Friday, September 22, 2017

Hope is the thing with Pandora's Box

Hope is the thing with feathers, photo by K L Wood, author
In my recently completed Middle Grade novel, Zephyr Stone and the Moon Mist Ghost, I refer to the ancient Greek legend of Pandora's Box. You may remember that Pandora was so overcome by curiosity of a forbidden box that she opened it and let loose all manner of evil upon the world. She slammed it shut but, listening to a sweeter cry from within the box, she opened it again, and out flew Hope. Thank goodness! This set me to pondering about the nature of Hope.

As we witness worldwide disasters, both natural (hurricanes and earthquakes,) and unnatural (the atrocities against the Rohingya people of Myanmar,) I wonder at the resilience of the human spirit. How can people survive such devastation and live on? Is it merely a survival instinct that pushes us forward?

I believe it is the concept of Hope.
Hope, the quality sitting between Faith and Love in 1 Corinthians 13:13.
Hope, as Herman Melville, author of Moby Dick, expresses, “is the struggle of the soul, breaking loose from what is perishable, and attesting her eternity.” And from Miguel de Cervantes, creator of that ever hopeful character, Don Quixote, “The phoenix hope, can wing her way through the desert skies, and still defying fortune's spite; revive from ashes and rise.”
Final Gifts, photo of author's mother and daughter by K L Wood

Of course Hope is empty and fruitless without the inner strength and determination to truly believe in it so much that we do the hard work, be it physical, emotional, or spiritual, to move forward. Facing our own death may seem the ultimate hopeless situation, but I saw Hope in my mother’s eyes as she spent her last earthly days with us last Christmas. She had Hope in her future, even though it was a future for which she had no physical proof. Through a lifetime of experience she had done the hard work of anchoring her Faith in things sometimes unseen. Her Hope had a strong foundation.

How can we find Hope in the televised reports of lives torn apart by the ravages of storms and the person-to-person inhumane treatment of others? When we can help, we help. Volunteering our time, giving of our resources, educating the public. These all give strength to Hope and stir it in our own souls. But there are times we cannot give aid and must look on helplessly. Where is the Hope? One of my favorite quotes on this subject is from Fred Rogers, known for his beloved
Fred Rogers, 1960s, (photo in Public Domain)
children’s television program, Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood. “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ ” We find Hope in the selfless acts of strangers.

One of my favorite things in life is watching the myriad of birds that flock to our birdfeeders. Birds of all kinds, sharing the sunflower seeds, feeding their young, singing their songs. In the sunlight, in the rain, in the snows of winter, these stalwart little creatures press on with the business of life and I am reminded of a poem by Emily Dickinson:

Hope is the thing with feathers by Emily Dickinson, photo by K L Wood, author
Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune without the words
And never stops at all,
And sweetest, in the gale, is heard;
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little bird
That kept so many warm.
I’ve heard it in the chillest land,
And on the strangest sea;
Yet, never, in extremity,

It asked a crumb of me.

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

Monday, August 7, 2017

Haint to repel evil spirits and spiders too

The next time you go out and sit on your porch, relaxing, rocking, bird and people watching, look up. I mean directly up at the porch ceiling. What color is it? If you live here, in Edenton, or any place in
Author's Front Porch Ceiling photo by KL Wood
the South, it is mostly likely a soft shade of greenish blue, especially if it’s an older home. Huh. Never thought about it, did you? Unless it’s time to repaint that outdoor ceiling, even those of us who grew up kicking our bare legs back and forth on a southern porch swing, often take that color for granted. I mean it’s pretty and it’s obviously what our ancestors preferred so it’s just traditional, right? But why?

The answer comes in the form of its regional name, “Haint Blue.” From the Gullah culture of coastal South Carolina, comes the word “haint,” referring to restless spirits of the not-so-dearly-departed who might bring evil into a home. This particular shade of blue was believed to keep the haints away and, thus, thwart their plans to spirit the residents off or influence them in some negative manner. Why would haints be repelled by such a lovely color? Because, apparently, they are easily fooled. Evil spirits are said to be unable to cross water and this shade of blue mimics the color of water. So since it’s not practical to include a moat around our homes, this paint does the trick. In some places, such as Charleston, SC and Savannah, GA, you will find not only porch ceilings painted Haint Blue, but shutters, trim work, and sometimes entire walls.

