Saturday, August 27, 2005

Happy Birthday, Heather

For Heather:

This is the part you have waited for.
No mad wild heat
lists to do
children to teach
examples to set.
Just books to read
flowers to grow
friends to welcome
universes to create.
Small moments that previously
escaped your notice
fill you and expand
to create a horizon
that is infinite.
Happy Birthday, Dear Enchantress!
You have made us all dance with joy.

Prayer of the Dead

Listen to the corpses pray:
Bones rattle in supplication
absent lips form phrases
stored deep in the marrow.
Phalanges click like rosary beads
over the mysteries of the twelve ribs,
to the left, sorrow
the right is joy.
This is the body,
now and forever
world without end.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Strange emails

I've been a bit concerned recently, as I have received a strange email. The only thing in it was this photo, which is a picture of a psychiatric hospital I worked at for a has since been demolished, after a series of events which--well, which rocked the community, and are best left unsaid. I fear that one of my former patients is trying to reach me, and it has me looking over my shoulder a bit. Please pray for my safety.

Too much candy!


As legend has it, one of the seven gates of hell

Stull, Kansas
Soon you will hear the facts behind the legend...

Saturday, August 20, 2005

A postcard from the road...

A respite in the bath house

Now that I have come from my disturbing encounter with Baba Yaga, and spent some time pondering milagros, I am ready for respite. I sink into the rosemary scented bath that Madame Eclectica has prepared for me and allow my thoughts to drift.

I recall spending time as a girl making a secret camp in the windbreak behind our farm. My sister and I cleared away the brush, sweeping and raking to form a trail through the fragrant cedar trees. We harvested rocks from a nearby field to make fire rings, and brought out dishes from the house to be filled with greens and berries that we prepared as "salads." We spent quite a lot of time out there. My sister and I didn't often get along, and it was a rare treat to partner with her in any endeavor. It was a secret, shaded world, one that we were sole owners of, until the day we decided that the trail needed an exit, out behind the old pink Chevy that had died and been hauled out to the back acreage. It was now a home to mice, snakes, and wasps,and we gave it a wide berth as we used a handsaw to cut branches from one of the trees. After about an hour or two, we had a large enough opening to ride our bikes through, and could then make a round trip, starting at the driveway, coursing through the paths we had made, out the crude opening, down the lane leading to the tractor shed, and back in. All was right with our world, until Dad came home. He was doing chores when he happened to notice our circuit. He walked back to the treeline and was waiting for us as we made our next pass.
"Pretty neat, huh, Dad?" we said as we rode through the hole in the tree.
Dad looked ready to explode. We hopped off our bikes.
"Why the hell do you think it's called a WINDBREAK?" he yelled.
We looked at the tree, and noticed its distinct lack of windbreaking capacity, thanks to our busy-beaver sawing job. The hole was about six feet by 8 feet, not bad work for a couple of girls under 12. Frankly, a merit badge was in order.

I don't remember if we were punished--though it's likely, but what could he do? The damage was done. It took about ten years for that hole to grow shut, and now the treeline at the north end of my parents' property is as full and fluffy as it ever was. Whenever my sister and I walk back there, we always look at one another and burst out laughing. Dad can finally laugh about it too.

A wedding gift for friends in the gypsy camp

Some words from Rumi...

This is how I would die
into the love
I have for you:
as pieces of cloud
dissolve in sunlight.
Many blessings!

