Creativity, Environment, Faith, Hauntings, History, Spirituality, Supernatural

Happy Halloween

Thanksgiving is truly my favorite holiday. Though I abstain from eating any meat or poultry, I love gathering together with so many loved ones and sharing such a wide array of vegetables: turnip, squash, pumpkin pie and green bean casserole are some of my favorites. But Halloween is a pretty close second.

I’m turning 50 in a few weeks but, if you turned those numbers around “05”, 5 years old is about how old I act when it comes to “dressing up” for the occasion. I have never outgrown it. No, I don’t go trick-or-treating–or mumming and guising, as it was originally called–but I like to make people laugh. Or, at the very least, smile. And, no matter what costume I decide on, it usually does elicit an upturn of lips wherever I go. To me, that’s reason enough to indulge that inner child.

Halloween tends to be a bit controversial within the Christian community. All Hallows’ Evening (Halloween is a contraction for this holiday), is said to be the time when the veil between the Otherworld and this one is particularly thin and the souls of the dearly departed are free to roam the earth–and, potentially, to right their wrongs. This, of course, has its roots in Gaelic traditions. The night of Samhain (pronounced SOW-en) marks the end of the harvest season, when spirits–or fairies–enter this world and must be appeased to ensure that people and livestock survive the long winter ahead. Earlier generations would invoke God’s protection upon approaching their dwellings, and guising–or the donning of a costume–was done to disguise oneself from the Fae Folk. The carrying of a Jack-o’-lantern by guisers was to protect one from any evil spirits lurking about. And, interestingly, the Jack-o’-lantern was originally either a turnip or a mangel wurzel (a type of beet). When early settlers to the Americas arrived, they adopted the native fruit–the pumpkin. Within the Roman Catholic Church, All Hallows’ Evening is part of the triduum of Allhallowtide, a time set aside for honoring the saints and praying for the souls of those dearly departed as they journey from Purgatory to Heaven. In many countries, All Hallows’ Evening celebrations also include a church service and the lighting of candles upon the graves of departed loved ones. However, as many Protestant religions do not believe in Purgatory, this practice, or belief, goes against their notions of predestination. Hence, some of the controversy surrounding this holiday.

For myself, the only “controversy” I feel about any holiday is the commercialization of it. Big box department stores have been lining their shelves for weeks with costumes and accessories, many of which will wind up in landfills after tonight. I’d hate to think I had so little gumption as to buy a costume. I’d rather give the creative genius a little room to spread her wings. Albeit, as I type this, I will confess to purchasing some rather toxic make-up to enhance today’s disguise. If anyone has a safe, less-toxic means of creating green face paint, I would greatly appreciate it for next time.

In the meantime, I am looking forward to seeing the smiles, and receiving a few chuckles, as I don this year’s ensemble. And I will continue to tell myself that the smiles and laughter are a tribute to that creativity and not the result of everyone thinking, “Look at that old fool!” Eh, you’re only as young as you feel…and I won’t say “No!” to a bit of soul cake* either!

May God bless you and keep you!

*Soul cakes were given during the Middle Ages to children and the poor when they came knocking during mumming and guising. They were cakes made with allspice, nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger, raisins and/or currants and topped with a cross to signify their giving as alms. Homemade with organic ingredients they must’ve been much healthier than our sugar-laced commercial treats (albeit, I won’t say “No!” to a Kit Kat either…and hang the IBS! LOL!)

**Information retrieved from http://www.wikipedia.com for educational purposes only.

Herbs, History, Nature, Spirituality

Wednesday’s Weed Walk: Belladonna

Do NOT try this at home, kids! I repeat, DO NOT TRY THIS at home, in the office, in the car on the way to the office, in school, church, the local gym or even the grocery store. Today’s post is strictly for educational and entertainment purposes ONLY! And because this is also the last “weed walk” before Halloween/Samhain, writing a blog post about an herb whose other common names include: Banewort, Devil’s Berries, Naughty Man’s Cherries, Death Cherries, Beautiful Death and Devil’s Herb (Wikipedia), seemed appropriate for the occasion.

I am talking about Atropa belladonna, more commonly known as either Belladonna or Deadly Nightshade. This is one of the most deadly plants one can have in their garden as it’s attractive fruits entice the palette–especially that of children’s–yet it takes only 2-3 of those plump, sweet berries to prove lethal for a child. Adults are not immune either though it takes about 10 of those berries to prove lethal for us; lower doses are said to incite hallucinations and, as such, it has a history of abuse as a recreational “drug” but it has some very unpredictable side effects so, again, DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME! Or anywhere else. And I don’t care how redundant I’m being. This is one of those you can never be too cautious about.