Haint Blue is thought to repel, not only evil spirits, but insects, as well. Some theorize that, like the haints, the pesky little critters are also fooled by the color. Not because they think it’s water, but because they think it’s the sky. As with much folklore, there is a kernel of truth there. The original Haint Blue paint was a mixture of indigo, milk and lime. It’s the lime that, most likely, kept the ceiling bug-free. Today’s modern versions of Haint Blue do not contain lime, so keep your fly swatter handy as you lounge beneath that lovely ceiling.

Whether, or not, Haint Blue repels evil spirits or insects, it remains a calming, cooling, peaceful color with which to greet our upward gaze. Coupled with its tie to our past, please consider it when sprucing up your porch. I’m squarely in the “can’t hurt, might help” camp. And besides, it’s so pretty!

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

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Crepe Myrtle...a most RevolutionaryTree

Backyard Crepe Myrtle Blossoms by KL Wood
When describing Edenton, I often refer to it as “dripping with history and crepe myrtles.” Whether you spell it, “Crape,” or “Crepe,” the Lagerstroemia indica is a gracious and beautifully ubiquitous member of our fair town. It’s a tree found only in warm climes (Hardiness Zones 7 to 9) so, although we tend to take it for granted, our more northern visitors are awestruck with its incredible beauty. Sometimes referred to as “The Four Season Tree,” we enjoy its bodaciously long-lived blossoms each summer, its flame-hued leaves in autumn, its smooth, polished bark and artistically twisting limbs in winter, and its fresh young leaves each spring.

From snowy white, to deepest fuchsia red, and all shades of pink and lavender in between, our exotic “Tree of a Hundred Days” (blooming for about 100 days each year,) is also uniquely appropriate to Edenton’s Revolutionary Spirit. Just as our ladies famously refused to purchase English tea in 1774, the Crepe Myrtle refused to thrive in the cooler English climes, when first imported there in 1759 from its native China. When Andre Michaux, botanist to France’s King Louis XVI, introduced the tree to Charleston, South Carolina around 1786, however, it breathed in the young nation’s warm air and burst into fragrant bloom! And the rest, as they say, is history.

Pardon me while I wax poetic, but such intoxicating beauty inspires me to toss out a few quick lines of verse.

Ode to Crepe Myrtles

Crinkly crinolines of Summer splendor,
they breathe in air and exhale flowers.
Autumn paints their leaves with flame,
while Winter bares their sculpted limbs.
Their delicate leaves of vernal Spring,
a prelude to their hundred-day reign.

In addition to their visual appeal, Crepe Myrtle flowers are a good food source for honey bees and other pollinators. Although they do not produce nectar (bee honey,) they do produce pollen (bee bread,) a necessary form of protein. As a matter of fact, Crepe Myrtles produce two different kinds of pollen. One for reproduction (the brown pad-like anthers,) and one just for the pollinators (the bright yellow anthers.) With the disturbing decline of honey bee populations, we can thank the Crepe Myrtle for doing its part to help keep this important plant pollinator alive.

Old Crepe Myrtle, Edenton by KL Wood
Oh, and one more thing--Please don’t be one of those well meaning but misinformed and misguided gardeners who commit “Crepe Murder” each year! The trend, started years ago, to annually chop off the lovely tree limbs to barren stubs, is unnecessary and just plain ugly. I’m gratified to see that most of Edenton’s trees are properly pruned and have been spared that particular botanical humiliation. If not convinced, please check out this link from an online Southern Living magazine article:

Now, won’t you join me as I go outside to sip a glass of lemonade beneath the inviting shade of the nearest Crepe Myrtle? We won’t have to go far!

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

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Road Food For Thought...a summer diversion

"1960" photo by author's father, G.C. Wood
August, 1960. The lush strains of “Theme from A Summer Place” drift from the radio of a sleek 1959 Oldsmobile gliding down two-lane Route 17 between Norfolk, Virginia and Swansboro, North Carolina. That balding, middle-aged man--white-knuckled fingers gripping the steering wheel--is my father, and that slender, raven-haired woman--arms crossed tightly across her lap--is my mother. Behind Daddy, my brother’s thirteen-year-old Carolina Blue eyes scan the passing countryside through his open window. Beside him sits a fat little pug named Pam, bulbous eyes lifted skyward above the skinny back of an eight-year-old girl whose hazel-eyed gaze searches the landscape on her side of the car. I’m that girl. The one who hates it when plump aunts shake their heads and tell her if she doesn’t eat more she’ll “dry up and blow away.