Thursday, August 18, 2005

The Dream

She stood at the edge of the glade, eyes sparkling in the glow of the homefire. All around her, the young ones danced and leapt; their passion and minds were free in the bright burning moment of now. The man stood at her side and gently squeezed her hand. They exchanged a look rich with their own nights by the fire, the wildness loose in their skin. Now they shared the quiet comfort of many nights side by side. She smiled at her daughters dancing under the starwashed sky, and then, unexpectedly, a feeling of sadness filled her.
The dark of the moon reminded her of the dark emptiness she had felt for some time now. Mother Moon had left her behind. Her body no longer kept the rhythm she had known since maidenhood. She was no longer a part of the whole. She noticed a slow deliberation to her thoughts and her movements. Her mothertime was long past, her two daughters grown. They strengthened the community, one a wise teacher, the other a gifted builder. Her gift was given.
The man knew the woman felt a change; felt her turning inward. He searched her face, worried. She no longer felt at home in her skin, under which all the pieces of the universe itched. As the feeling grew, she sifted through her knowledge, seeking a tincture or potion that would heal her. Finally, she knew—she would embrace that most ancient of cures—solitude. She chose for her journey objects that reminded her of life and of home, and wrapping her warm cloak about her body, set off into the woods. The man stood at the gate, the feel of her hand on his cheek fading as she walked away.
She walked for two days and nights, resting in the shelter of a tree or rock that called her name. She drank from quiet pools and lively brooks. She kept company with red foxes, deer, hawks, squirrels, and one wise owl that flew silently above her in the night. She came to an ancient clearing, remembered from girlhood, a place of sacred plants. The enormous oak at the edge of the clearing bent its limbs almost to the ground. The shelter it created kept out the rain, but allowed the breeze and light to flicker in and fall on the mossy carpet below. She placed her cloak in the warm curve at the base of the tree. On a low branch, she found a fallen sparrow’s nest. She placed it gently in the crook of the great tree and within it laid smooth gray river rocks—two, one for each daughter. In a gnarled hole in the trunk, she tucked her book and her comb. She crumbled herbs into her sleeping place, and hung them about the low branches of the tree. Some, like soothing lavender, were for comfort in the present; others were brought to remind her of times past. Passionwood reminded her of nights next to the homefire, wrapped in the arms of another. Motherwort and crampbark, no longer needed, were bundled with velvet ribbon. Rosemary lay by for clarity of remembrance. The fragrant herbs formed the scent of her rich life and she inhaled deeply.
Each day the woman rose and walked the forest, finding simple food to nourish her body and sights to awaken the wonder of her mind. Tender young morels, glittering dew on a crimson flower, stones worn smooth by time’s caress—each delighted her. At night, she spoke softly to the Great Mother before settling into Her sheltering curves. She waited for the dream.
Months passed, and the patience of the woman—a gift of aging—grew. Still she waited. One night, her inner voice bade her prepare. She drank deeply of water from the spring and anointed her skin with lavender oil. Climbing into the arms of the great oak, she stood on a strong branch. Mother Moon was peeking over the horizon, glowing red-gold in the velvet blue night. She once again felt the overwhelming sadness descend. Her sisterhood with the moon was over.
A rush of wind passed over as three powerful black birds descended. She peered into the darkness and saw three large Ravens, feathers shining blue, snapping black eyes gleaming in the night, perched on the branches of the oak.
“Come with us, Sister,” they crowed, in their rusty voices, catching her dress in their powerful beaks. She stretched out her arms, encircling the neck of the largest. They rose and circled the wood, flying higher. “We will show you all there is to see, Sister.” They traveled through the wood and beyond, to her village. She saw the home fires burning; the maidens dancing around the fire. Her heart was torn asunder with all she had lost. Her warm tears fell on the raven.
“Do not cry, Sister. Mother Moon is full and round, as is the wheel of time. You have known the robust passions of youth. You have known the fullness of lifegiving. You will now know the true fullness. No longer will Mother Moon call you to the cycle. Now you become a keeper of wisdom. You will keep all you have known and learned, and your light will grow with each fullness of Mother Moon. In time, you will be so luminous that you will dance up into the night sky. You will become one with those who light us.” The Raven swept a wing toward the stars.
The ravens flew higher and higher, toward the rising moon. The woman reached toward the moon, still longing for it, and dropped her face to the Raven’s feathers in grief. As she moved to wipe her tears, she saw that her hand shimmered with fine moondust. Without thought, she brought her hand to her face and tasted it. Suddenly, she laughed, her joy soaring in the night sky. As the Ravens circled around and around the moon, she scooped handfuls of moondust, eating until she was quite full. She began to feel lighter. She felt a tingling in her heart center. Holding her hands in front of her, she saw moonbeams shooting from each of her fingers. She opened her mouth to speak and moonlight came pouring out in a silken, silvery stream. Her Sisters, the Ravens, cawed and crowed with delight. “You see, Sister, your life is not over. Now Mother Moon lives in you. You will light the way, glowing with the radiance of life and the fullness of time. Be joyful, Sister!”
The ravens circled down, down; into the woods, and dropped her beneath the tree. She fell, solidly, into her body, which now fit her like a glove. Her skin was alive—each cell part of a joyous chorus. She stood up very straight, and walked through the forest to the village, the moonlight caressing her shoulders. She reached the edge of her village in a short time. She passed by the fires, where the maidens were dancing. Some were drawn away from the bright flames to her pale radiance.
“Hello, Mother. Welcome home. We have missed you!” She greeted them, touching each one on the forehead, leaving a faint trace of silver. Dazzled, they smiled and leapt into their dance, rushing back to the fire and the passion of discovery.
She continued on to her own dwelling. Taking off her shoes, she stood in her garden, her feet cool and solid upon the earth. I made this place, she said to herself. I am of it, and it of me. I belong here. My life is full. I am the gift. Her dog came to her and nuzzled her hand. She smiled in the darkness. She heard a noise, and looked up to see the man standing in the doorway.
“I’ve missed you,” he said. “Did the dream come?”
“This is the dream,” she said. She walked to him, the delicate blossoms of the moonflower unfurling in her wake. “I am me again,” she said, “only better.” She stretched out her hands toward him, and the light in her enveloped them both. They began to dance.