Interestingly, Belladonna also has a history of medicinal uses. Many of the hypnotic properties in this plant also deaden pain and it is used even today in many modern pain relievers. Modern pharmaceuticals have found a way to isolate these painkilling properties to produce Orthodox medicines for treating ulcerative colitis, diverticulitis, diarrhea, peptic ulcers, chronic bronchitis, asthma and vertigo, among others. Deadly nightshade/Belladonna contains an anticholinergic agent that blocks the neurotransmitter acetylcholine in the central and peripheral nervous systems (Wikipedia), systems that control the parasympathetic nerve impulses. Your parasympathetic nerves control those involuntary movements of the smooth muscles, those that control the gastrointestinal tract, urinary tract, your heart, your lungs and many other parts of the body. These are muscles that expand and contract, or function, without any conscious thought on our part. These nerves, we could say, work “behind the scenes” in our bodies, helping us to breathe, digest food and eliminate waste. Which would be one of the reasons this plant is so deadly as too much would likely shutdown these automated systems so we’ll leave this one to the pros…and, perhaps, to the memories of the wise women and cunning men of old.

Of course, in the days of cunning men and wise women–the true crones of old, who were often regarded as witches for their uncanny knowledge of the herbs–Belladonna was more commonly used as an anesthetic to relax, or deaden, the body for surgery, or for the making of poison-tipped arrows for men of war. That it was effective in the latter, and these early surgeries were often unsuccessful, hence, I shall throw another word of caution in here. This is definitely not a “simple” you want to brew in your home-grown apothecary.

However, it is an attractive plant and I know of many who do keep some in the garden for aesthetic purposes. It can grow up to 6’6″ tall with 7″ long, ovate leaves and lovely bell-shaped flowers that are a dull purple in color with just a hint of green and, when ripe, shiny black berries. Bees often make honey from the nectar of the flower. Wild birds and animals often eat the berries, despite their toxicity, dispersing the seeds in their droppings but this plant has proven toxic to many domesticated animals, as well as humans, so this homesteader-in-the-making would rather admire it from afar rather than in the garden.

The name “Belladonna” is Italian for “pretty woman”. In addition to its earlier uses as a medicine, and poison, it was also used by ladies as a cosmetic. A tincture of Belladonna dropped into the eyes will give them a seductive appearance, an appearance that was much favored by earlier women. However, it also distorts the vision, creating a near-sightedness that inhibits one’s ability to focus on things close-at-hand; it also increases the heart rate and, over prolonged periods of time, causes blindness (Wikipedia).

As a quick aside, I am citing Wikipedia throughout and I know this free, online encyclopedia is definitely NOT approved as an appropriate reference academically or professionally but there were enough citations attached to this listing that I decided to use it anyway. As an herbalist, though I would never consider working with such a toxic plant, it is one that I have learned about in various herb classes for safety and educational purposes–enough to know this Wikipedia listing is accurate enough to instill a big WARNING sign over anyone’s intentions to throw caution into the wind on this one. Because it is so deadly, few, if any, of my herbals lists it as a curative. For the sake of this posting, I am more interested in sharing some of the folklore I found about it, folklore that I do have in some home herbals about their magickal uses.

Coming back to some of those hallucinogenic properties, many the wise woman and cunning man was reputed to use Belladonna to “fly”. A common mixture was of Belladonna, the opium poppy, monkshood and/or poison hemlock. What I found was that this combination (and I shudder to think of what sort of “trips” these herbs combined created…)(Again and again, don’t try this at home…) was used in an ointment so, my guess is, as my sources do not give detail, that it was absorbed through the skin–our largest organ. Having had some lightheaded experiences working in the “High” bed in the herb garden at the living history museum where I used to volunteer, I can testify that the absorption of potentially toxic, or lethal, plant matter can be quite potent, indeed. In my case, it was Lily of the Valley that had me reeling a bit.

But I digress…

In his excellent book, Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs, Scott Cunningham also alludes to this ancient practice of using Belladonna “to encourage astral protection and to produce visions, but safer alternatives are available today and belladonna is best avoided’ (53).

May God bless you & keep you!

Works Cited

Atropa belladonna. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Web.
Retrieved from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atropa_belladonna. 26 October 2016.

Cunningham, Scott. Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs, Second Edition. Llewellyn Publications, Minnesota: 1985.

Ghosts, Hauntings, Supernatural

Violet?

As we wind down towards the end of October and one of my favorite holidays of the year: Halloween, or Samhain (pronounced SOW-en), almost all of the hauntings I have related thus far, occurred between 2001-2002 when Dan and I first purchased this property. After awhile, they seemed to die down unless some major changes were happening here (i.e. our divorce; renovations; roommates, etc.). Albeit, one can still hear voices whispering late at night if you’re awake into the wee hours of morning and, occasionally, a push pin or two will drop seemingly out of nowhere. But, overall, it is pretty quiet now.

However, a question I often get asked is, “Have I seen any ghosts?”

To that, I have to say, “Maybe.”

And this ambiguous answer stems from some small part of me not wanting to own up to this “visit”, a bit fearful that someone really might send the men in white coats to my doorstep.

