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Tuesday in Mooseville – SHEnanigans: Herstorians on Twitter 9/3/19

In what will come as shock to absolutely nobody, I’m a bit of a history buff. I was a history (and German) major in college, and I’ve always interspersed my mystery reading with history and history-related books. What I didn’t do on a regular basis is read history by historians; I would read Walter Isaacson or Ron Chernow, who are wonderful, accessible writers, but not historians. When I started using Twitter, it was a revelation. I somehow stumbled across the #Twitterstorians, and a whole new world of academic historians was opened up to me. It’s been a journey filled with interesting, informative tweets and an ever-expanding reading list. Today I want to feature some of the women historians I follow; some I only follow on Twitter, some have books that are on my TBR list, and some have books that I’ve already read. All are herstorians worth getting to know better.

Tuesday in Mooseville – Six Minutes of History 8/13/19

Flag of the German American Bund (AV), or “German American Federation,” a pre-World War II American Nazi organization active in the United States between 1933-1941

Words are superfluous.

Field of Vision – A Night at the Garden from Field of Vision on Vimeo.

For those wanting more information, an interview with the filmmaker is here: A Night at the Garden.

AIDS Walk Austin is just 6 weeks away

Yikes!

orange version of this goes up at 7am tomorrow

Hi there. I’m not used to panicking about AIDS Walk Austin this time of year, because it’s in October. Last year, it was even in November. This year, it’s September 21. So I have to work harder earlier than usual. My goal is $2,000. More would be better because of course Trump has cut funding. If you want to skip the “what your money does” and music, and go straight to donating, here ya go: https://give.classy.org/helpBeckyraisemoney.

The Ride benefits 9 agencies that help people with HIV & AIDS. As one speaker put it this morning they go from prevention through helping people live with AIDS to people who need hospice care.

Tuesday in Mooseville – Make America Gracious Again 8/6/19

White House kitchen with set table and cupboards, 1904.  I’m drooling over the butler’s pantry.

Over the years, I’ve bought more than a few vintage/antique etiquette and hostess books, most of which have been passed on to my daughter. I purchased them as useful references for theatre productions, but they’re an interesting glimpse into an idealized past. They reflect white, upper middle class values and amenities; not so much the world of Downton Abbey, but definitely the world of Nick and Nora as shown in the Thin Man movies. My family wasn’t upper middle class, but the manners and methods in these books were very much a part of my childhood. There was something aspirational about using the “good” dishes and knowing the “right” fork, knife, or spoon to use. I always had the sense that my mother wasn’t trying to have us live like rich people, but was teaching about living with poise and appreciation expressed through stylized manners. There are some ugly classist assumptions in the books, and there’s no question that there were some ridiculous classist assumptions in abiding by their guidance. But I also think that with a perspective balanced with humor and flexibility, there’s something to be said for occasionally taking the time to indulge in some gracious living. With all of the chaos swirling about us, I thought a few reminders, from the sublime to the ridiculous, might enable a level of poise we can all use.

“Give Thanks for the Blessings”

Happy Lammas!!

Hey, wait just a minute! Those are happy llamas … which is not the same thing at all!

Today is August 1st, the pagan holiday of Lammas or First Harvest. It is the first of three harvest celebrations on the Wheel of the Year. But because this is a pagan holiday that does not have a corresponding non-pagan holiday, it may be one that you have never heard of.  

The Deer at Lammas Tide

 

 

Aylwin thought she had all the answers—until the Goddess showed her otherwise

 

All seemed well in the orchard that morning and in the woods beyond.

Walking from the Big House through the orchard, Aylwin paused on her way to breakfast to drink in the sight of a cluster of rosy-yellow apples against the pale blue sky that showed through the branches of the apple tree. She stood very still and breathed deeply, trying to fix the color and scent of the apples in her mind.

She’d risen at dawn as usual, in company with her colleagues, to gather on the veranda of the Big House that served as their dormitory while the Great Barn’s bedrooms were undergoing repairs. They sat on the wide veranda drinking coffee and talking in low voices while they watched the grey mist rise slowly from the wet lawn to reveal the shadowy deer coming out to nibble around the edges. They were mostly does and fawns, although the occasional buck appeared.

