But there have been beautiful armfulls of lovely moments, as there always are when you expect to find them. And as the garden fades, and my favourite months settle in, I continue to eat the last peaches and plums, and play with the outrageous number of apple varieties grown here, and still spend time at dusk in the garden watching the last few blooms of the evening primrose open.

Life is rarely syrup-sweet for long. There is the bitter too. Rebecca speaks of moving forwards, even when you aren't sure you can or want to. She says,

Sometimes I feel like a tiny human facing down the gaping maw of misery and destruction and the only weapons I have in my hands are a little piece of plant matter and a pen. And then I realise that its not the tools in my hands but the fact that I’m willing to turn and face it despite only having those tools in my hands that makes the difference.

I asked once, in despair, "what is this life?" The answer was immediate. "A game," It said. (Whatever the unknowable It might be.) And I was satisfied with this answer - as much as I could be satisfied in my little human mind - because I like to play, and I once spent years in theatre classes which gave me a molecule of an idea of being in a world of my own making.

I am quite happy to believe that the poets, artists, writers, actors, inventors, and all the creators who play with the world (which is to say all the creators) might feel on some level that we are adventuring through this grand game, and they are willing to have a go at it with whatever meagre tools they are carrying.


My tools these last few months have been a pair of cast iron frying pans I rescued from my camping supplies. They were sad-looking and so under-appreciated, barely feeling the fire beneath them more than a few times a year. A good scrub and a proper re-seasoning, and they are now the stars of the kitchen. And they conjure up such wondrous things.

My hands have served me well this summer digging garden beds, creating magic with plants, pushing a lawn mower, office work, holding books, and rubbing the belly of a big black cat. They have some scars and some freckles because I refuse to wear gloves, but they are strong and soft and just as happy to be wrist-deep in dirt as they are wrapped around someone I love. Hands and frying pans don't seem like much, but both can serve you up all kinds of goodness, or knock you into next week.


What tools have been your steadfast companions this year, or this last season? How are you getting along in the game (or the great play, or the divine comedy)?

I've just begun another year on this peculiar gameboard. I'm ready to see what magic and mischief I can make as I head out to meet the arrival of autumn. Come along friend. Grab your favourite tools and let us turn and face what comes this way. Let's walk out to meet it.




This and That:

~ If it matters to you at all, I season my cast iron with avocado oil, but any oil with a high smoke point will do the trick. I still know old-timers who use lard or bacon grease on theirs, but it can leave a smell. Whatever floats your boat and keeps your iron in good shape. I clean the pans while still warm with a paper towel, and if there is any residue after that, I toss some salt in the pan, let it sit, and wipe it out with a towel again. That should take care of it. A drop of oil before putting them away, and I'm done.

~ The grass pictures are part of my summer fun. I cut runes in to my lawn before I mowed it, all season long. On the left is Algiz, and on the right is Fehu. As I cut the lawn, I meditated on the rune, essentially sealing it in to the land. Perhaps give this a try (or a sigil of your own making) for your last cut of the year.

~ Mercury heads into retrograde tomorrow, and it affords us (especially so soon after a Venus retro) a perfect opportunity for a good clean, sort, and organize before the winter arrives. Trust me on this. Recycle, re-gift, donate, and look at all the things you surround yourself with. Do they feel good? Do they move you? Can you breathe in your space? Getting the "big clean" done early in the autumn will put you in the perfect zone to concentrate on the upcoming seasonal celebrations without worrying about the haunted dust bunnies of summer past.


Aug 23, 2015

Wildfire Harvests and Full Moon Renewals

The red tractors were in the hay fields yesterday. As I drove by I watched them trace lazy, winding circles around the pastureland gathering the cut hay and transforming it into massive rolls that looked like the shredded wheat my grandfather used to eat. I love the drive over to the next valley. I pass small lakes favoured by the local fishermen, and then ranchland dotted with cattle, and finally orchards, farms and vineyards that are pulling in harvest after harvest at this time of year.

August evening sky, pre-wildfire haze.

I'm glad I went out yesterday morning, before the wind changed direction. At some point in the afternoon the wind swept in from the south and brought with it thick smoke from the fires burning just below us in Washington state.  Today, I still cannot see more than a block in each direction - there is only a wall of haze. Unless the air shifts, there will have been no sun today at all. More than that, if the smoke isn't blown out off the valley floor soon it could damage the grapes growing in the hundreds of vineyards dotting the hills. 

It is a bad situation all around, but those who have the worst of it - the ones forced to flee their homes, and the wildlife running for their lives - have my most fervent thoughts and wishes for safety. There has already been tragedy east of here where 30 homes were lost, and straight south, across the border, where firemen have lost their lives. We can deal with smoke and haze and sunless days. Our tourism industry has taken a hit this past week and as of today, you could likely stand at the highway (if you could stomach the smoke) and watch the line of tourists heading home early. Revenue and crop losses are not good. But we still have our homes.