Another weekend morning I was lying in bed, awake, but indulging in not having to get up early. The property wasn’t a homestead-in-the-makings then so no livestock to feed and water. And, as it was still fairly early, I was confident the dogs would be okay for a few more moments while I gave in to a bit of laziness. I don’t remember what I was thinking or daydreaming about, or even for how long, but I started to feel distracted. At the opposite end of the hallway from the master bedroom was/is another small bedroom that Dan used as a computer room/office space. I thought I heard someone moving around there but it didn’t really worry me because Dan spent his early weekend mornings playing video games, such as “Tomb Raider” on the PC. I glanced down the hall but, while the computer was turned on, Dan was not sitting at it. I saw shadows moving on the wall behind the PC but, as the shelves where Dan kept his video games (this was an old, 1998 Sony desktop model–a dinosaur today) were on the opposite side of the room, again, I wasn’t worried. I simply assumed he was searching for whatever game he was in the mood for that morning.

I snuggled back down into the pillow and contented myself with scratching the chin of one of the resident felines, smiling at the rumbling effect. Until the opening of a can of cat food downstairs and Dan’s, “Kitty, kitty, kitty” sent said feline racing downstairs for breakfast.

Wait a minute…

If Dan was downstairs, then who was moving around down the hall?

I glanced up and noticed the shadows moving on the wall again. Traffic from Route 6? I was about to laugh at myself for being so spooky when one of those shadows took shape.

Standing behind the computer desk’s chair stood an older woman, rather thin and transparent–I could still see the desk and PC behind her but I could also see her. She wore dark clothing: full skirts, dark veiling behind her head (a widow or someone in mourning?), dark gloves, and a cameo broach. Gray (or maybe blondish) hair was pulled up in a bun on her head; her eyes were dark. She stared at me a moment, said, “I’m Violet” and then walked into the wall. I can tell you I made it downstairs to the kitchen in record time.

“Oh my God! (Yes, I was shaken up enough even to taking His name in vain, something I usually refrain from doing) You are never going to believe this.”

Dan’s response was that, “In this house, I’d believe anything.”

By this point, cats “escaping”, scavenger hunts, and VHS fascinations had already transpired so this was just another haunting in a long list of them. By this point, it was becoming old hat. And, while I can still see her face and hear her introduction of herself, despite all of the other occurrences, I still doubt my senses, wondering if during my daydreams and ruminations, I didn’t conjure her myself. I mean, what are the chances?

That’s what I kept telling myself. Until Mom arrived in September 2014. I received a very sarcastic “Thank you” after she was moved in and then I began telling her about some of these hauntings. As she was a new occupant, I worried that maybe things would stir up again here. However, for the first month or so, it was business as usual.

One night Mom couldn’t sleep. As she made her way downstairs to the bathroom, she happened to glance down the hall to that same computer room–now my bedroom (Mom is in the master bedroom)–and saw a woman standing in the doorway. A woman in dark clothing: full skirts, dark veiling and gloves, a cameo broach at her throat and her hair in a bun. Mom said she nearly screamed but found it wouldn’t come. It was then she remembered my description of “Violet” and, though still shaken, ran downstairs to the bathroom where she waited, long after her business was completed, before climbing back upstairs. She says she glanced back down the hall when she reached her bedroom door but Violet had disappeared. Later, she confessed to worrying that I might think she was crazy–or dreaming but I’ve seen dead people, too.

As I have records going back only to the late-1970’s of former occupants here, with her full skirts, I have never expected to find Violet’s name in these more current records; more likely, she may have been an occupant during the years when this house was first built, around 1911. I like not thinking she may have been one of many lost souls who met her Maker under a chartered oak. As she has never done more than stare at us, I prefer to think of her as someone’s old-fashioned granny watching over us in sleep, someone who may have died peacefully in her sleep many generations ago. At the very least, perhaps she was convicted of a more minor crime. As I’d rather not find that she was an ax-murderer in 1874 or some such year, I’ve neglected any further research and prefer to stick to the grandmotherly figure; it makes sleep a bit more easy, if you get my meaning.

And, yes, after each haunting, after each incident, I always pray for their souls and bid them to “Go to the Light!”

May God bless you & keep you!

Ghosts, Hauntings, Supernatural

Haunted Movie Night

I’m going to date myself a little bit but there was a time when all of my movie collection was on VHS tapes. When Dan and I first bought this home, that’s what we had. I lined them up on a bookshelf in alphabetical order (I have stated before that I’m OCD, right?) near the entertainment center for easy access…and the site for another unexplained incident.

VHS tapes, for those who may be unfamiliar with them, came in two different types of protection. Some had a hard-shell case that snapped open and shut to protect the tape from damage. The other was a cardboard “sleeve” that slid over the tape. The majority of our movie collection had the latter type.

