Sunday, April 2, 2017

Ghosts are People Too...cradle to the grave and beyond

The author as a newborn with her mother.
This month's post is not based so much on research as it is on my own observation and reflection about how we view different stages of human life and how it may relate to the Afterlife.

How many times have you heard someone say "I love children," in the same way they might say "I love dogs"...or "cats"...or "baby goats?" It's as though children are a different species altogether. The same goes for "teenagers" or the newest designation du jour, "milleninals," or "the middle-aged," or "old people" --unless you are a child or a teenager or a millennial or middle-aged or an old person, and then it's just "us." It seems to be a part of human nature to inhabit our particular current age group as though this is who we've always been and who we will always be. Not necessarily in an intellectual sense, but in an emotional/psychological one. That children will always be children and teenagers will be always be stuck in adolescent limbo. We can think back on our own earlier days and note that, yes, we lived in that house as a child, or we hated carrots as a child, or we loved horses as a child. But go to a playground and watch a gang of kids swinging and sliding and hanging from the monkey bars and we think "those are children--look how much energy they have...or look
The author with mother and brother
how whiny they are...or look how cute they are..." and see them as something separate from the rest of humanity. Boys will be boys...forever.

BUT, children are just people who've not been around as long as some. And old people are just those who've been around the longest of us. They are the same creature. In thinking of all things ghostly for my current work-in-progress, I can extrapolate this same tendency of ours to our attitude toward those who have entered that next stage of life, what we sometimes refer to as the Afterlife. We often think of the spirits of the departed as strange and unholy entities. Or we think of them as strange and very holy entities. Monsters or angels, take your pick. But whatever they are, they aren't us. I am putting forth the idea that ghosts are not a separate species anymore than are the youngest or oldest among us. They are simply us at a different phase of life. Therefore, they are nothing to fear unless they were fearsome at an earlier age. Just people. The truest, innermost soul of the person, free of physical advantages or disadvantages with which they lived in a former stage of life.
The author, her grandmother, mother, and baby

OK. I'm climbing down from my metaphysical soapbox now. Perhaps this sudden need to express myself on this issue comes from the fact that April is the month of my birth and I am thinking of years past and years to come and how I've changed and will continue to change but, at my core, am the same person now and always, even in that future "land of far, far away" to which my beloved mother has already traveled. Thanks, dear Reader, for indulging me.

Thanks for stopping by...y'all come back now.  And Happy Birthday to Me! :)


P.S.-- Below is the word count meter showing my progress on my latest Work In Progress: 
Zephyr Stone and the Moon Mist Ghost

33459 / 60000 words. 56% done!

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Of Libraries and Ghosts and the Emerald Isle...a post for St Patrick's Day

So, tis the month of celebrating the wearin' of the green, and I have discovered a story, said
"Marsh's Library" photo by Tim Tregnza via Wikimedia Commons
to be true, of a haunted library in Dublin, Ireland. Wow. I've just mentioned three of my greatest imagination-tweakers in that one sentence: libraries, hauntings, and Ireland. So hang on to your green hats, pull up a chair, and have your cuppa (or pint) ready as I tell you the tale of

The Haunted Marsh Library

On St Patrick's Close in Dublin, Ireland, sits a beautiful, early eighteenth century library tucked in beside St Patrick's Cathedral. It is the oldest free public library in Ireland and looks, today, much as it has for the past three hundred years. It maintains its original atmosphere, complete with "cages"--small rooms in which one was locked inside to prevent theft of its more valuable books.

The library was founded by Archbishop Narcissus Marsh in 1707 on ground belonging to the House of St Sepulchre, then the Palace of the Archbishops of Dublin. It is noted in an official transcript as : 
"An Act passed 1707 for settling and preserving a Publick Library for ever, in the House for that purpose built by His Grace Narcissus now Lord Archbishop of Armagh, on part of the Ground belonging to the Archbishop of Dublin's Pallace, near to the City of Dublin.'"
"Archbishop Narcissus Marsh" by Unknown

Since the archbishop's passing in 1713, there have been consistent reports of a ghostly figure browsing the shelves of the Inner Gallery after hours, pulling out books, thumbing through them, and sometimes angrily flinging them down onto a nearby desk. By morning, however, all the books are neatly replaced in their original positions. So, who is this? The archbishop, perhaps, unhappy with the work of the current library staff? The story was first placed in print in 1914 in a book by St. John D. Seymour and Harry L. Neligan entitled True Irish Ghost Stories. I have placed its recording of the ghostly tale here for your "3Es" of the day (Education, Entertainment, and Enlightenment.)