Resuming her walk through the rows of apple trees, Aylwin turned a corner and stopped again. A doe was standing beneath one of the trees, nibbling apples from a low-hanging branch. Two dappled fawns, one on each side, stood close to their mother. Sunlight filtering through the foliage highlighted the spots on the fawns’ backs and the lustrous dark eyes of the doe.

Aylwin did not breathe at all, but sent up a prayer. Thank you, Diana, matron goddess, for giving me this moment of pure beauty and joy. I’ll remember it for the rest of my life.

The wind shifted slightly; the doe became aware of the human. In an instant she and the fawns leaped away through the orchard into the woods.

In a mood compounded of exhilaration and reverence, Aylwin resumed her walk. It was time for breakfast in the Great Barn, where most of the commune’s business was conducted. There was a great deal to do because it was the day before Lammas Eve.

Tomorrow she and several others would spend the day baking the bread loaves for which the sabbat was named: “Lammas” derived from “loaf-mass.” The day after would be market day, which this year would fall on Lammas itself. Half the loaves they made would be sold at market; the other half would be retained to feed the commune. And two loaves would be placed on the altar, of course, in thanksgiving.

I am lucky to be here, Aylwin thought as she savored her breakfast of granola and blueberries. I never thought I’d be doing anything like this—living miles out in the country, doing farm chores.

Indeed, it was an unlikely thought for a city-bred teacher of high school English. But during an Ostara ritual several months ago, in which the leading priestess had invited everyone to aspect a patron god or matron goddess, Aylwin had received the message that was to change her life. Diana had delivered the message in no uncertain terms: “You are too contented with your home and hearth. You need to get out into the woods more. You need to spend a great deal more time looking at the moon than you have been.”

Struck by these words, Aylwin had mused on them for some time afterwards. It was true that she loved her life: loved her little walled city garden with its beds of herbs and flowers, its espaliered peach trees, its pots of strawberries and lavender. She enjoyed making her way around the city by bicycle if the weather were fine, rejoiced in the slow change of the seasons, took great delight in curling up with her books at night in her favorite recliner with a cat or two. Yes, she was far too content.

By sheer chance an opportunity to work on the farming commune had offered itself through a flyer at the local farmers’ market: free room and board for two months in the summer in exchange for eight hours’ work a day, six days a week. Aylwin’s request was accepted immediately, and now here she was—windblown, tanned, and insect-bitten, but happy.

Just as she was lifting the last spoonful of granola to her mouth, the voice of Falcon, one of the commune’s administrators, boomed through the room. “I have a few ANNOUNCEMENTS!”

Across the room Red Hawk, Falcon’s husband, held a finger to his lips. Falcon grinned in acknowledgment and resumed his speech. “Okay, folks, you probably don’t want to hear this but we’ve had a visit from a county board member and a landowner. They’ve declared a deer cull on the land adjoining ours, which means—” Falcon held up a hand to hush the murmur of protest that rose from twenty outraged throats—“that we will not interfere with the hunters in any way. No attempts to engage them in conversation, no attempts to stop them, nothing! You know the trouble we’ve had getting permission to rent this land. The owners think we’re a bunch of hippies that drum all night around the fire circle and go skinny dipping in the lake. We’ll have to just ignore the deer hunters and go on with our work.”

Someone raised a hand. “When does the deer cull begin?”

“Today. And oh, by the way, I checked—it’s bow hunting, not guns. Be careful as you go about your chores and don’t wear anything white.”

Someone else raised a hand. “More important, when does it stop?”

“Saturday will be the last day. Now, with regard to the Lammas ritual, the ritual planning team will meet in the Big House this afternoon and…”

Aylwin, who was not a member of the ritual planning team, returned to her breakfast, seething. A deer cull! Blast the county board, the landowners, and all who would participate in the deer cull! She thought of the entrancing sight she’d been granted just half an hour ago and felt a wrench of the heart at the thought that any of them, doe or fawns, might be killed.

A thought struck her: as soon as she finished this morning’s chores she’d visit the Queen Oak in the woods, where she had put up a little statue of Diana and erected a small altar of fieldstones. She would implore the Goddess to spare the lives of the wild things in the woods—the deer, the rabbits, the squirrels, the birds.