It started out innocent enough. I found a couple of sleeves pulled up to reveal the bottom inch or so of tape. I pushed the sleeve back down. A few days’ later, I found a few more sleeves pulled up. This kept happening over the course of a few weeks, with more and more sleeves pulled up until it seemed a regular pattern was developing where one sleeve would be pulled up; two were down; one was up; three were down, and so on and so forth. I pushed them back down only to come back a day or two later to find them up again. I started getting irritated and suspected Dan was pulling them up but I couldn’t figure out why. Was this a practical joke? But, no sooner did I push the sleeves down again, I’d forget about them until the next time, so I never thought to ask him.

Until one afternoon, we were both in the living room together and I looked over to find the sleeves all up in that crazy every-two/every-three pattern.

I huffed out a breath of impatience and asked, “Why do you keep doing this?”

“What?”

“Pulling up every second or third video sleeve. I keep pushing them back down. Why do you keep pulling them back up again?”

“Dammit! I finally left them alone because I thought you were doing it and I was afraid if I kept pushing them back down again, I’d finally catch hell for changing it.”

He wasn’t angry. Just resigned to his fate.

“Why would I pull them up like this?”

“I don’t know. I thought maybe it was something you saw in ‘Better Homes and Gardens’ or something.”

So Dan wasn’t pulling them up either. I walked over to the shelf and pushed the covers all back down, flush with the shelf. It was then that each of us started sharing some of the strange things we’d been noticing around the house, things we each thought we were nuts to consider and afraid to share with the other. We did have a penchant for “Haunted History” and “Haunted Travel” (or whatever the shows were called on The History Channel and The Travel Channel, respectively; it has been a while since I’ve watched either); perhaps our imaginations were running wild. As we talked, I think we both felt a sense of relief to be finally sharing these phenomena–if, indeed, that’s what it was.

Dan got up and went into the kitchen, both of us still talking, and got a drink out of the refrigerator. Rather than yell through the house, after a glance back at the shelves, where all of the cardboard covers still lay flush against the shelf where I had straightened them, I got up and followed him into the kitchen. Our conversation continued as I made myself a cup of tea.

When we returned to the living room, maybe fifteen to twenty minutes later, we both glanced over at the shelf of videotapes. They were all back up, every two/every three, marching across the shelves.

May God bless you & keep you!

Alcoholism, Animals, Healing, Herbs, Homesteading, Nature, Writing

Odds and Ends…and Apologies

First, the apology. For being “absent” for the last two days and sporadically posting this past week in general. A recent resignation by our Titles’ Clerk at the dealership, just days before our supervisor’s week-long vacation, has provided some much-needed extra hours (and pay!) to keep things running, well, maybe not “smoothly” but certainly running…period. And I am happy to pitch in and help. But it’s certainly thrown a curve ball into my daily routine. I’ve even fallen off of the wagon, so to speak, with my 3:30 a.m. rising time; the longer days requiring some extra ZZZ’s to stay on top of things. However, this morning I awakened at exactly 3:44 a.m., which isn’t bad considering I forgot to set my alarm last night, so maybe this is a sign we’re getting back in the groove again–a good groove. My apologies for allowing myself to fall out of that groove in the first place. While this is a free blog, there is an old saying that “paying customers deserve prompt and regular service”; my regular readers deserve regular posts to keep reading.

Anywho, now that I’m back–albeit, my work schedule is still fuller than usual for the rest of this week–some updates on the homestead.

I hate making these reports. I lost one of my Plymouth Barred-Rock chickens Saturday evening. My Patience started looking “off” a few days’ before, back roached, stomach distended. One of my other chickens started pecking at her–not brutally, more like a nudge to say, “Hey, are you okay?” but I decided to bring her indoors, lest, some of the more aggressive birds decide to have a real go at her. After checking to be certain she wasn’t egg bound, I heated some olive oil in a sauce pan, added a tablespoon of minced garlic, and let it simmer for a while. After it cooled, I filled an eyedropper and gave it to her. Garlic is a fine antibiotic as well as being good for expelling worms, and chickens fairly love it. I added a bit more of the dried, minced garlic to her feed, along with some fennel (good for digestion) and dried parsley, which is also good for worms. Parsley has the added benefit of being good for constipation and obstructions of the intestinal tract (De Bairacli Levy 118-119). She balked at these treatments at first but, over time, I would say she at least resigned herself to them. I even gave her an olive oil enema because she was not passing her waste but it was to no avail. I found her when I came home from work Saturday night. Patience was one of my older hens but, losing beloved pets, is something you never quite get “used to”. Albeit, I have noticed a certain thicker skin happening where my chickens are concerned. Despite a healthy, varied diet, plenty of room to stretch their legs, dust baths, and good, clean housing, they tend to go down rather quickly and, sometimes, unexpectedly. They can be quite stoic, not displaying any symptoms of illness or even injury until those final moments. They are also pretty high on the food chain and predation can also be a problem. However, I never considered, when I first took up homesteading, how many times I would also adopt the role of “gravedigger”. I know that nobody–human or humane–lives forever but knowing that doesn’t make it any easier–and I hope it never does become “easy”; that’s when I quit.