Sure is hot. No air conditioning beyond the warm wind blowing through the windows. A farm slides into view, a few cows grazing behind a barbed wire fence. One, two, three, four…five. “Five more cows!”

My brother turns my way, glancing at the field just beyond the farmhouse. “Graveyard.”

Shoot. Lost all my cows…again. Why is it all the cow pastures on my side of the road have graveyards beside them? “How many you got now, Terry?”

“Thirty-one. Nope. There’s a white mule. Thirty-six now.”

I heave a sigh and lean my head back against the seat. “Mama, I’m gettin’ hungry. We gonna eat soon?”

She snaps off the radio and faces my father, cocking one arched eyebrow. “Well?”

Daddy pulls a damp handkerchief from his pocket and wipes the back of his neck. “Like I told you, we could stop at the restaurant near Little Washington. It’s air conditioned,” he says, eyes glued to the road.

“It’s Saturday night,” Mama says through clinched teeth. “You know what that means.”

“It means they’ll be open,” he says.

Mama hugs herself tighter and stares out her window. I don’t think she’s counting cows. I rest my arm on Pam’s pudgy back and look at Terry. His wide eyes brush my way before squinting at our parents. I touch his arm and raise my eyebrows when he looks back at me. Shrugging, he returns his attention to the window.

The hazy sun is lower now, and I have to cup my hands around my eyes to shield them from its western glare. I feel something besides hunger gnawing at my stomach. “Mama? I think I’m gonna be sick.”

“You’re probably too hungry.”

“She’s probably too hot,” adds my father.

I think I’m both too hungry and too hot but verbalizing this seems like a bad idea. My brother reaches down into the jumble beneath his feet and hands me a paper bag. Seeing it makes me even queasier. 

“I don’t think I can hold it in.”

“Pull over,” says Mama and the Olds comes to an abrupt halt off the side of the road.

She opens the door and helps me out into the dry scratchy grass, gently guiding me toward the deep ditch bordering the highway. Her hand presses against my forehead and steadies me as I bend over and empty the purple vestiges of my Nehi Grape Soda into the long shadows of rustling tobacco plants. “I’m sorry, honey. We’ll get you something to eat soon.”

Back inside, I slump into the depths of the seat and stroke Pam’s plush back. Daddy starts the car but doesn’t move us back onto the road.

“The restaurant’s just a couple miles away.”

“It is Saturday night,” repeats Mama as though this means something other than the fact the restaurant’s open for business.

Daddy drapes his freckled arm over the steering wheel and peers at her. “I don’t see the problem.”

“Look at us!” she says.

I look down at my polka-dotted shorts and scuffed sandals and over at my brother’s cut-off jeans and sneakers.

“I am looking at us,” says Daddy. “What’s the problem?”

“You remember what it’s like in Little Washington on Saturday night. We lived there long enough. People get all dressed up and go out to dinner. Dresses, hats, gloves, suits, ties. We’re in shorts and we’re sweaty!”

“But…there’s air conditioning,” says Daddy as though this makes up for our lack of fashionable decorum.

Mama’s shoulders look as though they’ll meet her earlobes any second now. “Let’s stop at the drive-in. They have chili dogs.”
Good. I like chili dogs.

“No air conditioning,” says Daddy as he glances over his left shoulder and pulls back onto 17.

Icy silence chills the front seat. Too bad we can’t tap into its frost. I close my eyes as the hum of the highway and the heat lull me into light sleep. Terry can have all the cows.

I’m jerked awake as the car jolts to a sudden stop. Pushing my knobby elbows against the seat, I rise up and peer out. It’s the drive-in. Without a word, Daddy gets out, slams the door, and marches to the outside order window.

Mama twists around toward the backseat. “Terry, go help your father carry the food.”

My brother heaves an adolescent sigh and hauls himself out of the car. I watch as Daddy exchanges cash for a bag of hot dogs and four Cokes, handing Terry two of the green glass bottles. Returning to the car, Daddy slides back behind the wheel and gives Mama the white bag. As she doles out the chili dogs, each wrapped snugly in waxed paper, Daddy starts up the Olds.