After lunch, hurrying through the woods to the Queen Oak, Aylwin picked as many wildflowers as she could fit into the jar of water she carried with her–white Queen Anne’s lace, black-eyed susans, blue wild chicory, yellow lady’s slipper. After placing the jar on the altar she bowed her head. “Diana, Goddess of the woods and all that is wild, please accept my gift of flowers and protect all your beautiful creatures. Let them come to no harm! So mote it be.”

As she straightened up, still looking at the statue, she felt the hairs rise on the back of her neck. She sensed she was not alone. Someone else was there: someone in the woods, perhaps, watching her. Slowly, she turned around. Out of the corner of her eye she saw a sudden flicker of movement behind the trees but she could not discern whether it was animal or human.

Well, back to work. It was her turn to pick the lettuces for tonight’s dinner. Aylwin made her way quickly back to the Great Barn and the greenhouse. She stopped to laugh at the sight of the white duck chivvying a group of hens away from the barn toward the springhouse. The white duck reminded her of a drill instructor in charge of a gang of raw recruits: the chickens appeared to be in awe of him, scurrying along every time he flapped his wings and quacked.

That evening after Affinity Group Ritual, Aylwin, still deep in thought, found herself walking behind two of the priestesses, White Crane and Silver Oak, back to the dining hall for the usual after-ritual “grounding” meal. This was simply apple cider or herb tea, along with nuts, honey, and slices of fruit bread.

There was a sudden noise ahead, then the two in front stopped dead and exclaimed in surprise and concern. “Great Mother!”

Coming up alongside the priestesses, Aylwin saw that a bird’s nest had fallen from the eaves of the dining hall, along with two sinuous black snakes. The baby birds’ cheeping was quickly stilled as the snakes swallowed them, made short work of the two unhatched eggs, and slithered off.

“Oh, how awful!” Aylwin clutched White Crane’s arm. “Did you see? Oh, those poor babies!”

“Aylwin, dear,” White Crane said, “it is the way of Goddess. There is nothing we could have done and nothing we should have done. It is not for us to interfere.”

Silver Oak patted Aylwin’s arm reassuringly. “We don’t like to look at ‘nature red in tooth and claw,’ my dear. But it’s part of the endless cycle of life. The big fish eats the little fish and we eat the big fish…”

“Not I,” Aylwin said. “I’m vegetarian.”

“But still. You drink milk from cows, you eat eggs from chickens, you consume honey from bees. All part of the cycle, Aylwin, remember that.”

Aylwin bowed her head in assent. The priestesses were right. She was as guilty as anyone of exploiting the animal kingdom. She resolved to become a vegan.

Sick at heart, she could barely force down the tea and bread, and went to bed still in a somber mood.

The next morning found her in better spirits. It was Lammas Eve, after all, and there was nothing like Lammas tide to put a smile on one’s face. How good it was to mix the yeast with the water, to add the flour and lovingly knead the dough, how fine to set the dough to rise in the great ceramic crocks. As the kitchen was cooled only by fans—the Great Barn wasn’t big on modern conveniences like air conditioning—some of the workers stripped to the waist as the day went on and the temperature rose.

The smell of baking bread always soothed Aylwin’s soul. She admired the perfect loaves as they were turned out of their pans and set to cool on wire racks. “Wish we could have some of it now, don’t you?” Lily Waterdaughter whispered to her.

“I do indeed! But at any rate, we’ll have it for dinner tonight.”

The workers finished at mid-afternoon. Leaving the loaves to cool, they wandered off in twos and threes—some back to the Big House for a nap, some to the lake for a swim, some to simply sit somewhere cool and do absolutely nothing.

_________________________

On Lammas Day Aylwin woke just before dawn. There were so many things to think about: the Lammas feast, for example. That night they would enjoy roasted vegetables over pasta, along with the bread they’d baked. Berries were traditional food at Lammas, so she and Lily would make strawberry tarts, blueberry cake, and blackberry rolypoly for dessert. After dinner there would be an outdoor ritual with a huge balefire shooting sparks toward the heavens. As they danced around it they would symbolically cast the qualities they wished to discard from their characters into the leaping flames.