Karen Roberts

Milagro means Miracle

Milagros are prayers of a sort, created in Mexico, and, I assume, other Latin American countries that are Catholic. They are often in the shape of the thing prayed for...eyes for good vision, hearts for safe journey through open heart surgery or love, etc...I loved this idea, and this hand is one of my visions of the milagro. Hands can plant all sorts of seeds, some of which I have listed around the border. May our hands be miracles of the everyday.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Young Baba Yaga

I rode my horse through the wood. With me was the magical bag that the Enchantress had given me, all its articles intact, but I wasn’t thinking about that. I was thinking of the doll I had found lying next to the bag. She had no face, no features, was merely a blob of felt and a bit of yarn. Very primitive. I’d stuffed her in the sack along with the other items. Frankly, my energy was low, and I’d begun to tire of the entire journey, life, all of it. These phases hit me once in a while, and unlike my cheerful little Katy who runs beside me and wags her tail, another companion travels with me. This black dog walks silently, menacingly, and lies close to me, almost too close, when I sleep. I feel suffocated by its attentions. Katy had long returned to my home in Kansas, missing her bed and her biscuits, so I travel on with this other dog, also familiar, but not welcome.

As I enter a clearing, I see a woman standing under a tree. She is young, slightly dirty, and has wild hair. She gestures to me, and I slow.

“A ride to the village, Mistress?”

I can smell her unwashed body and I'm sure I look uncertain.

“If you take me, Mistress, I’ll tell you something you want to know. I’ve the gift, y’know.”

Sighing inwardly at what is likely a lie, I nonetheless allow her to climb aboard behind me, noting with distaste the dirt and sores on her hands as she clasps them around my waist. We ride on. I do not speak. My companion tries to draw me out, but my answers—short, terse, unfriendly—silence her. Still we ride, and I glance down to see the large black dog running at my side. I wish for a moment that I could ride off a cliff, fall into nothingness, part ways with the black dog once and for all. I feel an emptiness; a void, deep within my chest. Suddenly, I feel cold steel at my throat.

“I can accommodate you, Mistress,” the girl says, “if that is truly what you wish.”

My astonishment at both turns—her perception of my thoughts and her immediate threat to my life—is great. I feel the blood running through my veins, my pulse throbbing at the base of my neck, just near the edge of the keen blade, which nicks me as my horse jumps over a log. I feel the hot breath of the girl, and expect her hand to reach for my bag, to snatch away all the magical gifts I had been given. I look to the dog. Its teeth are bared, breath ragged. I think of…nothing. I surrender to my fate, leaning back into the girl, allowing my hands to fall free of the reins. Tears course down my cheeks, and I sob, openly.

“It is as I thought, my dear,” the girl said, only now her voice was cracked and rusty, that of a crone. I twisted in my saddle, feeling the blade yet again. “Ye don’t even know who ye’re fighting, do you?” She reaches for the reins, urges my horse to a halt, and slides off. I see that she has changed. Before me stands a crone, all angles and wrinkles, almost toothless. I lie across the horse’s neck, limply watching her for signs of her next move.

“Life is tricksy, my dear. So are ye, and I, and all of Her creation. I thought to bring ye back to the fight, make ye see what ye hold dear, close to the heart. But instead, ye surrendered yourself—an unusual choice, but an honorable one. There is much to learn in surrender, mistress. I shall not take ye this day, it is not your time to go downriver. Instead, I shall leave you with this blade, and this wisdom: It is important to know just who it is you’re fighting. Is it outside ye, or are ye fighting that one that looks out the mirror at ye?” She handed me the blade, turned, and walked into the forest.