“We could sit here while we eat,” she says.

“Too hot,” says Daddy, his face glowing a violent crimson.

Soon, dusky summer air is flowing once more through the open windows as Terry and I settle back, cold bottles pressed between our thighs, juicy hot dogs dribbling chili through our fingers, Pam accepting her share from both of us. Daddy drives with one hand and fumbles at the chili dog wrapper with the other. After a few unsuccessful tries, he tosses it back into Mama’s lap. She carefully unwraps it and turns toward him, hot dog balanced in her right hand. Without a word of warning, she throws it against the side of his face, chili and onions streaming down, sliding over his ear and down his neck.

The earth stands still for a few heart-stopping moments as Daddy continues to drive, staring silently ahead, the disassembled hot dog resting on his shoulder. This is something new. We’re used to our parents bickering but it’s always limited to verbal sparring. Never anything approaching physical. Terry and I exchange wide-eyed looks of horror. The world as we know it must be over. Pam stands up and places her front paws on the back of the front seat, stretching her scrunchy neck toward Daddy, little pink tongue reaching for the aromatic trails of chili inching down his throat. Terry grabs her back before she makes contact, grasping her tightly against his chest like some kind of canine life preserver.

Then, a quiet ripple of sound breaks the tomb-like silence. I think Mama is crying. Her narrow shoulders twitch rhythmically as the sound grows louder. She turns to Daddy and I see tears spilling from her eyes but…but she’s laughing! Has she lost her mind? Daddy looks at her, wipes a red ribbon of chili from his glasses and bursts into laughter as he slows the car, pulling it to a stop beside the road. Mama removes the sticky glasses from his face as he collapses into a stomach-clutching belly laugh. Terry and I look at each other in disbelief then dissolve into laughter, ourselves. Curly tail wagging against her wiggling hips, Pam barks and slips from my brother’s arms, snatching the stray hot dog as it rolls down Daddy’s back. Reaching across the seat, Daddy gathers Mama into his arms, rocking her from side to side as the precious music of healing laughter fills the car.
Our world hasn’t ended after all. And I’ve learned an important life lesson about the power of good-hearted laughter and self-deprecating humor.

Years later, I hear it summed up in a quote by John Powell, “Blessed is he who has learned to laugh at himself for he shall never cease to be entertained.”

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(This essay originally appeared as my contribution to the 2015 visual arts and literary review, Estuaries, published by College of the Albemarle.)

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Ghostwriting...why I do it

"Peace" by Frederick Richard Pickersgill, 1871
As an author, I often find myself writing stories, novels, poems, and essays that involve ghosts, spirits, the souls of those who have left our sides. As a reader, I love to read books in which the supernatural are, well...natural. As a viewer of films and television programs, I am drawn to subject matter, both fiction and documentary, that explores the existence of the spirit world. So, why is that? Why am I continually pulled in this direction? And I might add, judging by the proliferation of literary and cinematic examples of ghostly stories, I am not alone in this fascination.

After giving it some thought, I have drawn the conclusion that my own interest lies in the joining of three worlds into one. The world of Magic. The other-worldly world of the Afterlife. And the world of Everyday Life. So many books, television programs, and films have utilized the land of fantasy, where magicians and wizards and good-hearted witches cast spells and use their magical powers to make their worlds better places. Regarding the Afterlife, it's not
"Dancing Fairies" by August Malmstrom, 1866
only books and film, but entire religions and philosophies that see the death of our physical bodies, not as an end to our existence but as a freeing of spirits from the restrictions and limitations of those earthly bodies. (Kind of like those fantastical magical beings who can fly from place to place and walk through walls.) And so, that leaves us in the here and now, dreaming of magical abilities and hoping our lives, and the lives of those we love, are not limited to the years we have here on this earthly plane.

The Afterlife, then, becomes an existence in which magic is made real and in which we have hope for the ongoing life of ourselves and our loved ones. It follows, therefore, that when we are faced with proof or validation of those beings (our future selves) who have "gone on beyond," we come to realize that the world, our Everyday Life world, is actually a pretty magical place. A world inhabited by future ghosts, spirits, the souls of those who have yet to leave our sides.

One of my poems, "Ghostwriter," was selected for publication in the 2017 edition of Estuaries, the visual arts and literary review of the College of the Albemarle. Follow this link and find my poem on page 20.

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

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!