I'm heading up to my friend's ranch this afternoon to check in on her and her corn harvest. I'm not sure what the smoke will do to the beautiful sweet corn she grows. She is a farmer though, and used to trials. Last year birds devastated her field. She tried every trick and invented a few of her own to keep those birds away, but they were legion. This year she got ahead of them and put "corn condoms" on the cobs - coffee filters held in place by an elastic. It allows air in to the cob, but the birds don't see the tops of the corn and therefore don't land on the stalks to pick at it. She is brilliant.


We all create our own ways to traverse what life throws at us (whether fire or plague or something a little less dramatic). Of late I've found solace in chanting - something I've played around with over the years but never really committed to.  A few simple mantras have become favourites. The familiar om mani padme hum and the Green Tara mantras have been wildly helpful in bringing me to a place of calm.

The second full moon in July stripped me bare. This time it was a cold fire, refining me. Nearly a month later as the moon grows toward full again, I feel like a new person. I'm finding peace more easily than I have before. I'm sleeping better and finding new ways to stretch my body in yoga class. I've eaten something out of my yard and/or gardens every day. I have been swimming - full-on swimming, not just wading - in the lake for the first time in years. And just like that, the sun moved in to Virgo today - my birth sign. I am all set to renew my life for another year.

 Second full moon of July in the arms of the cedars.

Coinciding with my birth month, I'll be kicking off another year of magic making with the marvellous Briana Saussy as I dig in to her course Spinning Gold. In Bri's words:
This year-long course provides the principles and practices needed for a life of wholeness, holiness and healing. As a student, you'll access and enjoy real teachings from practicing sacred artists, and a sacred arts community full of love, support, and real accountability.
You can reserve your spot in this incredible journey by heading to Briana's site by August 31st.

Also of note: I've had a few exciting conversations with some brillant magical folks about conjurings for October. If you are new here, make sure you stake out a spot during the most magical month of year - there all all kinds of books coming your way in the yearly Great October Book Giveaway! And there are a couple extra surprises too...

I hope the sultry months have been kind to you, and that you too have sampled local harvests and found adventure whenever you could. My thoughts are with those of you in wildfire areas - continued safety to you and yours.

Summer is still here - it hasn't lost its grasp yet. But there are cooler evenings creeping in, and the sound of geese on the wing is already being heard. Kiss your summer loves and hold them extra close - these hot, heady days won't last forever.




Jul 2, 2015

When Witches Grow Weary

"We stand, friends, at a liminal time somewhere betwixt spring and summer, between school and summer break, between one place and another. Thresholds are important for us culturally, of course, but for those of us who truck with the Unseen, there is power and melancholy in these times of shifting space and time. Hold the ragged edges of your hearts together tonight, my dears. Pull the tatters of your soul into some semblance of your sacred garment. Straighten your back, stand tall, look forward. All is exactly as it seems, and yet...everything is a shadow. Ground deeply, breathe into your belly.
Seize the power of the moment and fear not. Fear not."
The above quote was posted on social media by Byron Ballard, author of Staubs and Ditchwater, in early June. I had been feeling weary for a week or so at that point, and simply hearing another spirit worker speak of the deepness of the latest threshold we were moving through, gave me permission to pause and breathe deep. 

Hob, the talented writer and witch doctor in residence at The Orphan's Almanac had, only a week earlier, left me nodding and holding my hands up in a throwback to my church days, when he called his discomfort of the seasonal shift "threshold sickness."
"Bruised, raw, exposed, the fresh green growth and soaring chorus of renewed life came down on me like a white-noise hammer, filling my head with broken glass and radio static, and sent me, howling, down the oubliette. The Sun becomes increasingly feral as the days lengthen, and a 13-year cycle of cicadas has stirred to fill the daylight hours with a constant, machine-like droning. Already nocturnal by nature, I’ve gone full-blown “creature of the night,” grasping for the elusive stillness that blooms like jasmine in the slow hours, after midnight."
"I am not alone," I remember thinking upon reading this.

June used to be a month that allowed us here in The Valley a slow introduction to summer. We would ease in with toes dipped in the lakes, and the first small strawberries from the field. There would be breezes through open windows and long walks into the forest to pick local herbal treasures and wild mushrooms. This year has been different. 

Summer arrived nearly three weeks too soon, and it has not eased in at all.  Fierce heat broke records early in the month, and destroyed my pea crop and sent the lettuces to bolt.  There were thunder storms and heat lightening that left my ears ringing and sparked fires on the hills. The farmers market had heaps of cherries and early peaches laid out right beside the strawberries. I have never eaten peaches so early in the season. June was a whirlwind, and I tried to keep up.

But really, all I wanted to do was sleep through the sweltering daylight hours, and wake when twilight fell.


It was early June when I began sitting outside every evening and noticed the two bright stars in the western sky. Watching Venus and Jupiter moving closer to each other as dusk fell was one of the things that kept me going this past month. Stars leaning in.

I leaned in too. A new working emerged, inspired by the dance I was watching in the sky. Messages that had been fuzzy at best, were being heard more clearly. I dug deeper in my journeying practice. I was exhausted and exhilarated at the same time.