I hardly knew what to do. I placed the blade inside my belt, mounted my horse, and rode on. In the distance, I saw the dog, running parallel, but so far from me he was a mere shadow.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Welcome to the Bath House. I am Eclectica, Madame of the Baths. Leave your cares behind as you sink into the steaming depths of The Hall of Waters. Allow the cares of the day to fall away as you return to the environment of the womb. Float freely, and allow your mind to do the same. We are here to serve you, to anoint you, to massage your weary muscles with sacred oils, herbal decoctions, and aromas for every ailment. Enjoy the splendid murals and mosaics that surround you, the echo of your voice against the tile, the rising clouds of steam that carry away your doubts and fears. Here we care for the body, so that the mind may be free. Immerse yourself in the warm embrace of the baths, and be healed.

Neon Dancer


Feast Day of Diana

Remains of Temple of Artemis near Ephesus, Turkey
Straight and true
The arrow of Artemis
pierces the skin
between her world
and ours.
We are blessed.
Today, August 13, is the day the ancient Romans set aside to honor one of their most respected deities— Diana.

Diana was the powerful Moon goddess, protectress of the hunt, women, childbirth, forests, animals, and anyone in need. Her influence was widespread. Near Ephesus in present-day Turkey, her temple was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. Honor Diana by having a picnic in a wooded area. Leave her an offering such as a piece of bread spread with honey. Or, toast her with apple juice, and pour a bit onto the earth near a grove of trees. Speak words of power of your own devising to ask her help in your search for a home, or new career, or even a legal dilemma. Since rural areas are also sacred to Diana, end your day by stopping at a country market or a county fair and partaking in the sights and sounds and eating good country food. Give thanks to the goddess for all of her many blessings.*

*info courtesy of

Spotted in the Garden of Earthly Delights

I chanced upon this little wedding this afternoon as I strolled the Garden. I didn't dare speak, but held my breath and watched from behind a juniper tree while they pledged their (no pun intended) undying love. Finally, proof positive that love transcends space and time. I felt a warm glow in my heart as they spoke their vows. The guests were all of the undead variety, too. I think I may have spied Kaspar at the little soiree.

Lotus in the baths

I float in this pool
heart opening like lotus
accepting what is

The door is ajar
my stories slip through, cautious
I welcome them home

My soul is the sky
reflected in still water
before a stone drops

Into the Gypsy Camp

I clip-clopped across the bridge, feeling like the Billy Goat Gruff, wondering if a troll would pop out, but passed peaceably into the Gypsy Camp to find several travelers seated round a crackling fire enjoying tin mugs of tea. I sat and listened for a bit. Then, restless, I walked about the camp. Near the wood, sat a beautiful Rom woman of indeterminate age, girlhood to crone years flickering across her features as the light hit her face. She beckoned me over.
"You wish to ask a question?" She looked at me, eyes penetrating.
"Yes, I do have a question."

"Do not ask it aloud, my dear, merely pose your question to the universe," she tapped her chest with a finger, "in here." She gestured toward a chair, and as I sat, she unwrapped a brilliant tarot deck from a crismson silk bag and began to shuffle the cards in her hands as she muttered under her breath.
"Focus your intent," she said to me, as she laid the deck on the table, spreading the cards into a fan. "Now choose three cards."
I selected one card, which she laid to my left.
The second, she laid next to it. "Present."
The last, on the right, "Future."

Here is my reading. It is quite extraordinary.

Woodwose - Reversed in the Past position. The Woodwose reversed indicates reckless or impulsive behavior, a waste of energy and the frittering away of talent, an unwillingness to give way or compromise, or wrongly directed anger and rage. The Woodwose reversed indicates reckless or impulsive behavior, a waste of energy and the frittering away of talent, an unwillingness to give way or compromise, or wrongly directed anger and rage.

Boabhan Sithin the Present position. When the Boabhan Sith appears in your cards, she heralds bad health, illness, energy drain, and a sense of oppression.

Unicorn in the Future position. When the Unicorn appears in your cards, it challenges you to follow, wherever it may lead. Though this may sometimes be difficult and unpleasant, it will engender changes that prove beneficial in the end. You will develop and grow immeasurably if you meet the challenge with courage and determination.

This gave me much food for thought as I returned to sit by the fire, lost in my own thoughts. I look forward to my journey, but not without trepidation.