--Marsh's library, that quaint, old-world repository of ponderous tomes, is reputed to be haunted by the ghost of its founder, Primate Narcissus Marsh. He is said to frequent the inner gallery, which contains what was formerly his own private library: he moves in and out among the cases, taking down books from the shelves, and occasionally throwing them down on the reader's desk as if in anger. However, he always leaves things in perfect order. The late Mr. —, who for some years lived in the librarian's rooms underneath, was a firm believer in this ghost, and said he frequently heard noises which could only be accounted for by the presence of a nocturnal visitor; the present tenant is more sceptical. The story goes that Marsh's niece eloped from
"Marsh's Library" by Tim Tregenza via Wikimedia Commons
the Palace, and was married in a tavern to the curate of Chapelizod. She is reported to have written a note consenting to the elopement, and to have then placed it in one of her uncle's books to which her lover had access, and where he found it. As a punishment for his lack of vigilance, the Archbishop is said to be condemned to hunt for the note until he find it—hence the ghost.--

If I am ever fortunate enough to visit that magical land of some of my ancestors, I will most certainly pay a visit to Marsh's Library. Perhaps I can find a way to procure an after-hours tour and accidentally become stranded overnight in the Inner Gallery. Ghost or no ghost, I can't imagine a better place in which to be locked inside. Better than a candy store!

Thanks for stopping by...y'all come back now.  And Happy St. Paddy's Day!
"Irish Soda Bread" baked and photographed by the author KL Wood


Thursday, February 9, 2017

Spectral Lovers...of the Great Dismal Swamp

"Lake Drummond in The Great Dismal Swamp
National Wildlife Refuge" photo by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
 Northeast Region via Wikimedia Commons
One of only two natural lakes in Virginia is surrounded by 100,000 acres of deep, dark wetlands straddling that state's southeastern border with its neighbor, North Carolina. Lake Drummond sits in the midst of the Great Dismal Swamp and, along with its mysterious swamplands, is the source of many ghostly tales. As this intriguing natural wonder is central to my latest work-in-progress (a middle-grade novel entitled Zephyr Stone, Ghost Charmer,) and as this is the romantic month of 
February, I am sharing one of the swamp's most famous stories.
"Thomas Moore" by Martin Archer Shee

One of the oldest tales of the Great Dismal Swamp is the enduring legend of the Lady of the Lake. The earliest people to populate the swamp were Native Americans who are thought to have first lived there 13,000 years into the past. It is not surprising, then, that this long-lived tale features those early inhabitants. It is said that a young Native American woman died just before her wedding day and her ghostly image can be seen paddling a white canoe through the dark waters of Lake Drummond. While visiting Norfolk, Virginia in 1803, Irish poet Thomas Moore immortalized the Lady and her distraught bridegroom in his poem, "A Ballad: The Lake of the Dismal Swamp." This was part of Moore's book, Epistles, Odes, and Other Poems, written in 1806 about his experiences and impressions during his visit to Bermuda and the eastern region of America. His introduction to the collection is a scathing criticism of the people he encountered in the young nation. His poem about the spectral lovers, however, is the height of romanticism.

From the Sheet Music Collection of
Samuel S. Levy at Johns Hopkins University
A Ballad: The Lake of the Dismal Swamp
by Thomas Moore

“They made her a grave, too cold and damp 
For a soul so warm and true; 
And she’s gone to the Lake of the Dismal Swamp, 
Where, all night long, by a fire-fly lamp, 
She paddles her white canoe. 

“And her fire-fly lamp I soon shall see, 
And her paddle I soon shall hear; 
Long and loving our life shall be, 
And I’ll hide the maid in a cypress tree,
When the footstep of death is near.” 

Away to the Dismal Swamp he speeds— 
His path was rugged and sore, 
Through tangled juniper, beds of reeds,
Through many a fen where the serpent feeds, 
And man never trod before. 

And when on the earth he sunk to sleep, 
If slumber his eyelids knew, 
He lay where the deadly vine doth weep 
"Stained Glass of Dismal Swamp" photo by KL Wood
Its venomous tear and nightly steep 
The flesh with blistering dew! 

And near him the she-wolf stirr’d the brake, 
And the copper-snake breath’d in his ear, 

Till he starting cried, from his dream awake, 
“Oh! when shall I see the dusky Lake, 
And the white canoe of my dear?” 

He saw the Lake, and a meteor bright 
Quick over its surface play’d— 
“Welcome,” he said, “my dear one’s light!” 
And the dim shore echoed for many a night 
The name of the death-cold maid. 
"Beaver Dam, Dismal Swamp" photo by KL Wood

Till he hollow’d a boat of the birchen bark, 
Which carried him off from shore; 
Far, far he follow’d the meteor spark, 
The wind was high and the clouds were dark, 
And the boat return’d no more. 