The delightfully magical Paige Zaferiou said this, as the solstice arrived:
"I don't know how y'all are feeling but I am weary and wrung out by this strange thin light veil time.
The land speaks and its voice is a swelling orchestra of complexity, a river that never stops flowing over and around and through me. I am caught in the flood and it bears me down and buoys me up and I like it. So help me, I like it here in the ebb and flow. I like being under water with open eyes. So help me, I love this magical fucked up life."
Preach, Sister.

Something happened in June as the doorway through spring caved under the pressure of an early summer. I felt both wrung-out, and stronger. Weary, and ever more a witch tapped into the cycles and shifts that were both uncomfortable and yet potent times for manifesting.

I've come into July feeling wild, worn-thin, and wicked. This may be a very good thing.

It has not escaped my notice that September eves and the shadows of October make magic seem always close at hand and somewhat easier to access. I wait all year for those days. But ease is not always the best path for growth.

Today I heard Sarah Lawless, in her interview on the latest episode of the Down at the Crossroads podcast, share a quote from her fabulous article "For Fear of Flying."
"Witchcraft is not safe. Witchcraft is not good and kind. Witchcraft is the domain of the trickster, the outcast, the wanderer, and the crooked.  It belongs to those who know every light casts a shadow; who have looked into the depths of darkness in their soul and accepted what they’ve seen along with all that is good.  Witchcraft requires cunning, manipulation, self-awareness, adaptable morals, and dash of madness."
To madness then.  To scorched summer days and sticky nights. To blood offerings given up begrudgingly to mosquitoes and raspberry thickets. The brief hours of darkness. The endless afternoons where bird and beast hide in whatever shade can be had. To drinking in the heat, and using that in ways that surprise you. To making friends with your sweat and your scent. To the animals of summer wherever you are. Here, there are bats beyond number feasting on bugs by the river. There are fat marmots and rattlesnakes sunning themselves, and turtles climbing out of the ponds to soak up the warmth.

To acknowledging the discomfort of 100 degree weather, and getting shit done anyway. To having a summer adventure - and then having a mojito. 

Hob said this, of embracing the challenge of summer wandering:
"There are rivers to follow, and streets to walk, and people to meet, living and dead. We will smell the salt of the ocean, the dust of strange shops, and the breath of the empty places. We will be pilgrims, seeking the roadside shrines to the lost, the forgotten, and the bygone."
To being a weary witch, and still wandering, still seeking, still making magic.






Please check out the amazing folks quoted in this post - they are all linked up to their respective websites and are worth a visit!

Jun 21, 2015

Through Bush, Through Brier - A Midsummer Eve Visit

I followed the honeysuckle and grape vine hedge until I found a small opening. The vines had grown up over the fencing and the gate was hidden well.  I pulled gently at the vines and they offered me just enough room to slip underneath them and through the fence, all the while being serenaded by the buzzing of countless bees that were working on the flowers in the hedge.

The vines were likely planted to soften the view that the neighbours observed when they looked out their windows. The old cemetary was stark and harsh to look at. A small plot of land with no greenery to speak of, covered in a layer of white rock and tiny coloured glass shards. It was hardly displaying any romantic, gothic charm.

Undaunted by the glare of the sun and the heat radiating up from the white rock, I wandered the rows looking for the right headstone. It had been a while since I had been there, and my return was long overdue.

It took little effort to notice that the grave sites had no adornment. No flowers or statues or other such benefactions were left for the residents there. Perhaps the hedge was also meant to deter visitors, save for those whose will to pay their respects was stronger than the vines.

As I wandered closer to my destination, I noticed two large glass jars at the head of a grave. Each jar was open, and contained what looked like small bits of folded paper. I had a moment of biting curiosity, but I moved on. The papers were not my business. I was there to find Gladys.

A more well-cared for, well-loved cemetary that I like to visit.

I found her grave, beside that of her husband's, and wondered at the date of her death. She was only 55 when she died, passing two short years after he had.  I had brought water to wash her headstone and I set to work,  noticing that one of the coins I had left for her at my last visit still remained there. Who or what may have wandered off with the others, only Gladys knew.

I returned what I had borrowed, with thanks, and left her a bouquet of gladiolus. I appreciated the word play between the plant and her name, and I imagined that she might have liked the flowers quite a bit when she was alive. 

I walked back to the living, buzzing gateway - the perfect liminal space to separate the cemetary from the residential area beyond. 

There were dimes deposited at the threshold, a moment of being neither here nor there, and then I was out in the world again.

My fairy lord, this must be done with haste,
For night's swift dragons cut the clouds full fast,
And yonder shines Aurora's harbinger,
At whose approach ghosts, wand'ring here and there
Troop home to churchyards. Damned spirits all
That in crossways and floods have burial,
Already to their wormy beds are gone.
For fear lest day should look their shames upon,
They willfully themselves exile from light,
And must for aye consort with black-browed night. 

~ Puck, to Oberon - A Midsummer Night's Dream

It may seem an odd thing to mark the shortest night of the year by visiting a cemetary, but if we dare to believe that the unseen is more visible or here, at this time of year (and at its opposite on the calendar) then why not give thanks, honour, or commune, while the connection is a bit more clean. The months of intense heat have come, and that can create some static for those of us who don't operate well in the sweltering weather.

Until the cool breezes return, be well good spirits.