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Gentle Readers,

Yesterday was Summer Solstice and like some sweaty magic fairy has waved a wand the temperatures have switched to the 90s with 80% humidity.  Weeks ago while it was still in the cool 50s at night we were walking our little blond terror at night.  It was past midnight and the neighborhood was still and quiet with bright star light above when we heard a tell tale yipping a few blocks away. Now, I have heard coyotes while in NC because we lived across from a 24 hour WallMart and they hunted the critters that lived around the dumpsters and am familiar with the barks they make; this was the classic “bark, bark, aaarooooo!!!” and it was answered from around us with quick “yips”. I look at my big burly husband who has our blond death machine on a leash and we start walking for home faster.  Closer to home the coyotes had stopped and we could smell a faint but redolent scent of the white striped pole cat; somewhere a local coyote learned the hard way the difference between a cat and a skunk.

Edwardsville replaced it’s old train tracks with biking/walking trails and the town is criss crossed by them. Normally they are pleasant paths to walk with the hubby and talk out the weeks’ stresses but once in a while they show a peek into something special. Only a few nights ago the darkness whispered as though Spring were saying a final good by:  A fickle breeze gave relief from that mornings rain shower while the sky was graphite and slate from the clouds obscuring the stars. As we walked along part of of a trail and Sorcha sniffed along weeds with us the dark, ragged woods was back lit by the night sky showing the lightless, black fingers of vines and saplings; then right in the middle of the tableau a firefly lights up and is joined by another and they blinked off and on among the trees like small fallen stars.  When we finally turned around to go home the clouds had cleared and the stars were back in the sky.

Now that the sun is light until near the start of Deep Night my Beloved believes in reducing the office stress by taking me for walks on the unlit bike paths soon after he comes home.  This particular day had just enough cloud coverage and just enough wind to beat back the humidity. We talked about our dog, my sister’s trip to China, and the vagaries of his job.  Just five days before Summer Solstice, the sides of the trail are thick and growing, hiding even the nearby road and the drainage culvert. We have walked this part of Nickel Plate for over a year but suddenly we were in an entire tunnel of verdant green:  The evening sun made the leaves look like a hundred shades of green stained glass and filled the path with a subtle glow: The scent at the exact moment was rich with honeysuckle, small wild roses, and green vines mixing with the air and humidity of the path to create an almost touchable yet subtle smell. Ten more steps later and everything was back to an evening walk with the husband.

Our dog was rescued north of Gary Indiana from a puppy mill (as a breeder) and has lived most of her life in Chicago.  She has finally discovered the wonders of mulberry trees but as she would say: The wonderful, glorious, sidewalk ambrosia that just happens to be everywhere I want to be.  Anyone who has met Sorcha knows that there is not a food she has yet to dislike but windfall mulberries are just plain ‘something’ else’. This dogs is earning the nick name Hoover! We even worried enough to double check that dogs can eat mulberries. She is also eating more than one kind of grass now and some low hanging shrubs but the mulberries take it away for an obsession. She is still our romping, shedding, eating, loving, squirrel chasing fur baby so apparently grasses and wind fall mulberry fruit are good to be on her menu.

I simply must share a personal triumph with you, Gentle Readers.  With the encouragement of my house guest/mate I decided to do something for the Summer Solstice. I have small prayers and devotions for most of the four quarters but Summer has eluded me for years and this year I quite frankly was fairly uninspired.  Talking with her I had said that I normally liked to bake… so I tried last night. The first attempt at bread didn’t rise even the width of a sheet of paper.  “Oh. It won’t rise in a metal bowl” says our housemate S. Sooooo, second time around I put it in a glass bowl. And the beer bread rose like a cloud!  I had added a little caraway and some cardamum to the dough so after a close fit onto my baking stone, the dark brown loaf came out moist and tasty!!  Right around midnight I broke off pieces for us and while we blew on it to cool it down I said a small prayer to God.  Not the height of bon fires, festive flowers, and whiskey in the moonlight but wonderfully satisfying for both the soul and ego.  A bonus is the hope that my bread baking slump has ended.

I rarely stump for specific brands but due to the above bread story and my continual love affair with coffee, I am.  Up first is a salute to Alton Brown and the science behind food and baking (aka bread won’t rise in a mettle bowl), all of which I would have been blissfully unaware of without dear S telling me.  Second on my list of glorious kitchen finds is the Bones Coffee Company.  Out and about the town I drink plain black coffee but many times while I am ensconced in my nautilus shell of home I enjoy flavored coffee. Trust me when I say I have tried LOTS of brands and an amazing amount of flavors from Kahlua to Moon Pie. Hands down the best company for consistent and varied flavors at a reasonable price is Bones Coffee, plus the art is rite nifty.  If you want to throw down the big bucks then Harry and David’s ain’t half bad either.

When we adopted Sorcha we were warned that she would always be an “unaffectionate and aloof couch potato” which didn’t faze me because Moshi our first beloved pup was a ‘pretty-pretty Princes’ and would sit in her crate and seemingly view her peasants with casual pleasure. Well, three months in and Sorcha started to become an affection lush who adores Ian even though we were warned she didn’t always like men; two years in and she runs zoomies across the carpet, thinks belly rubs are necessary every day, and expects walks outside to be a pack outing with all three off us together. She now walks happily down sidewalks and over lawns sniffing other dogs’ ‘post it notes’ instead of being hyper vigilent for any possible creature to cross our path. Even though she will pass by some dogs if they are across the street and leashed, our pup still earns the nick name Psycho Potato because she is dog aggressive and has a strong prey-chase drive.  We ALWAYS walk her with a full harness and are ready to turn her around or cross the street when there are other people walking their dogs. Thus comes my complaint: For the Love of God, people, keep your own hyper aggressive fuzzy-snookums on a leash!!!  I do not care if you are standing on your porch and fuzzy-snookums never leaves the yard; you have no control on your beast and no it will not stay in your yard.  Legally it may be your fault but I still do not want to have to wash your dogs’ blood off of mine.  My other complaint is putting your indoor cat out for a nightly potty: WallMart sells cat litter for a reason! Having my dog go berserk at the end of her leash barking and whining because she both wants to play and eat your purring fluff ball (while my husband does his level best to calm her down and get her away from your pet) is NOT the time to open your door and put the second fluff ball outside!! The other problem is not just the fact that my dog is now hyped up like a five year old after Halloween; this neighborhood has a cell tower that hosts a huge cast of red tailed hawks and there is also a pack of coyotes traveling throughout not to mention the local skunk family that had a large litter this Spring.  Your tame-tabby, aka fluff ball, is a snack or a target around here and it is not like this happened overnight.

***Uploaded here are two terribly adorable pictures of our pupper Sorcha: 1) Her asleep on her blue cushion after gnawing on her chew bone and 2) Her back lit in our foyer looking very much like the Tir Na Sorcha she was named for. ****Use your imagination ’cause the pictures won’t take and my patience is thin at this point.

As an update to our ‘savage’ fur baby: Since beloved S returned safe and sound to Chicago, Sorcha has been sleeping and scouting out by her door for two days.  She is just now stopping her mopping and depression over part of our pack leaving.

And now the continuation of Red Angel’s Rise where we can find a small clue to our murder mystery.  As you may have noticed, Mareisha uses a cobbled together Victorian and Steam Punk Slang which Ian has encouraged me to do.  We have at least four documents and booklets for me to research from.  I was also encouraged to add to the City of Cinnerarium and soon we will see more of the flavor and life of this strange city.

…cont…****

Another hour passed as Mariesha went again through the final motions of looking over the station once more:  There was nothing but the scant remains of the gnome and the victims in the lavatories; piles of blood and gore torn to pieces. There was nothing missing, which was odd. When something rips folks apart it is almost always for food, spare parts, or things best left unmentioned. Regardless of the why, there were normally body parts spattered about, but not here.

Taim had promised the report on his scrying would be sent to her office by the next dawn, and Juskoh promised similar with the mundane information. Standing next to the carriage, Mariesha smirked a little. It was still weird to have all these people helping her and promising to come to her with information, without any bribes even.

“I have the information on the stations and the train route itself, though the passenger manifests are still en route.” Elsbeth said as she strode from the station and back into the morning sun. “However I have found two things already from scanning the station records.”

“Well you wouldn’t be grinning like that if you didn’t have something.”

Elsbeth made a little bow. “My lady knows me all too well.”

“Well stop grinning and spill it!”

“This station and all the others attacked were designed by the same architect.”

“Why the Hells has nobody caught sight of this little bit before?”

“Because the official architect was a nobleman, a Duke Cian DeBrae.  The thing is DeBrae didn’t really design it, it was all done by a junior architect named Finneous Stone.  The notes on the original blueprints are all in Stone’s hand, even though he tried to disguise it as DeBrae’s.  Once we’re in the carriage I’ll show you in more detail, mam.”

Mariehsa smiled. “Glad you got an eye for detail.”

Elsbeth groaned as she followed Mariesha into the carriage. 

Inside the carriage Mariesha slid a rolling cover from a window in the roof to let the sunshine light up the inside as Elsbeth sat in her chair and pulled out a small drafting table that unfolded in front of the two of them. The chairs were rounded and comfortably upholstered, the greatest part being the swiveling pivot joint that each sat on so the chairs could turn and swing.  It had taken Mariesha three tinkerers and a blacksmith to get the chairs made correctly and to have a pivot-stopper put on so the ladies were not spun uncontrollably through the streets when the carriage was moving.

“So let’s have a peek at these prints then.” Mareisha had her back to Elsbeth and was clamping a kettle down on the small stove to start tea.

“Already up,” stated Elsbeth while she pulled out her notes and the carriage began to move to investigate the next station.

The blueprints and plans for the four stations began to take shape and form.  Something felt off and sinister to Mariesha. The stations themselves were lovely works of art as well as excellently designed buildings.  It was the support structures and underpinnings that caught her attention.

“Scan this, Els’,” said Mariesha. “While all four buildings are different, the support structures are identical, even if they aren’t all needed on these two stations. There are three ‘layers’ of a pattern forming.”

“Yes… I see it now: The supports, the materials, and then the stained glass. But are you sure about the superfluous nature of the supports, ma’am?”

“Been scraping my skinny ass on the undersides of buildings enough in my life to know something strange when I see it. We can ask an engineer to make sure too.”

“I’ll make note of that. There is sure to be one on staff.”

“For now we need to check with all the connies at the other stations, get their reports, recheck eye-witnesses, and wait to hear back from further down the lines.”

The long shadows began to cool the cobbled pavement and gaslights began to flicker to life in the darker corners of Cinerarium when the reports from the outlying stations eventually arrived: The trains had all departed their last stations with all their passengers and had been intact at the final water stop before the capitol city. What ever happened did so between the last water stops and the invisible line of the city proper.  Outriders had been sent to investigate along the tracks, each one returning to tell Mariesha the same story: Not a thing out of place; no blood, no spilled coal, not a hat or glove in the dirt or even a wrongly bent blade of grass.

 Mariesha sat on the water tank attached to the back of the coach, her elbows resting on her knee, just watching the sun make a russet and lavendar light over the edges of the buildings.  She pulled the scarlet cloak about her for warmth and turned to Elsbeth who stood beside her in quiet contemplation, waiting.

  “Well, Els, someone is kicking this Cage around.”

“A well thought out and dastardly plot, I would say.”

 “Giltine bless the poor bastard who has to tell all those berks their family and kin may have been turned into blood thirsty spirits.”

Elsbeth kept a stern yet blank face, “One can develop a stiff upper lip.”

Mariesha felt her heart ache for Elsbeth yet fill with admiration for her friend as well, “Yea, a cutter sure can.”  Mariesha stood up and stretched. “I have places to go tonight, research and such. Jonas will be waiting for you. Take the carriage home, Elsbeth, and I’ll see you in the morning.”

“Take care of yourself, Mariesha.”

“Aye, I’ll keep my brain-box on my shoulders.  Give my love to your brother.”