Today would have been my paternal grandfather’s birthday. He would have been 111 years old so not likely I would still have him in my life even if alcoholism hadn’t ended his time here on earth at only 68 years’ old, but I always mark this day as special, remembering him and the legacy he left behind. Calef Burbank (and that’s pronounced with a long A: KAY-lef) wrote for the Providence Journal for 40 years as an investigative reporter. He was even nominated for the Pulitzer Prize for his writing. Some of my earliest memories of him are watching him bang away at the old manual typewriter and emulating him. I loved that old typewriter and, though I prefer the speed at which my fingers can fly over this modern PC keyboard–a speed that can keep pace better with my thoughts–there will always be a nostalgic love for the manuals. In addition to his writing, he was a gifted pianist, guitarist, taught me to play chess at the tender age of 3, enjoyed learning, bird watching, and ginger snap cookies. I can say “ditto for me” with the exception of piano playing. He tried teaching me as a little girl but I was too impatient, preferring to bang away with wild abandon and a lot of discord; he finally gave up on me. Today, I wish I’d absorbed those teachings as readily as I did the chessboard.

Lastly, I spent an hour yesterday morning building four more raised beds for the herb garden. I am hoping this wonderful Indian summer lasts long enough to build a few more before the cold creeps back in. With a little luck–and a lot of hard work–next summer may be the first of many physical “weed” walks. Keep your fingers crossed!

May God bless you & keep you!

Works Cited

De Bairacli Levy, Juliette. The Complete Herbal Handbook for the Farm and Stable, Fourth Edition. Faber and Faber, New York: 1991.

Abuse, Alcoholism, Faith, Healing, Homesteading

The Right Tools

Yesterday saw me being warmed the first time by the wood for the woodstove. For those of you unfamiliar with the old saying, when you heat your home with wood, that wood warms you twice. Once during the splitting and stacking, the second in the woodstove or hearth. Albeit, this is wood for next year’s heat but I worked up a sweat nonetheless. Primarily because these logs are too thick for the splitter and need to be cut down into more manageable pieces; the little hand saw I have is too small for the job. But I am stubborn woman. I was determined to get some wood cut. So I sawed away and, while the back and wrists screamed abuse at me, I also managed to create at least a small pile of wood that’s just the right size for the stove. When I look at that pile, I wonder how much more effective I would have been with the right tools, how much more progress I would have made.

Living with alcoholism–someone else’s, not my own–is much the same. I was a child growing up with a stepfather who drank heavily and remember my mother cajoling and threatening him to stop drinking. You’d think I had learned a valuable lesson watching all of this but, years later, I found myself in a relationship with an alcoholic and guess what? I cajoled and threatened him repeatedly to stop drinking. I even stayed in the relationship longer than necessary out of that sheer stubbornness–even when the relationship turned abusive. No, he never beat me; he threatened to. But it was enough…along with the verbal and mental abuse that leaves more permanent and painful scars than any physical abuse ever could. I used the wrong tools. And, though there were periods of sobriety and a glimpse at the beautiful person lost in this dis-ease, how much more effective would that campaign have been had I used the proper tools?

Proper tools? “Tools” such as faith; such as “Letting Go And Letting God”; such as detaching with love; such as minding my own business and taking care of myself, despite his drunken escapades. In short, working my Al-Anon program. Instead, every time he opened a can of beer or a bottle of something stronger, I waited and watched, making myself scarce until he nodded off from the effects. Then I did the chores I needed to finish before bed–a bedtime that came much too late for such an early rising time. Doing them while he was awake and alert might’ve incurred some harsh criticism from him; how I did my work was never good enough. And I was liable to take exception and give in to the jabs, to take hold of the bait for another argument. As I went through these nightly routines, I did so on tiptoes, afraid to awaken him. The same result would have happened; we would end up fighting. Sometimes I even went so far as to open a few cans while he slept and poured them down the drain. Did I really think that would stop him if he believed he’d drank 10 cans instead of 6 or 8? Did he really care about the number of cans or the amount of whiskey still left in the bottle? Was he fooled by my pitiful manipulations? Not in the least. He knew exactly how many beers/how much whiskey he’d consumed before he nodded off. We fought anyway. I tried to control him as he often controlled me. I tried to change him, to force my hand. The right “tool” would’ve been to change myself. I eventually did. The relationship ended. And he’s still drinking heavily, night after night.

I’ve learned some valuable lessons about having the right “tools”. While my cajoles and threats might have resulted in a few, brief periods of sobriety in this alcoholic–much like my stubborn insistence to cut wood with a saw too small for the size of the wood, resulted in a small pile of heat source–they did not effect the change that would’ve meant “success” for me. Instead, the alcoholic drank more and the fighting grew worse. This dis-ease is too great for mere stubbornness and manipulation to conquer, just like those enormous trunks of wood are too great to split and stack with a mere hand saw and an aging back. But, unlike the former situation, I can purchase a bigger saw, a better tool–the right tool–and get exactly the result I crave…and my back will thank me for it. Had I used the right tools with the alcoholic, and given the situation to the God of my consciousness, who knows what miracles might have taken place?