(unicorn painting by Gustave Moreau)

The Bloggy Doggy

Katy Lou
Well, I have been on this journey with my mom for about a week or so, and I am having a great time. Yesterday I found a box of chocolates on the bed so I ate one, and ever since, I have felt compelled to tell you a bit about myself. I’ve been watching my mom do the blogging, so I decided to have a go.
My name, at present, is Katy Lou. I have a dog name, of course, but I can’t tell you that—it’s not allowed. My mother was a lovely but naïve Border Collie, and my father was a traveling brush salesman from Labrador. He left my mother as soon as he found out she was in the family way. She had a hard time of it, weaning and raising us eight children, and some of us, I’m sorry to say, were adopted out when we had barely opened our eyes. I was taken by a family who seemed nice, but they didn’t appreciate my exuberant kissing and leaping at each and every arrival. The man was quite surly and hit me once on the nose with a stick. I still bear the scar. (My therapist thinks it might be more than once. She says I’ve blocked it out. “Think of bacon, think of bacon, think of bacon.”)
At any rate, the family decided they couldn’t keep me, and I landed in prison. Cold wires, cement floors, and the barking….my lord, the barking! One day a lovely couple came to walk through, and I heard them talking. They wanted a smallish dog, an adult, and “a cuddly sort.” So I affected a rather worldly, jaded look, hunched down a bit, and cuddled up with them when they took me to the yard. (I am not such a cuddler, as a rule, but the situation was desperate!) It worked like a charm, and though I was sad to see my compatriots left to rot, I was ready to go. There was a short waiting period, during which some rather unspeakable medical procedures were performed, but I did get a rather hip tattoo on my belly.
When they came to pick me up, I almost put the kibosh on the deal by exhibiting insane barking behaviour, but the good people knew I was under enormous stress and ignored it. I am now at home with them, and what a life it is. I have several cushiony beds, my own feeding area with mood lighting, toys and balls galore, and the run of the place. I sleep on the bed at night, they take me for walks, and sometimes I get some eggs and bacon with my morning coffee.
I used to be somewhat upset with my new mom and dad because they didn’t take me walking enough, but they remedied that by bringing home a pet for me, Woo-Woo. His photo is below.


Woo-Woo is an excellent walking companion and also is quite adept at feeding me, being blessed with opposable thumbs. He generally dresses in overalls and an engineer cap, but occasionally, although I find the affectation dreadful, wears a tiny velvet smoking jacket my mom found at the Goodwill. Everything was perfect until one night when Woo-Woo and I were eating popcorn and watching the Discovery Channel. They had that show on about Koko, the signing gorilla, and that was it. Woo-Woo picked up the sign for kitten that Koko uses, ("all ball") and after that it was “all ball, all ball, all ball,” until we had just about had it. My mom had to get Woo-Woo a kitten to stop the constant mad signing. So we got Tootsie. (See enclosed photo) I didn’t mind, really, as I enjoy cats and cat by-products. Tootsie is great fun and we play chase a lot. She leaves me little snacks in the yard and rides on Woo-Woo’s shoulder. We make quite a picture walking down the street, me with my blue leash, Woo-Woo in his velvet jacket, and Tootsie riding on his shoulder. (yes, I am ashamed to say tbat I wear a leash, but I am impetuous when it comes to rabbits and will leap into traffic to get at one)


Things were going along okay until we went to visit my Grandma on the farm. When we got home, Tootsie had smuggled something along in the trunk. It was Evelyn (see enclosed photo). Evelyn is a lovely chicken and lays delightful little eggs for all of us, and Tootsie likes to play with her feathers. Tootsie became enraged that she hadn’t got a pet, so she took it upon herself to get one. Although my dad remarked that as we appeared to be moving down the food chain and surely snakes had to be next, he let Tootsie keep Evelyn. So, they are all at home right now while I make this journey with my mom and I miss them. So that is what I had to tell you. Now if you will excuse me, I am going to see a fat lady my mom met in the bath. She has a cookie for me.