Elsbeth climbed inside the carriage and leaned out the door window, “Good night, I will.” And then the carriage was rolling down the street with its bobbing lights at the corners and the clip clop of the horse’s hooves ringing around the abandoned train terminal.**** contd*****

Summer is now here and temperatures are rising along with the humidity: I know the Carolinas are cooking and I am also hoping that Iowa and Missouri dry out soon before mosquitoes cary folks off. The famous Chain of Rocks and camping at the Confluence of the Missouri-Mississippi are still under water and I can only thank God that I collected some rocks when we first arrived here. Naturalists are exploring, studying, and collecting as the wonders of Mother Nature explode for the season. Some of my friends are collecting all the way from Rucks Pit to NAEM and one lucky rock hound/jewelry artist is sending out divinely tempting pictures from Australia.  My beloved Pat is driving on her Summer tour of the South East and the mountains, keeping us up to date on her adventures and sharing pictures of her adorable pupper Gypsy. Darlin’ KAP is rolling out finally crafted wood and stone at almost every Summer gathering; other excelent rock hounds are doing all the ‘mud and blood’ it takes to get the perfect pieces to take home. My Love to You All and may your soul and spirit embrace the wilds of the Earth and the wilds of Man,

Be Well.

 

 

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Dearest Gentle Readers,

Today is the last day of May and soon our official Summer will start for the Northern hemisphere.  In the past days at home in Edwardsville the daytime sky has had an evenly clouded dome from morning zenith to high noon:  The sun shining as though every beam of light is coming through a frosted pane of glass.  And when night comes upon us all, the distant sky and the very air weaving through the trees looks to be as one.  Only once when the midnight tolled with frogs and crickets did a few stars appear against the dark grey night, breaking the illusion of a snowless globe.

I am writing to you tonight from outside Chicago in Waukegan and it is amazing how the wind off of a glacier-fed lake can lower the ambiant temperature.  There was strong nostalgia as we walked through our old neighborhood and saw all the aging ornate cornices of buildings, the blooming Spring flowers planted in every patch of ground, and could smell the cooking coming from all the local restaurants. We went to an indie comic book expo and it was an absolute joy to see all the colorful and creative people shining bright as they talked up their books and art.  We met up with our friend M and finally met his girlfriend R, so I have proof positive, gentlemen, that the good guy can get the girl and she can be vivacious and lovely too.  The cold Spring rain kept up just enough to dampen the sidewalks and bring up the scent of wet bricks on the breeze. The Mai Fest in Lincoln Square was a milling riot of people from all walks of life and the occasional lederhosen.  It resembled one of those cozy block parties that has suddenly exploded into white tents and hundreds of people with knockwurst and sauerkraut and a few extra dirndl thrown in. Our beloved friends P&T go every year; sharing this with them was special beyond words. Their dog BB is still the loving and perfect puppy who was adorable in her rainbow bow tie, even remembering us enough to bring her new tug toy to us to play with her.

This morning was ideal, soothing warm sunshine with that cool breeze that only comes from Lake Michigan.  Waukegan has a Howard Johnsons which I can not recommend enough: Clean, quiet, and comfortable with a cafe next door worthy of the nostalgia of an original HoJo’s dinner. What joy it was to see that intoxicating swirl of American people around us in the dinner; Greek, Slavic, Oaxacan native, Latino, Polish, Puerto Rican, Russian, and so many more amiable blends that I felt a part of the true melting pot that is this country.  We were only ten minutes away from ‘my’ Illinois Beach State Park so we made a detour for beach rocks. Yes, Gentle Readers, let me eat crow and admit that this is where the rock hound in me delights. I often lament the lack of crystals and rocks in the state of Illinois yet, while this is true in my estimation, the beach never disappoints.  High tide was just starting to slip away from the shore back into the dark peacock green depths of the Mishigami (the not so creative North American Native word for ‘big lake’). Families were just starting to migrate to the rocky sand and picnic tables wearing thin jackets for the children and the quintessential scarf for babushka’s. The morning sun had already beamed down onto the chunks and boulders of dolomite and the two foot wide band of beach stones was warm under the touch.  I could simply not revel enough in the sound of the continuously crashing waves mixing with the seagulls over the water and the song birds in the high grass.  The flood waters in southern Illinois are of course coming from this area and points higher so the flat wet lands surrounding the beach were lush: A myriad of Spring green colors like a vast even prairie covered stretches of land by the shore with only a few young cattails and reeds to disturb the undulating beauty.  It was with a slight squint and imagination that I could see how early Chicago had looked when the Illini and the Mississippi Rivers were the greatest ‘highways’, before it became a concrete City of Commerce and Blues Music. ( The few pictures we took did not do justice to the great expanse of Lake and blue sky so you get a few picks of me and the dolomitic boulders. And, yep, rather very blue Vibrams.) (And another ‘yep’: that is indeed a cotton sweater because this is Chicago with a lake breeze that is still having a nip to it.) Honest to goodness folks, despite the grey and greyer appearance of the beach rocks in the pictures there are actually reds, tans, greens, and yellows on the beach.

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Back home safe and sound the day is pleasantly overcast with the crows, mocking birds, and robins vying for attention and nest building. The oppressive humidity of last week has succumbed to cooler temperatures and once again we have the windows open and the feel of wind through the house.  Just 5-8 more feet and Highway 270 will be closed going into St Louis, as we are down to three bridges and the historic Cahokia is isolated by overflowing water.  I went to visit the famous archeological Mound Builders plus the Museum there a few weeks ago and this East facing valley must have surely been a devoted place to the sacred Seasons as well as part of a hub of transit and commerce when canoes were the mode of transportation. Once the water along the public cliff sides near Cahokia goes down fossils and knaping artifacts should be plentiful. While the museum could be considered quaint compared to the Field Museum and even my beloved NC Museum of Natural Sciences, the staff at the Cahokia Mounds were knowlaegeable and enthusiastic while the exhibit space was also excellent.

So many people that I know in person or as pen palls on Face Book have already started vending at fairs, festivals, and gatherings: They create, pack up, drive, vend, pack back up, and prepare to go again.  And if they are on-line they are making and creating at a rapid pace to replenish stock from the buying spree that is Valentines through Father’s Day and to make into reality new ideas before Autumn arrives. I congratulate All of you for keeping alive the American dream; send you my Love for continuing your dreams. I will continue to try following beside you all with my own hopes. Soon I want to share another ‘step’ of mine with you although perhaps step is not the right word for it.  Since I have been using rivers and streams in the above blog, please allow me the analogy of a new found stream winding it’s way into my river of personal growth; it is not so much a new path as a new tributary to explore and encourage.  During and after every fibro flair and migraine, as per the encouragement from my excellent therapist, husband, and close friends, I must remind myself that I am not back sliding or committing some great personal travesty for halting work but am waiting for the pain to recede enough to think and continue onward. I have a list of friends the length of my arm I would like to commend for keeping Life at their terms despite depression and or chronic pain but to name a few are Gaily, Pat, Bob J, Sam L, Romilly, and Kay:  Keep at it! And remember: We may not always soar with eagles but weasels don’t get sucked into jet engines.

Now for the next installment of the intrepid Inspector Greywaves in Red Angels’ Rise where she gains insight on the massacre from an unusual source and readers can glean important aspects of Cinerarium itself. This part I took completely on my own and as Ian didn’t really change much about it and even approved of the idea, I am proud of adding more mysterious insight into my character and furthering the mystery itself.               ****** cont’d…

There was not much left to do at the train station but the Inspector wanted one more chance to view the crime scene. The building was eerily silent in the dusty morning light once the last body was removed and the last witness questioned.  For just a moment Mariesha listened to the silence and waited for it to speak. Nothing. There was no telltale whisper of air through a vent fan or faint groaning of bricks grinding under their own weight. Then a rat scurried across the floor.  It was skinny and black, running across the blood spattered tiles and back through an iron grate. She could barely hear it skittering through the drain. Mareisha smiled in the grim irony, their only witness that may have seen something inside just disappeared down the sewers.  

“Not of the ground then of the air, perhaps,” whispered Mareisha to herself as she walked back through the heavy front doors.

Elsbeth went to stand by Mariesha, “Do we go to the next station now, Inspector Greywaves?”

“Not yet,” she answered looking toward the heavily gabled roof and the assorted murders of crows sitting across the tiles and ridgeline.  “I have some feathered friends to talk to first.”

Elsbeth smiled and gave a little demure hop, “Excellent, ma’am, I do rather enjoy watching this part.”

While not the second story artist that she wished she could be, the young Inspector had slithered, climbed, and repelled her way through enough shambling ruins to make the wall of the train station akin to going up stairs.   She crouched upon the roof-gable and called out to the crows, their wings shining stark black back to her. This was not a natural gift of hers like seeing in the dark or her double rows of canine teeth, which she thought were rather attractive; this was a gift from Murder, her animate chain, a gift from her teacher.  While not alive Murder still seemed to murmur and purr against her as she walked toward the crows. A raucous cawing erupted, a brief flight of feathers whirled about and then it quieted, the assembled murders having made a space for her to sit and ask her questions among them.

The teifling hunched down on her heels and wrapped the cloak around her, scarlet like a drop of fresh blood in a field of night black iridescence.

“Greetings.”

“Greetings.”

“Speak.”

“It is 10 minutes and 13 seconds until highest sun.”

“Greetings.”

“10 minutes 11 seconds until highest sun.”

“10 and 10.”

Crow voices called out to her from across the roof.  As a whole they are a time conscious bird, even navigating by the exact second in an exact direction.

“We spoke 13 days 4 hours 15 minutes ago,” said one crow fluttering its wings and moving its feet to speak along with its cawing.

“I too.”

“I too.”

“And were you here when the train pulled in?”  Mariesha looked intently at the crow that had first remembered her.

“It was early.”

“At what time?”  She questioned intently.  The train attendant swore that the 9:00 train had arrived at 9:15.

“9 hours, 14 minutes, 50 seconds. No clouds, clear sky.  Hungry.”

“When has the train arrived before?”

“Train arrived past sun at 9 hours 5 minutes and 55 seconds.  Two passed suns 9 hours 20 minutes and 2 seconds. Three passed…”

“8 and 58 and 16.”

“9 and 30 and 32.”  Crow voices filled over each other in a cacophony of cawing and feather flapping as though the arrival time was a game.

Mareisha redirected the questions back to the main crow before her, “Why were you hungry?”  Crows, she had come to learn, were always thinking of food, so much so that it was not worth mentioning.

“Dead meat!  Rotting meat!  Train was full of rotting meat-bags to eat for days. City feeds us.”  Humans and people in general translated down to living-meat-sack or not-dead-yet-dinner.  Every crow has a different term for those that are not crows but they are all hungry.

“9 hours and 16 minutes and 6 seconds the doors opened.  People run. All doors opened,” the bird offered with wounded pride without any encouraging questions. “Undead. Not-meat. “

“Foul.”

“Rancid.”

“Rancid.” Indignant crow voices rose above even the noise of the city.

“Where did it go?”  Mariesha was insistent.

“Undead sunk.  Flowed and sunk down below.  Sunk into the rivers of the City.”

“Thank you, my friend.  You know where to find me.”

“I will time you at a needed place.  The City will feed us.”

“City feeds.”

“People flesh.”

“Horse flesh”

“Another time.”

Mareisha nodded gravely to the crows then abruptly stood and swirled her scarlet cloak about herself, walking back down the ridge line and emerging out of the alley a few seconds later.

“And what do the crows say to you, inspector Greywaves?”  Asked Elsbeth excitedly with her pen and tablet ready.

“We need to learn to speak Rat, Miss Elsbeth.”

“I’ll write that down Inspector Greywaves.”

“Excellent.”