May God bless you & keep you!

Animals, Ghosts, Gratitude, Hauntings, Supernatural

Haunted Scavenger Hunt

There was an afternoon, shortly after Dan & I purchased this property, that Dan came home from work, having just cashed his paycheck, and placed $300.00 in an empty sugar bowl that was on the kitchen table. This was mortgage money and he did not want to carry it on him while he ran some errands. So he put it in the sugar bowl, placing the lid over the bowl, for safe keeping until he returned.

A short while later, Dan returned from his errands. He had one more. That was to make a deposit of the cash he’d placed in the sugar bowl. He walked in the house, walked over to the kitchen table and lifted the lid on the sugar bowl. It was empty! What the –?

Of course, anyone’s reaction would initially be panic. The table sat in front of a large picture window. Did someone see him “hiding” the money through that window? His first reaction was that we’d been robbed…even though the doors were locked and none of the windows showed signs of having been jimmied open. Eh, we’re not living in Mayberry anymore; crooks are getting craftier by the minute. But before Dan could call the police to report it, Woody, our gray tabby, came running around the corner with a $20 bill in his mouth. Phew! Relax. Breathe. The cats were simply into mischief…

and somehow managed to take the lid off of a sugar bowl, remove fifteen $20 dollar bills, and place the lid back on the sugar bowl as snugly as Dan had initially left it? Somehow, Dan just couldn’t wrap his mind around this one but there wasn’t any other answer. Thus, began his scavenger hunt for the other fourteen $20 bills.

The first few that he found fit the story of the kitties being responsible. Two or three were wadded up and “rolled” under the couch, a chair, even the bed upstairs. However, the rest were inexplicable–unless you have a few restless ghosts roaming around the house. One $20 bill was peeking out from between the mattress and box spring, perhaps an ode to a common, antiquated practice of hiding your savings under your mattress. Another was peeking out of a dresser drawer. Still another peeked out between the cushions of the sofa. He found one in a jacket pocket–and, as these were crisp, new bills, we were both fairly confident that this wasn’t a forgotten bill from another time. The strangest one, and one that couldn’t be easily explained whether from kitty capers or otherwise, was found folded lengthwise over the rod in our bedroom closet, held in place by a couple of hangers.

Dan had just found the last one when I came home from work. Needless to say, he was quite flustered due to all of the strange places he found the money, places that no cat–even were any gifted with a pair of thumbs–could accomplish. Trying to wrap our minds around it, we considered the teenage boys we’d seen up on the hill the day the cats were found out-of-doors. But would teenage boys create a scavenger hunt? More than likely, if they were gifted enough to break and enter without detection in broad daylight, in the middle of a commercial district on a major interstate, they would likely have pocketed the $300.00. And what would be the point of the scavenger hunt? None would be able to watch and laugh at their joke…unless thieves and pickpockets from another era had played such a plank.

Whoever, whatever it was, I am simply grateful the money was found. But, as any “mother” will tell you, even her “fur” babies are a cut above the rest. Maybe Paz, Woody and Ariel played a practical joke after all.

May God bless you & keep you!

Animals, Healing, Herbs, Holistic Health, Homesteading, Nature

Wednesday’s Weed Walk with the Crazy Cat Lady

That title should make it obvious what herb I’m going to write about today: Nepeta cataria, or more commonly known as, Catnip.

Catnip typically conjures up cartoon images of helpless felines languishing about in the sun, looking like someone on a healthy dose of Cannabis…and, in this household, with 10 felines, that image is pretty accurate. I keep a quart-size mason jar in my pantry full of dried catnip; the moment I unscrew the lid, every feline comes running. And the effects are almost instantaneous as even my geriatric felines start rolling around like young kittens, only to nod off into dreamland shortly thereafter. They also like to eat the dried leaves and, as it is very good for them, I allow them to take all they want.

Catnip is a mild sedative and is an excellent remedy for nervousness and hyperactivity in children (m. Tierra 114). It is also a carminative (relieves gas and bloating) and a diaphoretic (induces sweating), helping to ease fevers and colds. However, it is the analgesic properties to which I have lately been putting Catnip to use (M. Tierra 32). Catnip relieves pain. And, as the mammary tumor grows under my Ariel’s right front leg, keeping her comfortable is important. At her age (she’s 16), surgery is no longer an option and, to be honest, I am not overly-confident it is the best course of action anyway. It is highly-invasive and extremely painful for them; I’ve witnessed it time and again. Ditto for many of the orthodox pain-relievers that eventually shutdown the major organs. Fortunately, our vet’s sister is an herbalist and he approves many of the herbal alternatives, carries many of their tinctures in his clinic. She is under his care, just not under the knife. And the Catnip does appear to ease her pain and discomfort. What’s more, it is a lot easier getting her to drink an eyedropper-full of Catnip “tea” than some of the orthodox remedies with their medicinal tastes.