But oft, from the Indian hunter’s camp, 
This lover and maid so true 
Are seen at the hour of midnight damp 
To cross the Lake by a fire-fly lamp, 
And paddle their white canoe!

    My husband and I visited the Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge, today, with
"Tree in Road, Dismal Swamp" photo by KL Wood
the intention of driving to Lake Drummond. Unfortunately, a victim of this morning's wind storm blocked our path half-way, its long branches stretching across the narrow road, its large root base upended over the canal leading to the lake. Oh well. Another day. Who knows, perhaps the Lady of the Lake did not wish to be disturbed today.

Thanks for stopping by...y'all come back now.  And Happy Valentine's Day!

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Self-Care in Grief...soothing essential oils

"The Leaf",(1897/1898) by Elizabeth Forbes
When someone dear to us dies, friends often encourage us to take care of ourselves, to be gentle with ourselves. I have given this advice to many people over the years but now I am the recipient of this sympathetic support. You see, my mother passed away the day after Christmas. Mama had lived with us for the previous two years as she fought against ovarian cancer, first detected six years before. She was briefly hospitalized at the beginning of December and then came back home to us under Hospice support. She achieved her two goals, celebrating her ninety-third birthday on December 16th, and seeing her great-grandchildren on Christmas Day. Those accomplished, she gently slipped away with my husband, my brother, my sister-in-law, and me, by her side.

Even when expected, even at the end of a very long life, losing someone so loved and integral to our lives is hard. Really, really hard. So how do I follow my own advice of self-care? I should remember to eat healthy food and stay hydrated, even when I don't think I can swallow it down. I should take walks even though I just want to sit here in my chair with Mama's blanket over my lap. I should allow myself to cry when
the tears well up and allow myself to laugh when humor gently nudges my funny bone.

What other things can I do? When a caring neighbor gave me some hand lotion that smells just like sugar cookies, I noticed how comforting it was each time I smoothed it on. Although I liked the feel of the lotion, I realized it was the scent that was soothing to my spirit. Of course. It was a form of aromatherapy. So I've done a bit of research and found some essential oils that are especially helpful for the kind of self-care I need at this time. (I discovered these in a blog post by Marika Fleri on the School of Aromatic Studies website.)
"Fresh Cut Lavender Flowers" by Lexipexi via Wikimedia Commons

Use these combinations in a bath, diffuser, or aromatherapy inhaler:

3 drops Sandalwood
2 drops Melissa
2 drops Frankincense


3 drops Mandarin
2 drops Lavender
2 drops Clary Sage

"Mama and Me" photo by William Ahearn, the author's husband

3 drops Lavender
2 drops Roman Chamomile
2 drops Jasmine

Thanks for stopping by...y'all come back now.  

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Sage Advice about Holiday Thyme...and other seasonal herbs

"Bill's Turkey" by KLWood
For many of us the holidays, stretching from Thanksgiving to Christmas, are alive with aromas that transport us to days gone by, full of the love and warmth of family and friends. A good part of this comes from a mixture of herbs we often use with turkey and stuffing (or in the case of this Southern girl--dressing, which is baked outside the bird.) Today we take a look at that traditional concoction of aromatic herbs and explore the individual components to discover the qualities of their essential oils.

Thyme: Warming, pain relieving, circulation aid

Sage: Aids respiratory, reproductive, and nervous systems

Marjoram: Warming, antispasmodic, circulation aid

Rosemary: Analgesic
By Stacy Spensley from San Diego, via Wikimedia Commons

Black Pepper: Warming, pain relieving, circulation aid

Nutmeg:  Relaxing, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, bactericidal 

So, whether you sprinkle the herbs on your turkey, stir them into your dressing (stuffing,) or add their essential oils to your favorite carrier oil/lotion and rub it on yourself, the scents of the season will bring you comfort and joy!

Have a wonderful holiday season, dear Reader. Thanks for stopping by...y'all come back now! 

Monday, October 24, 2016

Things That Go Bump in the Night...essential oils for Halloween

As Halloween draws nigh, our thoughts turn to all things spooky. And, yes, there is an
"Pumpkin King at Disneyland" By Imperpay at English Wikipedia
via Wikimedia Commons
essential oil for that. Lots of them, actually. Although we most often think of essential oils as means to promote physical healing and mental/emotional stabilization, they have also been used over the centuries and throughout myriad world cultures for protection against negative energies and evil spirits. 