**** to be cont’d…

Right as the Gloaming started tonight the sky turned brown and luminous with the storm bands beginning to move through. After three hours of the gutters flooding down the sides and porches of the houses the air stilled and the rain slowed to only a few drops falling from tree leaves. Walking Sorcha during this lull was familial and magical at the same time. It is strange how the rain puddles along the sun drenched asphalt, for it got up to 93 today, were warm and yet a few steps more onto concrete that is shaded by trees  and the water was cold; almost surreal walking from warm to cold water on the same path I take almost every night. The bull frogs, spring peepers, and tree frogs were not even the chorus that is used to describe them: They were a continual wave of a cacophony that also echoed back upon itself, drowning out the wind and even distant cars.  And now I sit cozy on my couch with only the sound of my dog snoring and rain once again lashing the windows.

May God bless you and Goddess comfort you; may the Sun and Moon both sing their songs to you; and with your feet on the earthen ground may you know where you are.

Be Well

 

 

 

 

 

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It is mid April and after sleet and snow three days ago we are now in the low 80s with a warm breeze and soft vapor clouds overhead during the day. Last night was beyond subtle, it soothed and hummed a tune all its own.  The ground and grass were still warm from the long ago set sun and the breeze was just a gentle touch cooler than the air so that it was not as if the breeze was blowing but that the whole of the town and the night was moving against your skin. This was a night to put down some quilts on the grass and to lay naked with your lover under a thin blanket and the moon: A time to caress and drink in not only the touch of your beloved but the whole of the Night itself.  The clouds formed a nimbus around the moon, like a smoke ring from a wooden pipe.  The ring seemed only as wide as my palm but must have encircled the moon by miles up above, a frame for the three quarters of silver light glowing down.  There were no cars or radios, only a few voices on porches, wrapped up in their own world beside their houses. Wind chimes keyed off in the darkness while the door to the empty house kept closing and opening as we walked by.  Once again one of those breathtaking nights of Spring that begs for bare skin beside the breeze and a beloved face lit by moonlight.

So, May 5th rolls around and I can say that, thankfully, the rain stopped yesterday and today. I went to a book sale Saturday and enjoyed myself immensely. Here in my little tucked in corner of Illinois St Andrews’ Episcopal church does four book sales a year, “carrying on an Episcopalian tradition” as the Nice Lady proudly told me. This time they had even invited local authors to have tables upstairs and enticed the public up there with food and a free cookie. Grant you the free cookies had probably been on the plate since yesterday night when they first opened but I really liked talking to the local authors and getting info on their books; MORWA even had an author representing, as was a local historian, and a local biographer. This reminded me so strongly of two writers I know from back home in NC that I wished my friends could have been with me: For excellent history with a side of romance I can only recommend Kathy E. Bundy as a romance and soft adventure writer. Her stories are well told and tastefully LGBTQ friendly.  It was a perfectly cool Spring day for a book sale and by the time my husband kindly dragged me out it had been 2 1/2 hours: only other time I can get lost like that is a rock quarry.

And speaking of quarries… I finally made it down to the Minerva #1!!!  She was a fluorite/fluorspar (same thing) mine in her hey-day and the till pile is a ginormous over grown gravel lot by now. The vast amount of tailings involved reminds me of the old Crabtree Emerald mine in NC if you were to take away the huge boulders from the Crabtree.  I only surface collect as I do not have permits for anything bigger, and quite frankly couldn’t lift anything too heavy out of the car and over a distance anyways. I did well enough for searching in already picked over parts.  Nothing compares to the Ben E. Clement Museum in Kentucky but I did really well for just over an hour of collecting and never even getting into the stream bed. I found some nice examples of fluorite and calcite and the color in the pieces I found were dark purple, lemon rind yellow, and clear.  I also found Sphalerite and had to educate myself on it just a little: The more iron that is in Sphalerite the more it tends toward looking like Galena or silver Pyrite.  My Sphalerite looks more like the brown kind (think low grade garnets) but is a good example of Sphalerite from the Minerva.  One piece is so loaded with miniature Spha. crystals that it looks like a sparkly brown stone!  I also discovered Barytocalcite which looks like crystalized marl, and is mysteriously appealing when you suddenly see a thin vein of purple fluorite running through it and matrix rock. We may be moving (yes, you read this right.  Once again my brilliant hubby has an even better job offer and we are seriously desperate to get into better barometric pressure) and I really want as much as I can get from a historic mine like the Minerva #1.  A levee broke up river so the Chain of Rocks is back under several feet of water and I may not have a chance to get down to the River before we move. (These are the best barytocalcite pictures with grey-blue fluorite. The kitchen has fluorescent lighting.)

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The rest of the rough is going to be stored and labelled.   I want to try and have enough rough to give away at the MAGMA Rockhound RoundUp in July.  One thing I have learned in my many years is to label and date your stuff!!  Even if the box just says “The John Doe Estate” then I have started some sort of provenance for the rock.  So, well, I have lots of plastic ice cream tubs (Blue Bunny No Sugar Added) labelled ‘Lake Michigan’, ‘Illinois Beach State Park’ and now ‘Mississippi River Chert, Edwardsville”. In a spot of dark but truthful humor I have begged my husband to contact my friend Rick if I die suddenly so that Rick can go through the collection.  The complication is that Rick is used to going through estate collections worth thousands; he will have to bring along Rockshine who appreciates near-gravel as much as I do.

For those Gentle Readers that have asked, here is the next installment of Red Angel’s Rise: Not quite Steam Punk, Horror, or Fiction Fantasy, the city and denizens of Cinerarium are unique.  Ian is still instrumental in the feel of the investigation for the story and Mariesha’s questions and instructions are my truly blind guesses as to where to go forward because I have no idea what his full plot/idea really is!

cont…..   ***********

Sargent Juskoh crouched over the shredded body of the gnome they had found upon first entering the station.  “Stubby little legs didn’t help you much did it?” Juskoh said under his breath.

Walking up, Juskoh’s partner, Sargent Sulmahn, shook his head. “There’s nothing. Not a damned thing to be found in the whole station but blood, a few poor bastards cornered and slaughtered back in the lavatories, and this one.”

“That doesn’t make any sense. All the survivors said there was a train full of the cursed things. They had to leave something behind. What say the necromancers?”

“Nothing of use.” Sulmahn growled, watching as one of the coroner’s butcher-boys carried off a sack full of half-orc. “She said there was a tide of undead spirits, then they all simply disappeared. They never left the station, but they sure as all Hells are not here anymore.”

Juskoh climbed to his feet and started for the platform. “So what are we looking at here, Sully? Three stations on the outskirts all attacked the same way. Who’d do this? Undead here?”

“It’s getting attention, I know that much.” Sulmahn said, his voice dropping a bit. “They’re sending an Inspector.”

Abruptly, Juskoh’s complexion turned a few shades lighter as he looked over Sulmahn’s shoulder. “This has indeed garnered some attention.” Both men turned to see the necromancer on site talking with a red-cloaked Royal Inspector.

Mareisha and Elsbeth had arrived in their special coach, a slight wreath of smoke still clinging to the roof like a self made fog. Elsbeth was once again in a fine dress of slate and royal blue with matching gloves and a jaunty hat decorated with satin ribbons. She carried her stylus and small boxed note pad. Mariesha was dressed in her usual fitted pants and plain shirtwaist with sturdy boots. When she didn’t wear the scarlet cloak some people stared at her mode of dress or openly snubbed her but the tiefling really could care less, that she would admit to, as long as she was off duty.

Decades earlier Cinerarium had been all but crippled by corruption within the city guard.  Trade would grind to a halt unless a half dozen bribes were paid. The noble houses and trade syndicates were in all but complete control of the courts, and the criminals were free to roam as long as gold changed hands.

The Emperor, after a series of bloody purges, formed the Inspectors to be an independent investigative force.  Recruited from all walks of life, and answerable only to the crown; the Inspectors were intended to root out enemies of the empire no matter where they hid.  So far dukes, governors, and clergy had all found themselves in the chains of an Inspector as readily as a common man on the street.

“I suddenly have the distinct urge to be elsewhere.” Sulmahn mumbled to his partner as they walked the length of the platform. “She’s never on a normal case…”

Juskoh motioned Sulmahn to silence, both waiting until the Inspector turned to them.   Juskoh broke the silence and plastered a plastic smile across his face, “Inspector Greywaves, what can we do for you, Ma’m?”

Sulmahn and Juskoh: Could be worse burks on a case came to Mariesha’s mind. They were Investigators, a small step above a Sergeant, and used to death and dismemberment but more suited to investigate cases where the murderer was still holding the knife shouting invectives.

Their first words to her ever had been a few chortles before Juskoh had started, “No… seriously, where’s the Inspector?”

Mariesha’s reply had began, “Pike it ya’ smegin’ sod…” and had gotten more foul by the end of the first sentence.

Now no one on the force for more than a month doubted she was an Inspector.

Mariesha saw Elsbeth pull out her stylus. “So gimme’ the chant, gentleman.”

While her Recorder wrote in shorthand everything that was said, Mareisha was listening and looking around them: So trivial but what set her teeth on edge was the utter emptiness of what should have been a bustling train station.

Sulmahn nudged a shredded hip of the gnome with his boot, “Stumpy guy didn’t get very far.”

“And you have a problem with the vertically challenged?” Elsbeth’s voice was icy. Mareisha studiously ignored them.

“No Ma’m.” Truth be told they were intimidated by Mariesha but scared of Elsbeth.

“Hmmm, he was definitely motivated,” started Mareisha. “The smear marks and torn fingertips show he was willing to lose a leg if his arms could pull him out.  Apparently they were also serving some lite tucker on the train.”

“Pardon, Mam?” Sulmahn was listening and nodding to her, trying to make up for accidentally insulting the four foot ten Inspector.

“No teeth marks, same as the bathroom victims. These weren’t meat-hungry dead.”

“Right.”

“Investigator Juskoh, if you have not already, start asking the witnesses if they saw any of the undead particularly avoiding the light.  Stations one, two, and three have the stained glass too, I warrant.”

“Yes they do,” started Juskoh. “I’ll ask the ticket boy first.  He should know where the light falls in here.”

Mareisha nodded to Juscoh as she turned toward Elsbeth, “Do you know the two things this is making me think of Mistress Elsbeth?”

“This is rather peculiar Inspector Greywaves.”

“That it is, Mistress Elsbeth. First sheep or refugees: It’s the descriptions of the dead woman and children; packed into the shadowed trains then rushing off and then taking whatever was not alive and left behind. And this leads to the Second: Why in the Plains would ghosts or corporeal specters take the train? It’s not like they have non corporeal jink for a non corporeal ticket. Why not hail a cab or walk or float…”

“Or fly,” added Elsbeth with a witty smirk.

“Just so,” agreed Mariesha with a grin that turned serious. “Elsbeth, we need to see cartography maps of what came before the train tracks.”

“And the names of the Cities the trains just came from?” added the Recorder.

“Excellent. Plus the passenger and ticket lists. And someone needs to shake down the original blueprints of all eight depots, the history of the architects, and the names of the High Ups who ordered the buildings. Now let’s go question the poor sods who witnessed this.”

“Yes Ma’m.”

                               **

“Nay, Ma’m, I can’t say that my courage held out that long. I did not see what they did to the little man.” Purcell, the attendant out on the platform when the attack began was still visibly shaking. “I wish I could tell you more, Inspector, but by the time the screaming started I was almost out the front doors.”

Mariesha nodded. “It’s understood. Any sane fellow would run from something like that.”

Purcell took a deep breath then sipped the warm port in his hand. “It was just that… the way they come from the cars was like nothing I seen before.”

Inwardly Mariesha smiled; sometimes it just took a little coaxing to get witnesses to remember things. “What was it like?”

Another brief pause, then Purcell nodded more to himself than either Mariesha or Elsbeth. “They all seemed to rush out of the car, like they was all one thing… it was almost like they were a rushing river of blood and faces and teeth. They was like some kind of liquid thing that flooded into the station.”

“So it was like a river then? Was there truly that much liquid in the cars?”  Elsbeth asked from just past Mariesha’s shoulder.

Purcell shook his head. “No ma’am, it weren’t like that, no.  It flowed through the air, like it was all flying or something or crawlin’ through the air like.”