Time to be up and doing. Quickly Aylwin washed and dressed, leaving the Big House just as day was breaking. Before she began the day’s work she would gather flowers again to place on Diana’s altar at the Queen Oak. Today was to be the last day of the deer cull. To be sure, she’d already asked the Goddess to keep the wild ones safe, but the wildflowers would have withered by now. It couldn’t hurt to make a fresh offering.

She enjoyed what she always thought of as “the summer smell” of dew-heavy grass and moist earth. The grass was so thick that although it left a sheen of moisture on her boots her passage through the woods made no sound. Aylwin picked an armload of flowers and made her way to the Queen Oak.

A shaft of sunlight struck the glade just as she reached it, lighting the scene that met her horrified eyes. With a gasp she let the flowers fall to the ground and ran to the altar. “Great Mother!”

There were fresh wildflowers in the vase, although the flowers she’d offered the other day should have died by now. But it was the dead deer lying at the foot of the stone altar that shocked Aylwin.

It was a doe. Oh, please, Diana, let it not be the doe, the mother! But no: this doe appeared to be young and slender, not a female in the full flush of maturity.

At a sound behind her Aylwin whirled around. She saw the man in hunting clothes, bow and arrow in hand, his face a study in bemusement.

“You,” she said, and the single word shot like an arrow through the stillness. “You did this!”

“I didn’t kill her.”

“You must have!”

“I didn’t, I swear! Look, do you see any arrow marks? Not one, not one. No wounds of any kind.”

Aylwin looked. It was true, as far as she could see. No punctures or bullet wounds were visible.

“I watched you the other day. I saw you put the flowers there. Yesterday evening I picked flowers too and put them on the altar. I prayed to Her.”

He turned to look at the statue of Diana and said in a tone of wonderment, “She heard my prayer and accepted the flowers. When I came here this morning I found this, Her gift to me.”

He picked up the deer, slinging it across his shoulders. “This will feed us for a couple of months, along with what we grow.”

“Why don’t you eat just what you grow?” Aylwin said angrily. “Why do you have to kill?”

He met her gaze. “I have growing children. They need protein. I can’t afford to buy food, and the food banks are empty, the demand is so great. I was an engineer before I was laid off. I’ve sent out resumes, I’ve interviewed, I’ve called, I’ve walked the streets trying to find work. It’s been a year now and I still don’t have a job.”

Aylwin continued to look at him, not speaking.

“Do you have a job?” the man asked.

She nodded.

“Can you afford to buy anything you want to eat?”

Tears sprang to her eyes. She nodded again.

“You’re lucky. I hope nothing happens to your job. Good day.”

Turning once more toward Diana’s statue, the hunter bowed his head. “Thank you, Goddess.” He shifted his burden more comfortably across his shoulders and turned to go.

Aylwin heard the voice of White Crane echoing in her mind. It is the way of Goddess.

She looked at the hunter and lifted her hand in farewell. “Warm hearth and sweet medicine.”

“The same to you,” he said, and walked away.

Going back through the woods to the orchard, Aylwin realized what she had to discard: her arrogance toward those who didn’t believe what she herself believed, who didn’t follow her religion or her way of life. And there was something else she had to acknowledge—that there were events in which she could not, should not interfere. She thought of what Silver Oak had said. “It’s part of the endless cycle of life, Aylwin.”

Reaching the orchard, she turned for one last look in the direction of the Queen Oak. “Thank you for giving me the gift of acceptance, Goddess. So mote it be.”

The End

AIDS Walk Austin is early this year

AIDS Walk postcard

Hi — so, I’ve been thinking I’d have a normal, relaxing summer (well “normal & relaxing” by Trump era standards) and not be too concerned about the AIDS Walk, since it’s not till fall. Then I got this postcard. Yikes! September 21! And my goal is $2,000. Double yikes. So, can we get my fundraising for the Walk started?

Tuesday in Mooseville – How Does Your Garden Grow? 7/9/19

Hemerocallis fulva. Or as most folks around here call it, the ditch lily. It’s so commonplace alongside the drainage ditches along dirt roads, it’s hard to believe it’s not a native.