I enter the great hall, one torch in my right hand, held high,
illuminating my path. I sense that the chamber is round, and proceed
carefully clockwise, touching the wall occasionally with my left
hand for comfort. It seems to breathe into my hand, a sense of
ancientness diffusing across the gradient into my skin, and I feel
myself rooting into the earth, even as I step lightly. I am becoming
part of this chamber, which I dimly recognize, by scent and sound, a
faint pulsing that seems to come from within my own chest. I see a
fire, glowing embers with the remnants of small flames licking the
air. Seated before the fire is a figure, draped in a magnificent
robe of many colors, some snaking through with a metallic gleam,
some dull and homespun. The figure is large and powerful, and I see
that it faces not only the fire, but a crude bench which sits on the
other side of the fire. I cautiously approach, feeling my way around
the cavern, and seat myself on the bench after placing my torch in a
gnarled tree trunk obviously meant for the purpose. I sit quietly,
The figure in the robe stands, towering above the fire.
Suddenly, the hood is thrown back and I behold a large bear, a
female. She stares at me, and I, humbled, bow my head. I recall this
bear from a dream I once had. She had stood beside my bed, through a
long and dark night of fear. Some time passed. Finally, I speak.
"Hello, Mother," I said. "I know you." She smiles,
exposing strong teeth. Her eyes shine. In that instant I feel my
thick pelt against the bench, hear the slight whisper of moth wing
around the torch, smell the ferry woman still at her post on the
island's shore. I feel stirring within me bear essence from time
immemorial,feel my heavy paws running across mountain ridges,
forested hills, and boggy riverbanks. I breathe, my breath harsh,
"Help me, Mother. What is my path?"
She lumbers around the fire, coming quite close to me, and I
feel the immensity of her body. I feel the longing to reunite with
her, to suckle her rich milk, bury myself in her thick fur. I smell
her essence, smell the same essence on my own pelt, my own skin. I
am of her. She places a powerful paw on my head. The weight is
massive, bowing my neck. I feel the subtle prick of her claws on my
tender nape. The feeling is nearly indescribable, a rush of bear
knowledge, bear instinct, bear lineage, all passing through me,
flowing like lifeblood through my veins. I see my fur unravel,
become fiber and cell and DNA and atom and subatomic particle, see
all of my matter swirl into the air and join with the universe,
becoming tree, plant, river, stone, star. All paths are one, all
lead to the self, all are bear. I gasp with recognition, the simple
beauty of it. In a powerful motion, she wrenches one long claw from
her great paw, and hands it to me, still dripping with her warm
blood. I take it and hold it in my hands as though it were a living
creature, tenderly cupping it.
I sense her curiosity, her need. Once again she touches my
head, this time gently laying her bloody paw on my forehead. Bears
fill my vision, all female, all powerful; all dear, known, and
beloved. My sisters. They look to me, eyes searching, questioning.
"I will help them come to you, Mother. I will show them
the path."
I reach into my pocket and pull from it a smooth stone. Jet
black and shiny, it lies in my hand like a glittering eye. It is a
stone from my homeplace, one I held throughout many sleepless
nights, working it over and over until the oils of my skin had
burnished it. It contains all of my hopes, dreams, fears, and
intentions. I hold it out to her, my eyes barely meeting hers, my
other hand clasping her powerful claw. She looks at my hand, and at
my face, with great tenderness, takes the stone, and swallows
She moves back to her seat, wraps herself in the robe, and
appears to sleep. Pulling the lace from my boot, I wrap her claw and
fashion a pendant, tying it round my neck. Anointed with her blood
and protected by her gift, I rise and make my way slowly from the
cavern, walking fearlessly through the darkness to the shore. My
bear senses are keen and I sense millions of tiny presences in the
dark, creatures moving below the earth, fish whispering below the
surface of the lake. The ferry woman appears concerned when she sees
my bloody face, but my calm,confident gaze stills her speech. I step
aboard the ferry and we start for Duwamish as dawn breaks over the
water. The wind is in my face, I smell the earth, the water.

All paths are one. I am Ursa Major.

Darlings: Wish you were here. Having a wonderful time despite the troll infestation problem. Bit of a bad hair day, what with the snakes and all, but the mojitos are divine!
Love and Kisses, Karen

In the Baths...

After a wonderful massage by a large and silent creature of undeterminate gender, who had ten digits on each hand and enormous strength, my muscles were liquid. I walked slowly to the bath house in a cozy robe and slippers, and entered the hall of waters. The smell of lavender and other essential oils hung in the air, mingling with billowy clouds of steam rising from the blue depths of the pools. I saw familiar faces, leaning contentedly against the side of the pools, fellow travelers all. I slipped off the robe and slid quickly into the deep end of the first pool, one surrounded by rocks, plants and flora in a naturalistic setting that brought to mind a waterfall and pool in the rain forest. I sighed with relief and release as the hot water contacted my skin. I felt small creatures flicking around my calves and knees, and looked within the water to find tiny fish, a vivid blue, nipping at my skin. The sensation tickled but was not unpleasant. I leaned my head back and relaxed.