A thought started in the back of Mariesha’s mind. “Did it touch any of the walls? I mean that you saw, did the… the stuff touch anything other than the gnome?”

Perking up, Purcell shook his head. “No mam, not that I seen.”

“Right then, thanks berk. Drink up then head for home.” Purcell nodded as Mariesha turned and started off across the station. “That’s why there’s never anything left of the creatures, or creature, ’cause the damn things never touch anything but their victims.”

Falling in step, Elsbeth nodded. “That would be logical ma’am, but it just seems strange that such a creature exists. Creatures that float in such a manner are normally ethereal are they not? No wings were present to keep it aloft.”

Mariesha nodded. “True enough, but there are some ghosts that do indeed manifest for a short amount of time then disappear back into the ethereal world.” Pausing Mariesha looked around the station. “But such don’t just manifest nowhere and anywhere. They have to be bound to an area by something strong.”

“That is true in most cases ma’m, but there is an exception to that.” The man approaching them wore the robes of the necromancers, though not a senior arcanist. “I am Associate Benson Traim, it’s nice to make your acquaintance, Inspector Greywaves.”

“The same I’m sure.”  Mariesha said, shaking the hand offered. “You talk like a cutter with an idea.”

“Indeed, I have a suspicion.”  Traim said, turning to fall into step next to Mariesha.  “While studying in the south reaches of Tetran I surveyed a tomb of unknown origins.  It was all amazingly informative regarding the ancient burial rights of…”

“Good sir, if perhaps you could continue with the situation at hand?”  Elsbeth said with a warm smile.

Mariesha started.  “I was actually kind of interested in that.”

“Yes ma’am, but time is of the essence with the investigation at hand.”  Elsbeth replied. “Hence my interruption.”

Mariesha smirked. “Fair enough, lets be back to this then.”

For a moment Traim also smirked, then continued.  “Very well, the short of the matter then: I eventually made my way to the capitol and studied with the necromancers there.  They had records from pre-collapse colleges and in one instance there was specific mention of creatures that traveled in such a fashion as has been described here.”

“Then we’re lucky you’re here.” Mariesha knew better than to think it luck: The College had sent him along because they suspected his knowledge related to the station attacks somehow.

“Indeed, it’s lucky for us all.  I came here as soon as word reached the colleges that another attack had transpired and made it in time to sense something extra with my scrying.  Specifically I’ve detected a planar instability throughout the building.” When Mariesha simply raised an eyebrow, Traim continued. “Something here used a type of magic long forgotten that involves weakening the barriers between worlds.”

Elsbeth made a little startled noise, then blushed. “Apologies, I thought since the collapse such things would be nigh apocalyptic.”

“It is. I think the creature that was here was demonic.”

Mariesha rubbed her temple briefly and looked steadily at Traim, “Then that makes you the cutter to go and scry the other stations.”

******** To be continued…

As I lay here in bed with mild insomnia I can hear low peals of thunder in the distance:  Another Spring storm rolling across Kansas and Missouri and into Illinois. The breeze is ever so damp against my skin while the moon was a hazy sliver in the sky tonight, almost golden through the heavy air.  I will pray for the stillness of the shadows through our house, the cementing of purpose and subtle power. I will also pray for the courage to continue growing, not for just the blossoms but thorns as well, defense from the fears and callousness of the world. Love is such a delicate thing, much like fine lace made from steel: Seemingly fragile but fierce when wrapped around you like possessive armor. And most of all, for now, Gentle Readers, let us pray for all the scientists and healers trying to find an end to cancer: I just found out about the passing of a dearest rockhound friend and it would be too much to bear another death to happen.

Until next time may the grace of the Sophia find you as well as the passion of storms.

Be well.

 

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Hello Gentle Readers,

Life is once again laying heavy on my shoulders and if I cry any more there will be trails of salt imbedded in my cheeks; for the last seven months my hair has been slowly going grey.  I try to be honest and forthright with everyone who reads but the pain is so personal and so private I can’t even begin.  (And no I am not crying over the grey hair.)  I have found that when I posted once to every three months it was easier to make breezy and pithy posts that still had heartfelt comments but to post on a more regular basis everything becomes much more personal, also a lack of actually interesting things to tell about on my part becomes a problem.  While this mid life crisis is very tight against my chest and personal to my soul as mid life crises go it is rather like a thin wisp than a tempest or even a breeze on the Spring night air: So enough of self pity lets get this show on the road.

Spring is finally drying the land out here in SW Illinois and even though it rained all Saturday the water was able to drain away instead of making soggy puddles and driving earth worms onto the pavement to die.  More and more I am able to be barefoot outside and feel the new grass springing under my toes.  Crocus that I planted in the Fall came up in fragile yellow flowers, promptly nibbled by all the bunnies proliferating, well, like bunnies.  Lately the strange bamboo thicket that grows two houses down diagonally has been hosting the strangest bird sounds in the morning.  Normally the thicket is a cacophony of tweety type birds that greets us at all times of the day, when it is silent even at night is when we worry.  This weird Spring has brought a bizarre avian to our area and I hope to get a recording to eventually share with my few but die hard and beloved readers.

Everyone has a different name for that nebulous ‘other space’ that harbors the Everyday Magic and the known but unseen; some call it the Shadows, the Veil, Reality, the Spirit Realm or the Fey World.  Whatever the words we grasp at and use to try and describe this Other Space allow me to say that it is active enough along the flooding Mississippi of my town to actually see the shapes move, hear wind chimes with no wind, and feel the chaotic yet benevolent energies in groves of brambled trees and slinking around the gutter drains.  Often when I am in a very religious mood I contemplate this world of the Veil and associate it with the Holy Trinity and the inherent power of the Sophia combining together.  The Holy Spirit is also called the Holy Ghost and in my Celtic Christian mind frame is a most mysterious power.  I am mentioning the above sentences because I also wrote above  “a weird Spring” and yes it is here.  I know that many people do not prescribe to the Veil and the Shadows but I want to mark it down like I would in a personal diary.

Rock success!!!  A new rock hound buddy with GLOAM, Bill, invited me over to his area and we had that get-to-know-you sort of creek hunt.  He is just wonderful and has the same strange love for rocks that I do.  He knew how to talk to locals and easily got us permission to creek walk/collect on private property.  The sky was clear with puffs of white clouds and the bluffs and hills with the chert filled streams reminded me overwhelmingly of the low Appalachian Hills of NC and dear friend Rick plus buddies Rockshine, JC, T, and Pat. And for me the creek walk was in a sort of memorial to departed John D who could charm and talk his way into anywhere and probably did.  I expect John D was in heaven before St Peter knew he was on the books.

Well, I managed to find a nice ‘chic’ sized bucket of rocks even when the creek was below someones grey water pipe.  Not to worry about that grey water thing, bleach is my friend. Lots of fossil-rock of course but several pieces of chert have darker colors and even stripped banding (no not like agate but better than the muddy cream color that is common). Got a great little crinoid stem impression and several larger spiral impressions; as I type this my newest hoard from Grafton is soaking in rinse water after the bleach and I hope to get some really spot on pictures to share with this post.

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Fossil imprint

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possible color!

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Fossil chert that will cab!

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Rough color with possible silica band

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Quartz carbuncles

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Excellent shell imprint!

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Too dang pretty for words with SMOKY on the tip

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Other side of Too Dang Pretty

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crinoid stem imprint

(Woot! Got the pictures!!)

And with these awesome Illinois finds I announce that the Lorotone is up and running finally!  I got is very second hand from a referb guy and while the engine worked, the basic box or casing has no holes, and the saw blade has some life to it the electrical fried in an awe inspiring display.  Previously to the electrical was the axle that holds the blade/wheel: “it just needs to be tightened”.  For two people with almost no mechanical inclination we took years to find someone who took ten minutes to tighten the wobble.  So imagine if you will:  The wooden cary base is finally screwed together and painted with only minimum cussing over several months, the rental electrician has fixed the axial wobble for a cup of coffee and 30 bucks, my beloved spends a week on U-Tube finding out how to fix a single throw double pull switch without electrocution: And the mineral oil is in and we have Take Off!!! …and a leak around a gasket… sigh. Welp, my husband is a miniatures artist of incredible design and he has tubes of silicone window caulking he uses to make water or snow effects.  15 minutes with a caulking gun and ten minutes cleaning my hands to get the extra caulking off and Voila!: The Lorotone works!!! A dear friend, roguishly handsome and an exacting Epicure, MC, sent me some rough scrap to cheer me up and now that I have practiced on some auction slabs I am ready to cut some exquisite pieces.

It is so ironic to have a revelation about a revelation but I have managed to do just that.   The chrysalis I have been experiencing was something I was waiting to have ‘POP’ open and bring some sort of spot light of awareness over my head.  Nope. The ‘Great Change’ I was expecting to help mitigate my depression will never come: The ‘Great Change’ is actually the small things I am doing and forcing myself to continue doing that will help make the overwhelming depression less ‘over’.  And perhaps this revelation will be in retrospect part of the momentous April I have been expecting to have.  My chronic pain may never go away but having the loving support of a spouse and friends who value me for more than my ability to run around and or hold down a job is amazing.  Just knowing that my Beloved loves my creativity, my cabochon art, my aura, my sometimes bubbly nature or the evil grumpy side, and wants me to continue with what I do is powerful good. He wants to actually see and inspect and admire or critique what I make or do.  He cares and this is part of the Love I can’t live without.  Which reminds me, I am taking up trying oil paints (no laughing) and need to gesso some cardboard tonight before I put in the next installment of Mariesha.

Red Angel’s Rise:  Installment Three… where we learn more about the warehouse and Mariesha is soon to learn of the train station incident.

cont…

Constable Young shook his head as he surveyed the warehouse carnage from the doorway. “And it was just you two then?”

“…Inspector…”

“Uh?”

Elsbeth leveled a glare at the older man, who, though he stood twice her size, took a step back. “Address Inspector Greywaves by her appropriate title, please.”

Young nodded warily, finally looking down at Mareisha, “So it was truly just you two then, Inspector?”

Mariesha looked back at the older man for the first time and sized him up.  He’d been on the force a long time by the look of him, so odds were he was just living out his last few years before he retired.  Hells, he probably did more work getting his bribes than enforcing the laws in his section of the berg.

“Yes, it was just “us” and tell your men they do NOT touch anything, just guard the outside.” Mariesha said coolly. “And if I catch wind of anything coming up peeled I’ll hold you personally responsible, Young. Got it?”

Constable Young nodded again, now not sure he wanted to be around either woman.  In the end he beat a hasty retreat to oversee guarding the perimeter of the warehouse.

Mariesha started to turn back to the carriage where Elsbeth waited, then stopped in mid turn. “Ah! Ells, do you have to do that now?”

A few feet away, Elsbeth was carefully placing her glass eye into its padded case and opening the case next to it. “Yes. You know I do. We have to keep all this recorded and organized; that’s why I’m here,” said Elsbeth primly as she demurely tilted her head back and pushed the new eye into her empty left socket. For a moment it stared off lifeless, then the new eyeball seemed to fall into sync with is organic partner. “There, all done,” finished Elsbeth snapping the case closed.

“That just ain’t natural.” Mariesha grumbled under her breath as she climbed onto the side of the carriage.

                                                         **

“Home then, mam?” Parker asked from his seat atop the carriage.

“Nah, not just yet. We need to clean up a little then we’re lingering about until the necros show.” Mariesha answered as she climbed into the carriages interior.

Elsbeth was just behind her, and pulled the door closed once she was inside. “Ugh, by the Gods I need to wash!”

Mariesha just nodded, lighting the small oil burning heater at one side of the carriage. “Do we have a bag to put this in?” She finally said, peeling a long strip of unidentified meat from her shoulder, her clothes stiff with drying blood.

“I should think the necromancers will have enough to experiment with at the crime scene.” Elsbeth replied, literally peeling the dress from her skin, the dried blood having soaked through making the velvet stick to her body.

“Not for evidence, to burn Els.”