Essential Oils traditionally thought to aid in protection:

Star Anise
Anisee (against disturbing dreams) 
Carnation Absolute
Cedarwood Virginian (protection and purification of magical spaces, dispelling negative energies, exorcism and banishing rites)
Citronella (protection against Vampires! Well...bloodsucking mosquitoes, anyway) 
Clary Sage
Eucalyptus (banishing negative energies)
"Cedarwood Essential OIl"
By Itineranttrade via Wikimedia Commons
Sweet Fennel
Galbanum (and banishing negative energies)
Juniper (and dispelling negative energies and entities)
True Melissa
Mimosa Absolute
Myrrh (and dispelling negative and harmful energies, psychic sensitivity, protection on journeys to the spirit realm)
Oakmoss Resinoid
Black Pepper
Pimento Berry 
Rosemary (and to assist transition into the spirit realm)
Spanish Sage
Spearmint (protection against negative energies during dream work)
"Family Resemblance" by the author, KLWood
White Thyme

So, regardless of your personal beliefs along the subject, you just may want to heat some of these up in your essential oil burner come Halloween night. It couldn't hurt. And, you never know, it just might help against: 

"Ghoulies and ghosties, And long-leggedy beasties, And things that go bump in the night!"

Have a good couple weeks, dear Reader. Thanks for stopping by...y'all come back now! (And Happy Halloween!)

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

The Nose Knows...canine superpower

One of the central characters of my work-in-progress cozy mystery novel, is a beagle
"Beagle Face" By Mariano Szklanny  [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
named Betty. I chose Betty's breed, not only for its well-deserved reputation as a sweet and loyal companion, but because it is one of the stars of the canine olfactory league. Since my main character is an aromatherapist who deals in scents on a daily basis, it seemed appropriate she should have a pet that appreciates her particular line of work. In researching various super-sniffer breeds I learned just how amazing is the canine sense of smell. Compared to humans, it really does fall into the superpowers realm.

Not only do dogs have superior numbers of olfactory sensors in their noses (300 million to our 6 million,) the part of their brains dedicated to detecting smells is about 40 times greater than ours. When an analogy is made with vision, if eyes could see as well as noses could smell, what we could see clearly at 1/3 of a mile, a dog could see at 3000 miles or further. If the analogy is one of taste, where we could detect a teaspoon of sugar in a cup of coffee, a dog could detect a teaspoon of sugar in a million gallons of water. Yes. They are that
"Sophie and Toadstool" by KL Wood
powerful. For myself, I'm grateful my sense of smell is not so acute, especially when passing by an active landfill on a hot summer day. It's a good thing dogs appear to enjoy all kinds of smells! 

Dogs can determine which of their nostrils a particular scent entered, knowing to search left or to search right for the source. And although we inhale and exhale air and scent through the same passageway, dogs have a fold inside their noses that separate the two and upon exhalation, sends the scent out through slits on the side of the nose in a swirl of air that helps pull in more scent. In this way, dogs can achieve a continuous flow of scent making them the outstanding trackers they are. For more fascinating facts about this canine superpower, I invite you to check out this article from the PBS program, NOVA:

Here is a list pulled from of the crème de la crème, the top ten sniffing superstars of dogdom:
"Blood Hound" By Petruss (Own work) Wikimedia Commons

10- Pointer
 9- German Shorthaired Pointer
 8- Coonhound
 7- English Springer Spaniel
 6- Belgian Malinois
 5- Labrador Retriever
 4- German Shepherd
 3- Beagle (go Betty!)
 2- Bassett Hound
And, drumroll please, the number one sniffer is...
 1-Blood Hound

So, there you have it. As we humans sit smugly assuming we are in all ways superior to all God's creatures, let us not forget that most everything on earth has its own superpower and many such powers are more helpful and less destructive than a big brain.

Have a good couple weeks, dear Reader. Thanks for stopping by...y'all come back now! 

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Olympian sized muscle pain?...try these essential oils

"Sgt Hillary Bor Runs 3000m Steeplechase" by US Army via Wikimedia Commons
Watching the 2016 Summer Olympics, I am continually amazed at the stress these athletes heap upon
their muscles. Sometimes it shows on their faces. Sometimes it shows by their use of wraps and kinesio tape. This is definitely the year of The Tape-- sometimes boldly apparent, sometimes subtle, blending with the athlete's skin tones. Are there essential oils suitable for soothing muscle pain? You betcha! Take a gander at the ones, below. Massage them in with your carrier oil or lotion of choice. Soak them in through full body and foot baths. They are a wonderful, natural means of soothing overworked muscles, whether from running a 10km marathon or pulling weeds in the garden.