Every time RonK posts something that includes PNW plant life, I find myself scouring the photos, because 9 times out of 10, I’m seeing plants I’ve never seen before. Or I’m learning something about a known plant that is surprising to me. (Lamiastrum is considered invasive? How can that be?!) I very much have a midwesterner’s sensibility in the garden, so I thought I’d do a simple post with plants that define that sensibility for me. In other words, while opinions may vary about specific cultivars, the genus x species I’m listing are practically universal to the midwestern garden. I’d love to hear more about the plants that are practically universal in the gardens in your neck of the woods! (Note: These are not photos from my own gardens, which are still so overwhelmed with weeds that I’d be embarrassed to share photos at the moment. Maybe someday…)!–more–>

SPEAKING OF WEEDS…
It makes me ill when I think of all of the plantains I’ve weeded and pitched. It has a fibrous root system, which makes it so much easier to pull out than a dandelion (which is taprooted), but like the dandelion, it’s only a weed if you’re seeking the Scotts-approved “perfect” lawn. I spent years not knowing a thing about this lovely beneficial herb; now when I stumble across it, I leave it be or dig it up and move it to a place where it won’t be unwelcome or mowed. I don’t cook it or eat it, but I have been known to make a poultice from plantain leaves for spider bites.

GARDENING BLUES
I have a thing about blues in the garden; I can’t get enough. From a garden design standpoint, that would be a very, very limiting choice. Blue is a receding color, which is great if you are wanting to create depth or make a garden look larger. But it also makes the individual flowers difficult to discern and as a cool color, there’s very little pop. As a result, most designers use blue as a foil to help emphasize other colors or to cool down an overly-warm palette. Me? I just want blue, blue and more blue. My favorite spring blues:
Geranium pretense ‘Mrs. Kendall Clark’: She’s prolific; she’s a reseeder (which I view as a plus); and she’s beloved by the bees. What more could I ask for?


Brunnera macrophylla: Big, coarse leaves and tiny forget-me-not flowers; when the hosta are just starting to unfurl; this guy is doing his thing.


Mertensia virginica: Easy enough to find in cultivated gardens, but considered endangered as a wildflower in Michigan. It disappears altogether by late May, which is fine with me, because the foliage is scraggly and unrefined. But, oh, those flowers!

[S]HE LOVES ME, [S]HE LOVES ME NOT I was never one to pluck the petals off daisies; I’m pretty sure if I had tried that with flowers from my mother’s or grandmothers’ gardens, I would have been buying trouble for myself. But the opportunity was always there, because their gardens all included daisies. I have continued the practice, and my personal favorite for the past 15-20 years has been Leucanthemum x superbum ‘Becky’.

THIS IS THE ONE AND ONLY RED WINE I LIKE First introduced in 1992 by White Flower Farms; when I ordered my plants from them, I was told I was one of the first 10 to order the variety. The color just took my breath away (and still does). Monarda are not “neat” plants, but since I am not a “neat” gardener (no formal gardens for me…the more natural, the better), its loose habit works just fine. And did I mention the color?
Monarda ‘Raspberry Wine’:

MY ABSOLUTE FAVORITE RUDBECKIA (AND NO, IT’S NOT ‘GOLDSTURM’) Don’t get me wrong…I love ‘Goldsturm’ and have it several of my gardens. But the black-eyed Susan that I look up to (literally!) is ‘Herbstsonne’ (Autumn Sun). She’s a stately 6′ tall in my gardens, and she flowers from late July/early August well into September. The bees and the butterflies adore her almost as much as I do.
Rudbeckia ‘Herbstsonne’:

IF I WERE QUEEN OF THE MIDWEST, I WOULD DECREE THAT MORE GARDEN CENTERS FEATURED THESE PLANTS, BECAUSE I CAN’T POSSIBLY BE THE ONLY ONE WHO COVETS THEM I have no idea why these plants aren’t more widely used. They’re late(r) season plants, so they add color to the garden when the mid-summer, prolific bloomers are a mere memory. They’re both natives, which is an important consideration for biodiversity and as the climate crisis deepens. And they are stunning in the gardens and a perfect complement to the fall leaves as they are starting to change. Yet they’re still harder to find in the local garden centers than a Hibiscus untouched by Japanese beetles…
Helenium autumnale:

Vernonia novaborecensis:

What plants do you think of as quintessentially “your region” of the country?