“Oh… yes of course, there’s one around here somewhere.” Elsbeth replied, finally casting her garments aside with a look of revulsion. “We really do need to find a way of proofing ourselves from the gruesome… downpours!”

Mariesha chuckled, sorting through which clothes were still salvageable and which were a loss. “Downpours?”

Elsbeth blushed. “Its all I could come up with.”

“It’s been a long night, no worries Els.”

Each woman took a turn bathing in the small tub mounted at one side of the carriage. Since only the pair of them rode inside, most of the interior was taken up by spare clothes, the small brass tub, and the water heating device Mariesha had jury-rigged.

“Our powder room on wheels.” Elsbeth had once called the carriage.

Mariesha had liked the image, until she realized that the reference was to make-up and not gunpowder; It had lost a little of its shine then.

Clean and freshly dressed, both women emerged a few minutes before the necromancers arrived with the coroner’s wagons.  The long, grey wagons were unmistakable with their heavy doors and rubber seals. The rubber alone cost a small fortune, but it kept the stench of decay from wafting along behind each wagon.

Accompanying the coroners wagons were four more normal carriages, each bearing the symbol for the College of Necromancy on its side along with an armed guard next to the driver, and the reinforced cabin within.  Such precautions hadn’t been needed within the streets of Cinerarium for years, but the College had a long memory and had yet to forget the riots of Deskain’s Eve.

Checking the flame red cloak across her shoulders, Mariesha walked around to where the coroners were making their entry.  The first necromancer in sight was a tall, willowy old man with a trim white beard and thick head of hair. When Mariesha and Elsbeth approached, he smiled.

“Good morning, Inspector Greywaves. When I heard there was a warehouse full of illegal re-animates I thought that you might be involved.”

Mariesha smirked. “And I figured at this time of the morn’ they’d not rouse someone well liked, and yet here you are Professor.”

“An astute observation.” The old man grunted as he started into the building.

Professor Radus Lentz was one of the senior field researchers for the College, a man that had traveled the length and breadth of the continent to investigate every manner of hurt and healing. These days his years were getting the better of him, and his activities were  restricted to teaching and the occasional foray into the streets of the capitol.

“Thrice damned, what a mess.”  Lentz exclaimed as he strode across to the table where the boy had been bound.  “I don’t envy the grave boys this morning. How’d you manage all this and stay squeaky clean, girl?”

“I’m just that good.” Mariesha replied, nudging a headless flesh puppet as they passed. “What do you make of these things?”

Lentz paused, turning to look over the corpse once more laying silent. “Nasty business that.  See the scraps of paper in his windpipe.”

Mariesha crouched and peered down into the shredded stump for a moment, finally catching sight of what the old man had spotted. “Aye. You’ve good eyes.”

“Huh, I wish.  They all still radiate magic, so they glow to me. Someone using some kind of divine magic to turn zombies into a lot more.” Lentz said, scowling. “He’s tearing their spirits in half, and using the connection to the other side to power them.  That’s my theory at least. Think next time you could capture one intact?”

“Shall I put that down on the ‘things-to-do while we’re achieving the god-like impossible list’, ma’m?”

“Yes, do. Put it right around crappin’ gold and dancing around Thargrim’s Maw in a damned meat smock.”

Lentz grunted. “Snarky wenches.” He said before turning an eye toward Elsbeth. “Thought you were supposed to be makin’ this one a better lady?”

“We haven’t quite decided on which of us is bettering the other just yet, Professor.”

Mariesha pulled a serious face, “This is all chuckles and such, Professor, but how long until you can give me something good to get after the berk with?”

“What?”

“When can we expect your findings?”

Mariesha shook her head at Elsbeth. “I just asked that.”

“Yes mam, but his ears are bad.”

“My ears are fine!”

“Results? When?”

Lentz looked around and grunted. “Tomorrow night, at best.”

Mariesha smiled and gave the old man a pat on the shoulder. “See that wasn’t anything bad.”

A few feet away a messenger dashed into the room and looked around, instantly turning green. When he spotted Mariesha and her scarlet cloak, he made his way to the Inspector’s side trying to avoid as much of the gore as he could. “Inspector… ma’m… a missive for you from the crown.”

Elsbeth raised an eyebrow as Mariesha opened the sealed envelope and read the letter inside. “We aren’t going home for a long sleep are we?”

“We can sleep in the carriage Els, we’re heading west.”

Continued….

(And I do want to thank Thank my Gentle Readers for having the fortitude and determination to continue with the grisly murders that Mareisha is investigating. One of the ways we write together is my husband reads aloud a line that a character says then I respond as if Mariesha but he types it into the computer. And then there are the revisions of  ‘Hmmm… what if she actually said this…’)

I truly hope for Peace and Intrigue and Contentment and Adventures for you all, my Dearest Ones; so many that are deserving of happiness and success, warm sunshine and protective shadow.  Greet the impending Summer with a Strong Heart and Constancy as we all muddle through this life, some more ‘muddlier’ than others.  With more adventures to regale you with on the horizon, I send you away with warm Hugs and Kisses,

Be Well.

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Greetings Gentle Readers,

We are almost half way through March and the precipitation has finally stopped for four days.  I am not saying rain or drizzle or even water but precipitation because something vaguely wet and grey has been falling out of the sky for three months. Even all the little moles and voles are coming up close to the surface; my imagination creating one of the denizens of Redwall wearing a snorkel and water wings. Weather is for some reason vitally important to me, blogging and recording the events of the world in my back yard. I can only be thankful that Readers either understand or revel in the singular fascination of wind and rain with me.  Today the wind has picked up and once again is riffling down the chimney and pushing forward heavy grey storm clouds.  The wind is even stronger once the sun has gone down and distant thunder almost sounds like the mix of deep wind chimes and distant train engines.

I must simply share our string of the best bad luck for the new year.  Our VW Beetle died a most noble death at the repair shop, for 16 years old and an odometer flip we are saddened but not surprised.  At the exact same time our other VW diesel goes into the shop and thus my husband starts rounds with Enterprise Rental.  I am at this point on day five of a migraine that combined itself with some kind of Virus that everyone from Michigan to Florida has been talking about.  Enterprise was champion, replacing the rental F-150 gas guzzler with a sedan while my gallant Beloved drove back and forth getting cars and groceries and Dayquil. Then… while he drives the sedan back to Enterprise Rental right in front of the rental bay doors is a white VW Jeta sport wagon TDI!!!  He asks “Wow! What’s with the VW diesel?!”  He is informed they just got in a whole batch for sale.  By Monday we were sitting in Enterprise Rental signing paperwork for a 2013 station wagon with an ultra cool panoramic roof.  While we are not rolling in the money, it is quite the relief to have our credit able to swing us a used car literally in a day or two.  The real miracle was having a diesel literally sitting in front of the rental agency ready to be bought.

All my life I have been nearly afraid of my own shadow and timid of any vibrant actions on my part.  Around this past October or November I was convinced that I had to become a different person:  Not to be held back by the distorted memories of childhood and the nightmare that was college.  I had more than one person believe in me and somehow all the Specialty, the nearly tangible magic of the world, came to gather and I decided to start.  Just start.  While I have many days where that fear and doubt want to drag me down again I am still walking forward into a different part of my life.  I may not be sprinting but I am as sure as heck not crawling. I have complained and bitterly gnashed my teeth about the lack of rock clubs in SW Illinois, and collecting in Illinois period, so one day I sat down with my trusty computer (trusty because my Mac engineer husband has administrative access to fix things) and started a new MeetUp Group: Little ol’ me did this!  Being a Goth nerd of some proportions I named it GLOAM: Geology Lovers Of American Midwest.  The group capped out quickly at 50 people and it looks like there may only be seven to ten active members which is just fine as far as I am concerned, MeetUps being notoriously bad at having people actually participate.

Today has had warm sun and warmer winds than the frigid Canadian blasts of late and even if cats and dogs are blowing sideways and the ground still squishes like a muddy sink sponge it feels like some form of Spring may be around the corner.  My idea for Easter is adorable and should prove popular with people who think beyond chocolate and boiled eggs in the basket: Polished stones or fossils! https://www.etsy.com/shop/EarthsBones

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Etsy idea #1

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Etsy idea #2

Part of this brave new me is continuing on my writing this blog, to share with the world this amazing and silver tinged Reality we live through; to continue my sales because they are picking up and I have found that the wider world does have the Others-Like-Me; and to continue with the creative writing because I’ve been telling stories since before I was young.  So with the story from my last blog, let me continue with Mariesha and the great city of Cinerarium: The story is actually called Red Angels Rise and is a joint writing story with my husband, Ian.  This next installment is shorter but continues revealing another pieces of the mystery: Red Angel’s Rise part 2.

Elsbeth nodded, walking back to where the lower half of her dress still stood. “Yes it is.  Actually it’s almost dawn.” TO BE CONTINUED

                                       ****

Philip Webley sneered, shaking his head. “Nine fourteen! This is unacceptable” Thrusting his watch into his vest pocket, Philip turned and started pacing the length of platform. “You’d think a country run by folk that never really die could manage to keep the trains running on time. This is what, the fourth time in the last ten day?!”

The few others on the platform did their best to ignore the gnome’s constant stream of complaints. The spring morning was a refreshing break from the bitter cold of winter, the sun shining down between the towers of Cinerarium for the first time in almost two months. None were much in the mood for complaining, no matter how late the train might be.

Another minute ticked by, then another, until finally a lonely column of steam and smoke appeared on the southern horizon.  The Gaston Station was perched on the western edge of the capitol city, the arrival point of countless hundreds of thousands of souls from the rest of the world. To the east, Cinerarium spread out like a forest of stone towers, the maze of streets their roots below.  Out here, the plantations and orchards spread as far as the eye could see; the approaching train was a black serpent, sliding between green fields.

“About damned time.” Philip grumbled, saddling up to the boarding gate.

Sitting on his stool, the attendant cast a weary eye at the diminutive businessman.  Every day the gnome delivered the same litany of complaints, and more than once he’d entertained the thought of tossing the businessman onto the tracks. “Morning, sir.”

“Yes it is morning.” Came the gruff reply.  “I would assume you’ve passed my written complaints to the station manager?”

“Of course, sir.”

Philip gave a hur-umph. “Yes, of course you have.”  Shaking his head, Philip pointedly turned to watch the approaching train.

A line started forming behind Philip, a motley collection of farmers, families, and artisans.  Some were leaving the city to return home, others were leaving something behind; all shared Philip’s anticipation. A few minutes later the massive machine made its last turn, steam clouds bellowing outward as it slowed.

Philip impatiently watched the engine roll past, followed by a half-dozen coal cars, then the passenger cars. At first, Philip’s brain couldn’t wrap around what he was seeing, at all the faces in the windows… all the fleshless faces in the windows.

Men.

Women.

Children.

The children were the worst; their over sized eyes bulging from the gaping wounds that had been sockets left a particular impression.

Philip heard screams behind him, felt the attendant brush past him, but somehow he was rooted where he was, entranced by the horror before him. The train slowed, finally stopping, and then they were moving, those faces. They were moving toward the stairs at each end of the car.

“I… I think I should be going… going about now…” Philip stammered as he turned to run. That was the moment he realized he was suddenly very alone on the platform.

Bursting through the wooden exit doors, Philip crossed the waiting room at a dead run and ducked under the turnstile. The station was already abandoned; Philip could just see the platform attendant disappearing out the furthest door. For the first time in his life he cursed not being taller: All the other horribly warped, twisted, towering races had seemed freakish until that very moment when Philip would have given anything to have a longer stride.

For a few seconds he dared to hope; he was a a mere twelve feet from the outer doors and running as fast as his legs would carry him. Then the first boney fingers sank into the soft flesh of calf. A scream escaped Philip’s lips as he lunged forward, willing to sacrifice a pound of flesh to make it out the stained glass doors and into the sun. But as powerful as the will was, the flesh was unable. Philip felt himself lifted off his feet then pulled backward. Fleshless faces amongst a wall of grasping hands.