After some time, I felt others slip into the water, and opened my eyes. I felt a bit nervous about being with quasi-strangers, naked. Instinctively, I folded my arms across my chest. Some of the others were a bit inhibited, as well, but a few lay back in the water, arms open to the heat and bliss, uncaring that they were exposed. There was a bit of idle talk, some comments and praise all around regarding the performances the other night, but mostly quiet. The steam mingled with our breath, and rose from the pool like gossamer. I began to feel the need for a breath of fresh air, but felt uncomfortable getting out of the pool. The other travelers would see my body—the scars around my breasts, my slightly sagging belly, the bulges in my thighs. I waited, hoping for courage to descend. Instead, as we were quietly talking, a large woman entered the room, completely naked, no towel or robe or anything. She was at least 375 pounds, massively tall, and glistened with oil. Her great breasts lay atop her generous belly, her thighs rubbed together when she walked, and her buttocks quivered with each step. She had hairy legs, stretch marks, and a slight mustache, if I were to be truthful. She strutted in and announced to the entire room,

“That was the greatest single massage I have ever experienced. I feel as if I may melt.” She walked over to our pool, and actually leapt in, performing sort of a modified cannonball. Waves broke over all of us in the pool, wetting our faces and leaving us gasping and red.She settled herself in the corner of the pool, chuckling.

“Sorry, gals, can’t be helped. The best way to enter any situation is to jump right in, with both feet. She lifted first one giant breast, then the other, allowing the water to wash beneath them as they gently bobbed near the surface. “Ah, the old girls feel good, swimming free,” she said. She raised both her arms and stretched luxuriously. I looked away, politely.

Suddenly, she moved to my side. Her arm slid around my neck. She clasped me to her bosom.

“Sister!” she said, “It is so good to see you.”

I was shocked and somewhat panicky, skin to skin with this expansive woman, this woman I didn’t even know.

“Um, excuse me, but I don’t think we’ve met,” I said, attempting to free myself from her wet oily clutches.

“Oh, I’m sure we have,” she said. “Somewhere.” She loosed me then and went swimming about the pool, as graceful as a dolphin, splashing about and kicking her legs in the air. “La-de-da, la-de-da,” she sang.

“Really, madam,” I said sternly. “You are splashing all of us while we are trying to relax. Control yourself.”

She looked at me, winked, and threw a handful of water in my face. I sputtered and hiccupped. I wrenched myself up onto the edge of the pool, and reached for my robe, preparing to leave. But I was too slow. The impossible fat woman had grabbed it and plunged it into the water. It was soaking wet. I ducked back under the water.

“Oh, tut-tut, darling. You won’t want to get out of the pool now. I mean really, do you want everyone to see that tiny little stomach of yours? Why it’s hardly large enough to give birth to the world. And those thighs, darling…they are more like sticks than sturdy tree trunks. And your breasts don’t flop around at all; they aren’t really very festive, are they, darling?”

I was incredulous. This woman, this enormous creature, felt herself beautiful, gorgeous, voluptuous, and to her, I was nothing but a six foot, two hundred pound....stick woman. I sat hunched in the pool, feeling bitter and embarrassed.

“Oh, now, mustn’t pout, sweetie. We all can’t be…well, spectacular. You are lovely in your own way…”

“And what way is that?” I asked coldly.

“Well, darling, in the way that is somewhat…well, confined, I guess. Correct me if I am wrong, but you have worked very hard to stay as small as you are, and you still feel you are too large. Am I right?” I nodded, slightly. “And I watched you walk in from the massage hut, darling, furtively, as if wolves were after you. Meanwhile, I was doing a dance for all of the massage creatures and other guests. I figure that once I am relaxed and oiled up, everyone should view the magnificence that is me. I can tell you, I got quite a round of applause, and even a few coppers, though I lack a pocket at the present to keep them in.” She lurched onto the side of the pool and stood, water streaming off of her great curves. “This is who I am, darling, and I am luscious. Now, who are you?”

“I am…just…a woman.” I said, rather at a loss.