Essential Oils of:

-Lavender- (what an herbal workhorse, this is!) Anti-inflammatory, analgesic, circulation aid

"Freshly Cut Lavender Flowers" by Lexipexi via Wikimedia Commons
-Black Pepper- (and, no, you can't just shake it from a box) Warming, pain relieving, circulation aid


-Ginger-Warming, antispasmodic

-Eucalyptus- Analgesic, anti-inflammatory

-Marjoram-Warming, antispasmodic, circulation aid

"Eucalyptus" by Toby Hudson via Wikimedia Commons

-Thyme- Warming, pain relieving, circulation aid

-Peppermint-Analgesic, anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic

So, next time you need some blessed relief from aching muscles, try reaching for an essential oil instead of just popping a pill. Fragrant oils have a way of lifting your spirits as they ease your pain.

Have a good couple weeks, dear Reader. Thanks for stopping by...y'all come back now! (Go Team!)

(As always: this post is for information only for adult use and does not replace medical advice. Тest out an oil first by placing a small diluted amount on your arm as a patch test. In particular, those who are or could be pregnant should always refer to their physicians before using any essential oils.)

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Are You Red or Blue?...there's an essential oil for that

"Red and Blue" by Mattes (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
It's presidential election convention time again and in this heated political season, many Americans are feeling Red or Blue...that is Republican or Democrat. (Of course there are a fair number of Purples who are still undecided but that's for another day.) Are there any red or blue essential oils to help us through this tumultuous chapter in our democracy? Of course! There is one for each political hue so read all about them here and if you're feeling Purple, maybe this will help you decide. I've heard worse decision-making methods lately!

Red: Jasmine

The absolute extracted from the Jasmine flower is bright red with a warm, deeply floral
"Jasmine Flower" via Wikimedia Commons
fragrance. Originating in Egypt, it's been famous for its use in perfumes all the way back to the days of Cleopatra as she floated down the Nile on her scented barge. In addition to its widely used aphrodisiac qualities that heat up your love life, Jasmine is known for the following properties: 

Cicatrisant (helps heal scars)
Emmenagogue (helps relieve menstrual symptoms)
Uterine (helps increase contractions in labor)

Fun Factoid: It takes about 2000 Jasmine flowers per pound of oil.

Blue: German Chamomile

"Honeybee on German Chamomile" by Schizoschaf (Own work)
Like its color, Blue Chamomile with its herbaceous apple-like fragrance, is known most of all for its calming properties. Originating in Nepal (not Germany,) it is a member of the daisy family. There are other types of Chamomile but it's the German variety that produces a beautiful deep blue color when distilled. Here are its properties:

Sleep aid
Digestive aid (think Chamomile Tea)
Skin irritant aid (helps acne, eczema, rashes)

Fun Factoid: It take 100 pounds of German Chamomile flowers per pound of oil.

Red? Blue? Republican? Democrat? Jasmine? German Chamomile? The choice is yours!
As far as my husband and I are concerned, we've decided to start our own movement. The "Cooler Heads!" No matter which you choose, may Cooler Heads prevail! (Just put some thought into your choices, no matter what they be.) 

Have a good couple weeks, dear Reader. Thanks for stopping by...y'all come back now!

(As always: this post is for information only for adult use and does not replace medical advice. Тest out an oil first by placing a small diluted amount on your arm as a patch test. In particular, those who are or could be pregnant should always refer to their physicians before using any essential oils.)

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Cool Your Heels...with these essential oils

"Sun in Celestia" Public Domain per Wikimedia Commons
The 4th of July has just passed and it's hot as a firecracker here in North Carolina with heat indexes well over 100 degrees F. So here is a lovely, natural way to cool off. Take a few minutes, glass of iced beverage of your choice in hand, and soak your feet. When your feet are cool, it spreads upward throughout the rest of your body (and, of course the opposite is just as true.)

To a foot basin of luke-warm water, add several drops of any one or combination of the following cooling essential oils:

Foot Bath by John Frazier, Brooklyn Museum
Peppermint (a little goes a long way)
German Chamomile

Simple solution, complex benefits. Sit back, sip your drink, and soak those feet. You'll be glad you did!

Have a good couple weeks, dear Reader. Thanks for stopping by...y'all come back now! (And keep cool!)


"Peppermint" Public Domain per Wikimedia Commons

(As always: this post is for information only for adult use and does not replace medical advice. Тest out an oil first by placing a small diluted amount on your arm as a patch test. In particular, those who are or could be pregnant should always refer to their physicians before using any essential oils.)