CONT……

I send to all of my Readers both gentle or courageous or industrious or fierce, my appreciation and love; hoping my musings, insights, and stories can give you a chance to slip for a moment away from any trials and tribulations.

May the sweet voices of Spring sing gently to you,

Be Well

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Imbolc, Orion and A New Story

Dearest Gentle Readers,

The new year came and went with a small ‘pop’ and a rush of well wishes and Midnight Stars.  Here in SW Illinois the weather has finally gotten down to being cold:  In Chicago there is snow and freezing Lake winds and in NC there is unexpected cold and the ice that always comes but here the icy wind just flows over the ground unstopped from the Great Plains, even over powering the air currents of the mighty Mississippi.  At the beginning of February will come Imbolc or Candlemass, the start of the end of Winter and the almost beginning of Spring.  This to me is the start of a New Year, the final arrival of the Vernal Equinox and the last of frozen life under the soil to be replaced by the running shoots and vines of life above.

It is now a few days past Imbolc and the weather has gone from 60 degrees and barefoot to a chance of snow and or rain all week.  I will admit that the barometric pressure change is hammering my body right now. Most of my close friends who have invisible illnesses are limping around too; from my beloved H in Virginia to dearest GE in Pennsylvania.  The constant pain and patently ineffective pain killers wear you down on the inside emotions.  Then if there is anything that can completely knock the pain out, chances are your brain is floating up there with kites, bluebirds, and rainbows.  My hat’s off to the unknown cold call sales lady who when I said, sounding zombie like, “…I have a migraine” immediately lowered her voice and said “I get those too.  We can call you back.”  And then she hung up.  Unknown Lady, I luv you.  My only advice to those who are just starting the Road of Life with an invisible illness is to find a support network that is best for you whether it is a prayer group with your church, morning meditations at sun rise, or the folks from your book club; find a doctor who ‘gets it’ and understands you are not pill shopping and that pain really does impact lifestyle; and if you are in state where CBD is legal, swallow your pride and get your user card.

Lately I think I have been pampered rotten.  My husband just says “…Well, thank you.”  This morning he got me my pain syrup and around noon he brought me a granola bar and my water bottle.  He made our supper and even put a little salt on my asparagus. (My ability to stand up straight and to walk a straight line was in question.). And he even gives me sweet kisses on the lips.  This past Saturday he took me to the St Andrews Book Fair and carried the books for me out to the car.  He listens when I tell him about my rocks and lets the latest pile of ‘wonder gravel’ sit on the kitchen counter.  When I just have to go search the thrift store, he walks beside me and holds the basket while I hunt.  He doesn’t complain that I do not have delicate girly feet and he is understanding when I have migraine hair.  In my mind I am a high maintenance wife but people tell me it means things like weekly mani-pedis and expensive jewelry so I will have to try and call myself a strange maintenance wife.  Most of all, thank you to a spouse that loves me.

Tonight is a wondrously bleak night, chilly and dank with an eerie fog settling in;  to be replaced by a rising sun hidden by layers of grey clouds like wet bed sheets strung over the sky.  In a few nights the forecast is for clear nights and freezing temperatures but I will be out for enough time to see my beloved Orion.  Since I was old enough for my parents to point out the stars at night in a cold, barren, Southern Indiana winter, that constellation has been my guardian.  While others could Find the North Star, The Bears. or the Seven Sisters, Subaru in Japan, the only constellation I could find was Orion.  While I was soulfully and sadly alone in body and spirit during college, Orion was always there watching over me in the night sky: he was my comfort and my protector.  Sometimes the sky was clear enough for me to see Bootes his faithful hound and I felt extra lucky if only for a few breathless moments.  If any Gentle Reader can understand the struggling grasp of the unknown in the night’s darkness and reaching out in all the confusion and angst for a Known Guide then you understand.

OK, Folks, I actually got good reactions from my rather personal poetry and for that I am very thankful.  I am a writer and so is my beloved spouse and occasionally we collaborate together on stories, each one responding to the other and adding to the story. One of our favorite themes is the world of Dungeons of Dragons, an admittance which says loud and clear that we are old school geeks.  Many, many years ago my husband created his own continent in this setting and decided to give it a Wild West vibe. Now, as most table top roll players can attest to, we have run multiple games in this world and never finished a single game. As loving and patient as I hope I am, recreating the same character over six times and never getting her anywhere finally burnt my toast. One day he says to me “Why don’t we write a story with Mariesha in it, so you can finally create her the way you have wanted.”  Then came me jumping up and down and hugging him and telling him of my undying love.  “But, My Darling Husband, how do we start her off?”  Several days later he announces “I came across this great name for the Capitol of Tabria…Cinerarium!  It’s Victorian for mausoleum!!”  That evening he also came home and presented me with my introduction to our story:  Not quite steam punk, the continent of Kildare is a place all its own.  And on this continent is the country of Tabria with the gloriously profound capital of Cinerarium.

I would like to introduce you to our world and my character who is rather dear to my heart. (With a bit of editing here or there I feel somewhat confident in the results.)  *****CHAPTER ONE-ISH

The cut was shallow, Wharley was only marking where he’d make the real incisions; the boy would live through it no matter how he was screaming now.  Twenty years in the future he’d be flashing the scars to get into some barmaids skirts, well, if this played out right. If not Wharley’d have another skin puppet and nobody would hear that voice again.

Mariesha slowly lowered herself onto the rafter, the centuries old wood creaking ever so slightly but still holding her weight.  Below her, one of the trio of flesh golems standing around Wharley’s stone slab looked about the warehouse, its dim intelligence barely aware of something being amiss.

Wharley made another thin cut, running along the boy’s sternum and down the length of his stomach.  This was all the practice Warley was going to get; it was move now or mop the little burk up. Perching directly over-head, Mariesha willed Murder into her hands.  In seconds the barbed metal lengths of the animate chain wound around her, one length into each hand and the third length of chain coiling at her hip. Its movements were almost sensual in a strange, living weapon-of-gruesome-death kind of way.

An older flesh puppet appeared from the shadows at Wharley’s side, its face a frozen mask of rigor. Mariesha’s eyes narrowed; she knew the victim: That was Ashley Taber, the daughter of a street-side vendor and a seamstress. Wharley had snatched her from her bed two fortnights prior, and had even left her still steaming entrails on the family stoop for the sunrise.  He had enjoyed watching their reactions from his carriage as he waited down the street, and that had almost gained him the rope: Just two more ticks and Mariesh’d have had Wharley then and there.

Shifting slightly on the wooden beam, Mariesha glanced back toward the doors at the far end of the warehouse turned charnel house.  Where was Elsbeth? She’d hesitated leaving her recorder on her own, but in the past months they had worked together Elsbeth had held her own well enough in scrapes. Then again Wharley and his meat-puppets weren’t alleyway thugs nicking the random purse.

As if on queue the doors burst open and in walked a vision of scarlet velvet.  As much as Mariesha looked the tomboy Elsbeth looked the lady, voluminous skirts swishing about her as she walked, complete with a bustle and the matching little cap perched atop her head.  When Mariesha had first met the woman she had almost fallen out laughing at the thought of the dainty Elsbeth scumming about in the dregs of Cinerarium with her. In the name of the seven gods she even had her matching ladies fur muff at her belt.

“In the name of the crown you are all under arrest!” Elsbeth declared as she strode undaunted past the packs of ghouls and meat-men that were prowling the shadows along the edges of the broken warehouse. “You will stand down or all necessary force will be used.”

“Of all the Recorders in the kingdom I get the dramatic one.” Came to Mariesha’s mind ruefully as she leaped silently to one of the massive supports behind the table and in another blink dropped down onto the floor, waiting in the shadows.

“This is your one and only chance to surrender.” Elsbeth finished as her gloved hands slipped into the ever-present fur muff at her waist.

In the shadows Mariesha smiled, her fangs glinting ever so slightly in the dimly flickering ghost-lights around the table.

“Kill it.” Wharley croaked, pointing at the Recorder.

All across the wretched place, filthy faces cracked in smiles, though none as dark as the one Mariesha watched come across her recorder’s lips. “By your leave, Inspector?”

Mariesha almost laughed as she called out. “By all means, Els.”

One day, Mariesha thought as she started for the table, she was going to have to get Elsbeth to really show her the details of those dresses.  Oh, the hells would freeze solid before Mariesha herself would willingly wear one into the streets, but damned if they weren’t fun to watch.

In mid-stride all the petticoats and ruffles fell away from Elsbeth, revealing nothing but long black boots and the chain mail hidden away beneath. When her hands emerged from the muff they were shrouded in all manner of blade and hook and barb. Elsbeth called them her ‘work gloves’, and ladylike gloves she had all manner of, but the work these were intended for was specific.

The first ghoul that reached Elsbeth turned into a fountain of blood and shredded flesh, tumbling off into the darkness.  Mariesha didn’t watch any more than that: There was death to be done by her hand.

Two steps away from the support post and Murder was already spinning at full speed, a blur of barbs extending from each of Mareisha’s hands as the chain moved too fast to see. The first flesh golem had half turned when Mariesha struck, the third animate chain wrapping around her already mailed fist. Steel and barbs slammed into the back of the creature’s knee, ripping muscle and shattering bone, sending the golem backwards as the opposite length of chain whipped down and around to wrap around its neck. Spinning forward Mariesha leaped onto the table itself, Murder pulling tight.  Her motion combined with the golems backward fall popped its distorted head from its bulging shoulders.

“Eustace Wharley you are under arrest for the murder of Henry Fosters…” started the Inspector.

Wharley scrambled backwards, Murder just missing him, as the other two golems surged forward and the mountainous wall of half rotted muscle pressed in from each side of the table as the child strapped down at Mariesha’s feet wailed.

“… Alistair Young…”

Both lengths of chain came back to speed, Mariesha sidestepping clumsy grasps of the golems to lash out in all directions: Blood and bits of pallid gore flying in every direction.

“…Mary Beth Potter…”

Murder, as he always did, tore at the eyes of the creatures around the inspector.  Blinded, the golems were undaunted but even more inaccurate and twice they came within a bird’s breath of smashing the bound child.  Cursing Mariesha lashed downwards, severing the leather straps that held the near catatonic boy in place. When he didn’t move, Mariehsha ducked another clumsy blow and bodily shoved him from the monsters’ midst.

“Els, protect the boy!” Mariesha shouted before vaulting off of the table in pursuit of Wharley, her attackers in tow. “Now where was I? Yeah…the murder of Beatrice Brown…”

Somewhere in the darkness behind her, Mariesha heard, “Yes Mam!”

Flesh puppets now rose from the pitch black at the back of the warehouse; the reanimated corpses of tormented innocents.  Mariesha didn’t know how Wharely was giving them the power that he was, but the little monstrosities were stronger and faster than any undead their size had a right to be.

“…Donald Tomer…”

Mariesha laid into the last golem in earnest, Murder tearing at the patches where the creature had been sewn together. What meat that wasn’t bodily torn from the creature fell from its frame as the metal staples and stiff sinew strips gave way.

Another wall of emotionless faces rose before Mariesha as she pressed after Wharley. The meat puppets attacked without hesitation and with more coordination than the towering flesh golems, darting wide around Murder’s arcing reach, seeking to press in on their master’s foe from all sides.

“…Rachel Osterman…”

In the shadows past the flesh-puppets Mariesha could just see Wharley pausing long enough to look back at her as he stood next to a fetid mound of discarded body parts twice his own height.  For a brief moment he smiled, the long dead flesh of his own face wrinkling at the twisted motion.

“There will be…” Wharley’s voice started to rasp.

Murder lashed out at its full length, the chain’s reach tripling in mid spin. The puppets, caught off guard, dove for the shadows though all felt the magic weapons barbs; eyes, muscle, or throats, whatever Murder touched was torn asunder.

“And Nathaniel Wharley!” Mariesha shouted, sprinting forward, extending Murder again to its fullest length.

Wharley’s smug expression shattered in an instant, his hunched figure diving into the rotted meat of his discard pile.