For humans, Catnip tea is very good for easing headaches, toothaches, and the deep-down body aches and pains of fever and flu (Tierra 114). It also tastes good so give it a try. Your cats will love you.

May God bless you & keep you!

**These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This article has been presented for educational purposes only; it is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent disease.”

Works Cited

Tierra, Michael. The Way of Herbs. Pocket Books, New York: 1998

Animals, Ghosts, Gratitude, Hauntings, Supernatural

Haunted Kitties

The first Christmas season here in Brooklyn, CT, I came home from shopping one afternoon to see a black-and-white tuxedo kitty running around the back of the house. My first thought was “That looks like Pazzy” but Paz, Woody, and Ariel, the three cats that shared our home back in 2001, were strictly indoor cats; I never let them outside so I simply assumed this was a stray that looked like Paz. I didn’t get that good of a look at him. So I went about my business of unloading the car and carrying my bags to the door. By the time I had opened it, the stray cat had completely slipped my mind except for a vague wish that he or she would not find Route 6 any time soon.

Setting down my bundles, I noticed that none of my kitties came to greet me at the door. That was very unusual because they always did. However, I still wasn’t making the connection between the Pazzy-lookalike and my own precious felines. I called a greeting. Still no response. That’s when it hit me. That “stray” didn’t look like Pazzy; it was Paz!

My first thought, because I assumed Woody and Ariel were still somewhere in the house, was that he’d slipped by Dan when Dan went out to visit his friend, Timmy, and play some cards. After all, the door had been locked tight. But where was Arial and Woody? I started searching the house. Nobody sleeping on the bed, the sofa, any of the chairs. I checked all the usual “haunts”; then even scoped out the closets and every other possible hiding place just to rule them all out. Finally, I had to concede that somehow they had all gotten out and there was no way that all three could have slipped by Dan together. I ran outside and around back where I’d last seen Paz.

Calling his name, I looked everywhere for all of them. Suddenly, Paz flew out from under the back deck, streaked by me and scurried under the shed. This wasn’t going to be easy and I needed help. I ran back inside and called Dan.

“By any chance did you let the cats outside?” I asked because I still couldn’t fathom how all of them had escaped at once.

“Of course not. Why?”

“They’re not in the house. I saw Paz running around the back of the house when I got home. And none of the other cats are in the house either. Paz just crawled under the shed. I can’t find Woody or Ariel anywhere.”

“I’ll be right home.”

Dan and I spent the better part of two hours trying to find them. After another careful sweep of the house, we ascertained that none of them was inside. We checked all of the doors. All of them were latched and locked tight; there was no way anyone could get in or any possibility the wind could’ve blown a door open to let them out. We headed back outside.

Flashlight in hand, Dan started shining it under the shed. Nothing.

“Are you sure this is where he went?”

“Yes. He was under the deck before that.”

A light bulb went off in both our heads. Maybe they were all under the deck. Outside was probably a scary place for three inexperienced kitties. But how were we going to get them back out? There was no access for humans under that deck unless we started taking it apart.

Suddenly, Dan grabbed the garden house and turned on the water. Walking backwards and forwards he started hosing down the back deck. Within seconds Paz came scurrying out. I managed to scoop him up and put him inside, rejoicing that I had one little bundle of joy safe at hand again. Dan kept the hose running, concentrating on the back corners now. Ariel excavated some of the dirt away from the bottom of the deck and seemed to grow out of the ground like a giant mole. I caught her up and took her inside, too. That left Woody. And, as he was the most skittish of the three, after another 20 minutes of hosing the deck, we were both forced to conclude that Woody had not joined his siblings under the deck. Where was he? Dan turned off the hose.

By now, I was in hysterics. Where was my Woody? Though I love all of my cats, Woody held a very special place in my heart. Though all three are/were extremely affectionate, Woody was the ultimate cuddle bug. Got lap? Have Woody. He just couldn’t be lost. I started praying, an endless litany of the same thing over and again. “Please don’t let him be lost for good, Lord!”; “Please help us find him.”; “Please don’t let him get out on Route 6 or let anything attack him.” Shuddering at the thought, I walked to the edge of the road and looked up and down it, breathing a sigh of relief that no little gray and black tiger-striped cat was “gracing” it. I started walking towards the woods. I would overturn every rock and branch in those woods if I thought it would help me to find him. I noticed some teenage boys sitting atop the hill and wondered, briefly, if they could have let them out as a prank but how did they get in to do so? Again, all three doors were locked, as were the windows. It was December, after all. More likely, they were drawn to my big mouth calling for my cats and were simply getting a show.

It was then that I heard Dan call out, “I’ve got him!” Woody had chosen to hide in the front bushes. Dan searched them on a hunch and Woody came right to him; he didn’t like his trip outside.

“Thank you, Lord!”

I never ran so fast in my life.