Mariesha cursed imaginatively under her breath, as she turned back toward the surrounding puppets. There was no point now in searching for Wharley; he was gone. The man was using blood magics that were well beyond what he should have had access to, and a rancid mound such as the towering discard pile was his gateway to anywhere else where fetid pools of blood awaited him. Denied the guidance of their master, the meat-puppets about the warehouse fell to Mareisha and Elsbeth in short order.  

Covered in substances she’d rather not ponder, Mariesha made her way back to the table where the boy had been bound. “Els? You lost?”

“No, mam.” Came the reply, Elsbeth appearing a moment later. She was as covered in gore as Mariesha, bits of it still dangling from the gruesome hooked gloves on her hands. “We only have a few left to actually arrest.” She said sheepishly as she walked to Mariesha’s side.

“Where’s the boy?”  Asked the Inspector, hoping the child was not pinned under a fallen mound of body parts.

“He’s hiding under the table.”

“Huh, so he is.” Leaning over and down, Mariesha tried to smile reassuringly and caught sight of a pair of eyes staring back out at her. “You hurt?” No answer came from the pale terror stricken child. “Well, nothin’ that a bath and some balms won’t fix,” said the Inspector trying her hardest to sound nice.

Mariesha willed her chain to wrap around her waist and shoulder, the three separate ends sliding up from the edges of the table, and stuck her hand under the table after shaking extra gore off of it, “Come on kid, time to go… before the flies start.”

“I don’t suppose you caught him?”

Mariesha growled and shook her head, looking back up at Elsbeth. “Nah, but we have enough dead bits ’round here that the necromancers should be able to tell us more about what he’s doing.”

“…and we cost him dearly this ‘morn.”

Walking toward the far door with the child in tow, Mariesha nodded. “And we saved the kid. I’ll go see if I can signal down a connie.  Now that Wharley’s gone his coin shouldn’t forbid them coming in now.” Just short of the door itself, Mariesha paused. “Is it mornin’ already?

Elsbeth nodded, walking back to where the lower half of her dress still stood. “Yes it is.  Actually it’s almost dawn.”  TO BE CONTINUED

 

And now back to the real world, Gentle Reader. I want to also share my ideas for Easter with you and give a few pictures of my corner of the world.  I have so many places and buildings with an essence to share, a feeling I hope you can understand.

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Glorious Winter in West Virginia

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Magic of the Night

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Back yard under the Blood Moon

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The Blood Moon

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Etsy idea #2

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Etsy idea #1

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Sunny Office

I truly hope this story of Mareisha is a step in the correct direction for the evolution of this blog and is equally enjoyable for the readers and of course that my sentiment and written experiences are as welcome as a fires warmth on a freezing Winters Night and as refreshing as cold head waters on a hot Summer Day.

Until the next time, may God’s Nature bring you crystalline beauty and the Sophia bless you with clear sight, Be Well.

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Yule Soul Cakes and Poetry

Greetings, Gentle Readers,

The inch or two of snow has melted again and temperatures have just popped into the 40s.  The two weekend WinterMart I vended at went smashingly the first weekend and I was rather pleased. The second weekend was 22 degrees before windchill, our tables were blowing over, and with only three hours for sales and an hour already spent fighting the wind and losing feeling in our feet, I said to my Hubby “Im calling it.”  Thus are the small trials of vending in the outside during winter and not having solid walls.

I do, at times get the courage to write poetry and to actually share it.  I’ve even had those not related or married to me say that it is good. ( Not my normal fluffy rocks, fluffy kittens and fluffy moonlight: Just call me complex.)

Abandon all hope ye who enter here:

Then, Oh God, why do we perceiver?

To feel a fog, the burn, a strain,

The Stress of the Body,

The Pain of the Heart,

And not give in, to quit or stop,

But continue on despite the fear.

 

Need turns into Desire

Desire into Thought,

Thought into Planning

Planning into Action and 

Action into Oblivion

 

How long in aimless desperation

Within a vacuum of deeds and moress:

Alone and still needing and

Desperately seeking

One shining moment

Proving that Hope was worth the Pain.

 

Explain to me nothing.

It is the path that we walk,

That we journey,

That we create

Which forms our Desires and Fate.

Last night was Winter Solstice and I decided to try and make the Medieval recipe for Soul Cakes.  For those who are familiar with my trials at baking from anything other than Betty Crocker this sounds like the pablemic “nice idea.”  The recipe for Soul Cakes is rather obscure and the oldest authentic recipes is as follows:  “Take flower & sugar & nutmeg & cloves & mace & sweet butter & sack & a little ale barm, beat your spice & put in your butter & your sack, cold, then work it well all together & make it in little cakes & so bake them, if you will you may put in some saffron into them or fruit.”  The purpose of these cakes on Solstice was different from All Souls and I decided to make something special for the Longest Night.  The above recipe is from the 1600s and the most mysterious thing was ‘What in the world is sack?’  Well… research on Google says two things 1) Sack is like a sherry or spiced sherry from the 1700s or 2) sack is in reference to the Medieval drink coddle. I chose the older version. Coddle varied from farm to farm and castle to castle but appears to be a warmed Nog type drink made with alcohol.  Since most farmstead wine would be super sweet, made from whatever berry bush was available, and fermented in the root cellar I chose Cassis to help create my coddle.  I guessed at everything and was aiming for biscuit consistency but ended up pouring it into muffin tins.  After the first ten minutes I was able to cut the cross into the tops and slide them back into the oven.  THEY WERE EXCELLENT!!:  a true Christmas miracle.  My husband is convincing me that anything older that 1600s is golden when I cook it and seeing as how every recipe inspired by Ancient Rome or obscure folk lore turns out lovely I am inclined to believe him.  One Day I will have to tell you about the famous Black Forest Cherry Cake and Sugar Plum Fairy Pie.

Once again I have gone over board on gifting for family and am prepared to wrap gifts until I fall over napping on the rolls of wrapping paper.  I just couldn’t resist an early gift for myself and above and beyond the books from the Goodwill down the street I won an auction on slabbed agates and petrified wood, even a slab of tiger’s eye in the mix.  I am very gratified and grateful that folks actually ask me for pictures of the stones and slabs I find or buy, so here it is.5k5rheE0QF+kdtnXCLwemA

The neighbors could hear me ‘Squeeee’ with rock hound joy all the way down the street when the box arrived. Please ignore the fur laden rug, Sorcha can not resist sharing her own version of glitter.

So many of my crafting friends show pictures of their original art, wire wrapping, wood working, polished geodes, and beading; talking of family, music playing, food cooking, traveling places, and the next adventure.  The very insecure part of me, that still sees the frightened wall-flower nerd from my youth, fears that I will never compare and pale into nothing beside them.  Yet I look around and see that my Library is finally organized with cleaned shelves, our guest room is guest-able should there be guests, Irish music is pouring off of Pandora, and I’m loudly crooning old dirges over the sound of the cabochon machine as I shape and polish stones. “Darlin, Night-Child,'” I tell myself “You are a strange breed, in the rarest and best of ways.”

During the cold months when people are more closeted in home and of course the Holidays foist amiability on us; depression and loneliness is a pain right to the gut for some people.  I give you all my sympathy. I am socially isolated here in my new town no matter how friendly are strangers.  Despite my emerging identity and adoring dog, the  aloneness was wearing on my shoulders today and with few answers to my dilemma.  Lonely Readers out there, while you may be solitary and crying the same tears I have shed; you are not the only one out there:  I send sincere warmth to perhaps break through your own cold comfort.

The weather here in SW Illinois has been unseasonably warm despite intermittent snow showers.  The Longest Night of The year also had a full moon this December and there were silver and red tinged clouds in a near bowl shape around the luminous moon, separated from the rippling clouds by a nimbus of  pure colors.   I laid out pieces of the cake at the corners of our property with a prayer and enjoyed the hopeful creation of a new tradition.  We won’t get real Winter snow until the first or second week in January so I can flit about in the house in my beloved’s over sized T-shirts and go barefoot during the day.  I am still reworking my web sites to improve things as I learn more about this whole online sales adventure. Let us remember the less fortunate, the cold, and those without hope:  If we can do nothing else then let us send our thoughts and essence into the bareness of Reality to fill the void and create A Great Beauty.

With every lovely Crystal of Frost, may God hold you,

Be Well

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Greetings Gentle Readers,

I feel compelled to share the magnificence of the moon last night. The moon was a perfect half; the night air so sharp and crisp the outline of it was almost tangible. I want to say the moon was glowing, that it was shiny, or that it was luminous but no:  The moon was the perfect combination of abalone, precious Mother of Pearl, and crystal; a direct and intense light nearly brittle in its beauty. And this was not just any crystal, like the kind from a ball room chandelier or from the fringe of a flapper’s dress; this was a crystal of a hardness and entrancement that you had just dug for hours in the red and ocher soil then realized what a perfectly rare creation of the Earth you were holding in your palm.

And what draws one to the Night with such an intensity that prudence and forethought are mere wisps to the mind? Why does the night inspire such energy and dramatic desires?  I suppose the greatest question is why insomnia is such a stultifying experience when it would be more of a relief to be able to flitter about in the dark hours than staring at the carpet in a stupor. Then when the sun just starts to climb, regardless of having gamboled through the night, slept like the innocent, or sat counting bricks in the wall, all the body wants to do is tether the starting sunbeam around oneself and sleep curled in warmth and soothing light.  We can all simply claim, of course,  imagination and subconscious cultural cues but for a simple moment give credit to the sweet siren song of the Night and let us long to sleep in the sun.

And so we come to the days before Thanksgiving and the rush for the Holidays starts.  The past four days have been a soggy and pallid time.  The sky has been grey, the sun has been grey, and the majority of the icy snow has melted into a wet mess of cold puddles and dead leaves.  It is just cold enough to need shoes for long walks but not to need scarves and wool socks, yet regardless of the rather dreary landscape there is a lovely hustle and bustle starting.  I went to The Goshen Market Butchers shop today and I am pleased to say that while I had no idea where I was I didn’t get lost going to the market.  For those that know my ability to get lost in my own house, take this as a sign of a Seasonal Miracle.  The butchers had a stream of people coming in and out picking up pre-orders yet still finding time to open doors for each other and to talk amiably.  Sure, the merits of old time cola and gooseberries for cooking are not earth shatteringly important but the congenial human contact is welcome on grey days and during the Thanksgiving season.  There are those folks , deservedly or not, that have no close family, are ostracized from cousins, or simply alone in their own skin: I truly send you my love and sympathy:  If you are able then perhaps you can gather the Earth and Sky about you and create a pocket of comfort and love;  may there be some human warmth from a local dinner or the open doors of a church if the esoteric is not your frame of mind;  those brilliantly rare people who take solitude as comfort may the rhythm of your own heart beat be a sweet sound.  For my dearest Mother, who will not even know this blog exists, I send out to you “Happy Thanksgiving”; we are staying home so enjoy your dinner at the cafe ’cause you don’t have to cook.

Glad tidings for those that do struggle or have struggled with small business: I had two sales from my Etsy site within nine days of each other!! I am not exactly the best self promoter in the world so to have this happen is exciting.   I sell a creative variety of items, trying to appeal to the odd artist and the vintage jewelry enthusiast while keeping prices reasonable enough.  The chase for a bargain and the thrill of the discovery drives me, truly, and then I have all this jewelry and odd finds slowly taking over my cabochon machine.  I hear stories about treasures found at yard sales and even know a dear friend we can call LH that found a ring with a metal detector when all the rest of us found were pop top tabs.  A bead stringing professional I know, JB, a friend I miss working stones and gem shows with, found a malachite necklace for one dollar at the Goodwill.  And once I found a vintage dress from 1940’s Japan for four dollars at a yard sale.  With a wry chuckle I am still waiting to find a lost Monet or forgotten Faberge.

Tonight is comfortably above thirty degrees and our sweet rescue dog Sorcha is sleeping on her pad.  She snores.  Tonight she snores with little huffy wheezes and at other times we can hear her rumbling while we are in the kitchen. My husband just sighs, and I must admit I am glad I am not the only one that snores in this house.  In our past apartment in Chicago we had, to politely put it, upstair neighbors that were immature:  There were times that my semi-truck-lumberjack snoring was my best revenge on them, unfortunately the Hubby had to listen to me also.  You know it is true love when ya’ offer to sleep on the couch and your Darling says “but I can’t sleep if you’re uncomfortable.”  It is also a true sign when your lover still kisses you first thing in the morning and you could swear a chipmunk died in your mouth.

Below is our attention mongering, fur shedding, bacon stealing, absolute lovey of a dog.  And yes I said shedding.

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(I must explain that we are in the middle of reorganizing our books and I normally do not allow my modest collection of Greek and Roman classics to be so disorganized.  Organizing books is a serious activity in this household and thanks to Ikea we finally have more shelving than books.)

Tonight is Thanksgiving Night and here it has finally dried out somewhat into a lovely, clear, forty-five degree night.  The Moon is full and as lovely and crystalline as it was when it was in half. We had our lamb and sweet potatoes and the dog is the happiest of us because she will get lamb drippings on her kibble and asparagus tonight.  I am thankful that tonight I was able to go barefoot again across the outside ground and have the Earth under my feet, if only for a half hour or so.  For all those far away and having any hollow thoughts:  We are under the same Moon.

Thank You, Gentle Readers,

Be Well

 

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Gentle Readers, Greetings,

I might as well start this blog out on Halloween night.  The day has been a sublime treat of overcast sky, easy temperatures, and a soft breeze after last night’s midnight-rain.  The Night is quiet and, how shall I say, gentle.  Now the Darkness will be longer than the Light until the blessings of the Winter Solstice come and the Light begins it’s return.  While the leaves are falling into a soft carpet of gold and red the weather is still warm enough to have my bare feet on the ground.  I must give a sigh and a wry chuckle:  We are in the MidWestern Bible Belt but Halloween decorations are all over and the Husband and I were looking forward to gaggles of costumed trick or treaters tonight, but, last night I was laying still in the bedroom with a migraine and my husband had the porch light off: Our city trick-or-treats the night before Samhain and so we still have two huge bags filled with prime candy.

Back down in the South East several MAGMA die hards went to collect fossils at the Pipsico Camp along the James river and their trip was a blazing success. They found tremendous plates of shells and whale bones melded together by time. Video stories a Dearly Adored shared of the deep embankments not only narrated the excitement and awe of fossils but also showed the richness of the trapped strata on the cliff sides. The driftwood was even worthy of picking up for art and home bound decoration. I had to smile seeing the pictures of piles of fossils and ancient whale bones and then the piece of driftwood on the side: These big men who have lifted seemingly tons of stone in their lifetimes, and helped cary many a bucket of mine, were beguiled by fallen branches.  Even the hardiest Lady RockHound fell to the magic of the river worn wood. While I do feel a small pang of loss for not being there I am very happy for my Beloveds.

With the change of seasons our thoughts often focus on family and the need for cozy comforts. So in a maudlin frame of mind I am wondering why Love is a most painful beauty we can have in our lives. You love someone and the site of them across a room makes your heart beat faster, being near them is a poultice for sorrow, and hugging them closely is a cure for pain and grief.  And the thought of never having any of their thoughts of you or their energy around you is terrifying, like fearing a surreal rigor mortis of the soul. Why do we even want Love? Why do we care so strongly when it will only bring pain? Love is terribly similar to Hope: We hope for Love and love to Hope, both leading us onward in a nearly blind trust that what we experience or what we have is meant to be. And yet Love is the most precious gift one can give or receive. Even Agape Love will help one along in times of sorrow and crises. I have never been a loner, have always wanted to be loved, and having found passionate Love I heartedly wish it for others. I can only be in awe of those people that are fiercely single, enveloping themselves in friendships and the pursuit of finding Life.

This is the fourth or fifth day of overcast rain. It’s a chill rain that is dropping the Autumn leaves like a carpet of yellow and bright orange. During the Summer the sun came through the windows here like spears of light and now even the noon day sun light is a soft grey. My work room used to be blazingly bright once the sun passed the mid point but now that there is Winter rain even this room needs a light bulb. I am fighting off the maudlin blues (reference the above paragraph) by cabbing and have finished 15 more cabochons. The ones I have recently completed have not had their bottoms smoothed off yet but they will.  With all the work and polishing my dop pot has been kept pretty and clean only because I forgot to turn it off over night:  Why yes, Gentle Readers, dopping wax can burn to the bottom of the melting pot. With my migraine defunct memory, I am lucky that it can be scraped out fairly easily. But the cabochons are very exciting and have turned out to have amazing patterns once more revealed by polishing. I even have druzy vugs/pockets and varied shapes.  I tend to make a high domed cabochon with a thicker girdle/edge. I simply must share some of the more exciting ones with you while I fix and re-polish about 4 because I am picky.

The first picture is of several of the cuties together. The second picture shows those patches of metallic shine I find frequently as only speckles in other cabs. Then are two cabs; one with a more boitroidal vug and a B&W with a wicked pattern. The last picture has an oval cabochon with stormy rings of grey and a great ‘button’ cabochon with iron stains like flames that jut up from the edge.

And I also sew!!  Why, yes, my skills are numerous and astounding! (Some tongue in cheek right there, even if my Darling Husband can only agree.) I make thick and very nice jewelry bags from scrap cloth that I get from Freecycle and upholstery stores.  (This silky red back drop above comes from Darn Good Yarn.) Fabric and upholstery book samples are a crafters sweet dream:  The samples are often sorted by color or hue and the squares are all the same size from each book. It is the finding these sample books and upholstery scraps that are a tooth and nail hunt now a days for times have changed and they are no longer given away to the asker. For rainy moments and waiting lines at the DMV, sewing these squares into pouches is a life saver and keeps me off of the phone and computer, well, mostly off of the phone to be honest. It is rather a crafters’ conundrum, though, that I can sew and macrame but wire wrapping just gets my knickers in a twist. Truthfully, I need to try wire wrapping for my cabochons again but I feel rather strongly that any decent pictures will be a while in coming.

And thus I come to the strangeness of success. I have been blessed to become surrounded by talented and artistic friends of many kinds, and their success is from the striving and efforts of entrepreneurs and small business. They have and are pushing hard to be recognized and respected in their chosen fields, and they are accomplishing said task:  Oh how I admire them and am in awe of their abilities. I am told I am talented, artistic, smart, and that my ideas and success will explode (rather like confetti and rainbows together?) yet I am held in stasis like Super Glue to your finger tips. I am in this weary holding pattern due to fear, or course, and identity:  My self identity has been a negative black hole for so long I have trouble identifying as anything else.  There is a real fear of losing ‘who I am’ even though I would be terribly grateful for my self image to improve.  This is the very personal burden I bear:  To live in the now without fearing the unknown future and to see myself as glowingly as my friends do. I share this in the hope that this ‘telling’ will help hold me on my path toward blossoming and to salut with admiration those who are making success part of their reality, part of their life. (And I thank you, oh My Best Beloved, for seeing so much inside of me and wanting it to be outside.)

Some of our mountains have already seen snow while the beaches are still growing citrus; rockhounds in Michigan and Wisconsin are wearing coats and rubber boots while Florida collectors are still river swimming for fossils and coral; artists and crafters all over are turning on lights and warming up basement studios as the glorious Grey grows stronger than the mellow Sun:  Power on and strive my Dearest Ones.

Be Loved and Be Well

 

 

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Dearest Gentle Readers,

As one can feel on their faces and hands the Seasons are changing and the Winter chill is just starting.  Often there is a night or perhaps two where the air and world is so quiet and still that the Shadows and the Night itself starts to hum in your blood.  This Autumn, for two weeks now, the hum has almost been a faintly hollow song:  No words just the almost sibilant whispers like a lover stroking your back in the dark.  I am hoping that this is being felt by others and not just in my small piece of the world.  This is a blessing and experience we all must remember in order to survive the coming seasonal crush.  And to have this night after night is awesome if nervously anticipatory as well.

As promised I went to the Hamilton Geode Festival near the end of September and it was a riot of a time.  We couldn’t get a hotel any where near Hamilton or Keokuk so we stayed in Ft Madison.  The Knight’s Inn in Ft Madison was absolutely lovely and I recommend them to anyone staying near.  This town has graveyards through out, rather like the scattered bones of a disinterred body, and would be a lovely rural trip for cemetarians. There was a profound sadness throughout Ft Madison as though bits and pieces of all the people were slowly being forgotten and the remainders left behind were just pale imitations of their former selfs.  This pall over the town was slowly encroaching into Keokuk and Hamilton as seen by for sale signs on store fronts and homes: giving a farmer twenty bucks for a bucket of geodes was much easier this time.  We pulled up to the Chaney Creek boat access that Friday morning and were worried because there was a noted lack of people and children and dogs: Apparently all it took was one year for us to forget that Friday morning is always more relaxed and empty. The gem club that has faithfully run the Geode Fest since it’s start finally gave up control and this year the Chamber of Commerce was taking the reigns.  The sign up sheets and announcement signs were greatly improved and the food coach that was rather shady was blessedly absent.  The club was smart to give the reigns over because the second dig for Friday and all that Saturday were a mad house of cars and people blocking other cars:  Congratulations Chamber of Commerce the head ache is now yours, I’ll just stand over here and collect geodes.  Our first run was through Barrows Pit and this year was dramatically different.  Last year was on the right side and this year was on the left and goodness gracious what a difference a side can make.  The left  side had geodes coated in black hematite on the inside this year and the most awesome geologic presence in that a very long time ago that side of the field had been crushed and the crystals on football sized and larger geodes had been pushed in then slowly annealed and grown back together by a very thin bridge of quartz.  These may not be the perfect globes most people want but I snagged several just to admire!  Renards was of course a treasure trove on Friday afternoon and the string of cars driving out was like this little chain of colored automobiles with blinking lights pulling its self along side roads and fields.  Age and a failed alarm clock took us out of Saturday mornings’ digging but we easily snagged a place in the way-back of the boat access to park for the afternoon dig. We tried the Cooper farm for the first time and we had great success once I finally just waded in and got knee deep in the water.  Next year if we spend another half hour there I hope to haul in some more of the agate too. We talked to a fellow from last year who had his Husky again and what a difference!  Last year we were all sweating and chugging gatorade and his Husky never left the river, this year we all had jackets on while clutching coffees and the Husky only went in up to his belly.  Another Lady RockHound went in up to her arm pits and had bowling ball sized geodes out of the river. (Understand, that while I vend and craft some stones, this trip is for fun, personal collecting and we really spent no more than one hour at any of the places.  Our efforts were also leisurely.  So any one that tries and tell you that the Keokuk Geode Fest is “all played out” either has no idea what a geode is or is delusional.). Well done Folks of Keokuk, see you next year.

So many of my friends that I love and admire, as well as myself, are vending at Autumn and Winter Festivals that I send you all sincere prayers and hopes for financial as well as reputation success.  Please, Gentle Readers, buy local and buy small business as best you can for the Holidays:  Your purchase is keeping somebodies lights on and dreams alive. Web site:  http://www.bones-of-the-earth.com and Etsy: https://www.etsy.com/shop/EarthsBones?ref=search_shop_redirect

Today it is half way through October and the weather over all has been gentle and warm for the Mid-west.  My Death Migraine has released enough of it’s hold to allow me to type.  The weather tonight is forecast at 29 degrees and right now the warm sunshine is setting itself into the horizon while a constant bluster of cold wind blows.  We soaked up as much of the late sun as we could today and for this Winter Flower it has been enough. The Orionid meteor shower is at its height tonight and tomorrow and the temperature dip will hopefully keep the night sky clear.  I must say that the moon has been brilliant lately, bringing to life the night shrouded Buckeye trees and yellowing leaves along the darkened sidewalk.

Until the next post may God hold you in his hands and the earth sing in your blood,

Be Well.

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