Later, after all three felines were safely inside again, Dan and I started wondering how they had gotten out in the first place. We checked the doors again. They were all closed tightly. All of the locks on the windows were set and there was no sign of any forced entry. Though I still don’t rule out a teenage prank entirely, it is only because I hate thinking that some “other” entity had a hand in their escape. Though I am by no means an expert on the supernatural, or ghosts, I’ve read, watched and studied enough documentation to know that pets are often innocent targets during a haunting. And would teenage boys hang around after the fact? It is more likely they would have lit out of there, not wanting to get caught as suspects in a breaking and entering.

Today, I’m just grateful we found them all. Paz and Ariel are still beloved blessings in my life; Woody was likewise until his passing in 2012. And his memory is something I will cherish until my own dying day. I am also grateful that “my” ghosts have not seen fit to let the cats out again…

Perhaps it was a teenage prank after all…

May God bless you and keep you!

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Faith, Gratitude, Healing

A Perfect Sharing

Four good “witches” from the North traveled even farther North this weekend as Mom, two aunties and I made our annual trip to Salem, Massachusetts. Sadly, we were a much smaller group than last year’s convoy but I’m learning to accept that things are the way they are and, more importantly, I’m learning to follow Father Elson’s advice about the current family situation: Let those who don’t want to associate with you go their own way but don’t burn all the bridges; let them know the bridge is always there if they should ever decide to cross back over. You cannot force someone to cross it if they do not want to; that is their free will, but you can love them enough to keep in contact, whether a holiday card or whatever means, to let them know they still matter to you. And so, I take it to heart. Or at least try to…

However, despite all of this crazy drama, I am not lamenting this Saturday’s outing at all. We had a grand time, enjoying the sites, the beautiful weather, some good food and a lot of laughs.

I have a penchant for always being late. Amazingly, Mom and I were actually about 15 minutes’ early–even with stopping for gasoline and a cup of chai (moi)/coffee (Mom) along the way. And there was no convoy as 4 of us fit quite nicely together in one car. I have to remember next time to bring some tunes but that was the only hitch this time around and we made up for the lack of tunes by catching up with each other. No wrong exits, no ‘bad’ directions, fewer streets blocked off and we found the perfect place to park–at a special education school parking lot that was raising money for the school to benefit the kids that attended it. It was a win-win situation; we found a safe place to park for the day without worry of being towed or vandalized, and the school received a much-needed donation. They also opened the school up for travelers to use their restrooms and provided printed directions for an alternative route out of Salem–one that wouldn’t take you through the downtown area that became more congested as the day wore on. And, though we planned for any sort of weather and temps, it was a beautifully balmy day for sharing with loved ones; the jackets and gloves got plunked into the trunk of the car before we headed downtown.

The usual million dollar question got tossed about for awhile: what do you want to do/see first? We took a walk through the mall where countless vendors hawked their wares and I was strongly tempted to purchase a T-shirt that read: “Never mind the flying monkeys; beware what I might do with this broom”. But I restrained myself, preferring to keep the $15 in my pocket. Instead, I went for a $2 bumper sticker that reads: “I dream of a world where chickens can cross the road without having their motives questioned” That may well become the battle cry for my existence.

We found a lovely little pub down by the wharf for lunch. Initially, we were told it would be a 45 minute wait but, when so many people had left rather than waiting, we had a table for 4 within 10 minutes. Again, we enjoyed the conversation, the laughs and even made plans for the upcoming holidays. It was the perfect sharing: no gossip, no quarrels, no drama.

What made it even more perfect was that the sharing wasn’t just in the conversation. I drove. I didn’t mind; I’ve been to Salem enough times that everything starts to look familiar without directions–almost. But everyone chipped in for parking and gasoline; I didn’t ask, they simply did. One aunt paid for lunch. The other bought us coffee/tea and dessert later on. We gave to each other in an endless ebb and flow of sharing. By doing so, nobody felt left out or uncomfortable.

Now we’re planning for next year. Despite the mutual sharing, pricing was such that we declined a number of events. And some of the tours were rather lengthy so we’re hoping to plan out a few activities before we make this next road trip. The Psychic Faire, The Ghosts and Legends Trolley tour, The Smugglers’ Tour and the Mahi Mahi boat tour were all yearned for but either the timing was off and/or we hadn’t planned on the higher price tags. Also, the usual historic home tours do not happen during October due to the sheer volumes of visitors. Instead, though I assured everyone that Witch House was worth the admission, it proved false as we were left to look around on our own and simply read the lengthy static displays in each room; it’s much better off-season when an actual tour guide provides a good 30-45 minute commentary on the history of the house, and Judge Corwin, who was a prosecutor during the Salem Witch Trials of 1692.

Maybe next year we’ll make two trips–one for a more enjoyable history lesson and another for the special Halloween/Samhain events. Maybe next year we’ll also have a bigger convoy but, again, I won’t lament what is. Gratitude is the way to true happiness.

May God bless you & keep you!