“Exactly, my dear. A woman. A woman is all lovely curves, generous spaces, hidden clefts, nourishing hills, succulent valleys, hidden meadows, and flowing rivers.” As she recited this litany, she moved. Her hips wound round in circles, her arms moved about in the air, her hands stroked her great curves, her dark hair slapped wetly against her back and breasts. “We must flow, like lava, like water, like air. We cannot be confined. In order to be the real women, the true women, that we are, WE MUST FLOW!” She reached down and took my hands, pulling me out of the pool. I struggled against her, but she brought me onto the surface. “Now, darling, look at me.” I glanced at my fellow travelers, but they were all watching the large woman. I looked at her. “Now, dance.”

She began to move, and holding my hands in her own, I was forced to move as well. I began to sway my hips, move my shoulders, and shuffle my feet. The air cooled my skin.

“Look at me, darling, look at me!” she said.

As I gazed into her eyes, I saw a vision. She was seated on a throne, dressed only in a belt of gold, and adorned with many jewels. Man and women were bowing down to worship her. Her bounteous flesh overflowed her throne, and her subjects reached out to touch it, afterward kissing their own hands and looking at their fingers with rapture.

“Hmmm? What do you say, Darling?” She smiled merrily at me, still dancing round and round.

Suddenly her vision shifted, and I saw myself, naked in a room full of men and women. I was in the corner, and no one noticed me. But soon, I began to change, shifting and growing. My body became rounder, fuller, and more voluptuous. I could feel the sag of my flesh, the drop of my belly, the weight of my breasts lying on my stomach. I became voluminous. Suddenly, all of the people in the room were watching me, and I became aware of a sound. The people were all chanting, in a strange language, but one that I knew somehow. It was my name they were chanting, only they called me Gaia:

Gaia, who created us
Gaia, who comforts us
Gaia, who protects us
Gaia, who contains us
Gaia, who birthed the universe
Gaia, who nourishes the world
Gaia, bless us.

Suddenly I slipped inside my own skin, the skin that I had worn uncomfortably for forty years, and as I did, the woman embraced me, her tears falling on my skin, mingling with my own as they streamed down my face. We stood, flesh to flesh, skin to skin, woman to woman, and felt our strength, the strength of the mother of the world, the strength of the body, the strength of birth, death, and everything between it. A moment later, we stepped apart, and she cupped my chin in her hand for a moment, and said, “Now we both know who you are. Goodbye, darling.”

I looked at all of my travel companions, seated there in the pool, and I raised my arms overhead and began to dance, a wild dance of joy and abandon, followed by a leap into the pool that splashed everyone, even the ones in the next pool over. My fellow travelers just smiled and wiped the water from their eyes. I looked at the ceiling and whispered, “Thanks be to Gaia.”


Night Riding

Chinese Horse by Su Yah Ping (colorized)
When I went to the stables, I found a spirited mare with a certain look in her eye that drew me to her. Her name was Mahdohkt, "Daughter of the Moon." I mounted her and whispered in her ear, "Take me to where the dream begins, Mahdohkt." She started for the wood, and soon we were in a canopy so dark the moon could not penetrate it. But Mahdohkt herself gave off a pale, silvery light, illuminating the path ahead just enough for safe journey. We rode for several hours, my hands twined in her silky mane, listening to the night noises. I felt completely safe with her. Eventually we stopped, and I dismounted. Before me was a cave, and Mahdohkt made it clear I was to enter. I left her at the mouth of the cave, and made my way forward. The cave was dimly lit, from what source I did not know, and I could feel a faint, stale breeze against my skin. I walked on nervously, wishing for the comfort of Mahdohkt and her pale gleam. As I moved deeper into the cavern, I heard singing, faint at first, then stronger. It was ethereal and brought tears to my eyes. I walked more quickly, until I reached a chamber that was lined with gleaming minerals, and in the center was a woman, spinning in circles and singing. As she sang, starlight spun from her lips and swirled about, eventually making its way up and out of the cavern through an opening in the ceiling. I accidentally kicked a rock, and the woman turned and abruptly stopped singing. She had long flowing hair which covered part of her face. She brushed it back and looked me full in the face. I gasped. Except for her hair and flowing gown, I was looking at myself. She smiled, and as she did, starlight spilled from her eyes and blazing light shot from all of her fingertips. As she looked at me, she took my hand and began once again to sing. Immediately, I was filled with such longing that I clutched my chest, throwing my head back in suppplication. All of my hopes, dreams, and hidden yearnings were present, flowing though me. The epiphany struck me like lightning--she was me. I created my own dreams, singing them into life in this beautiful but dark chamber, hidden deep within my soul. The dreams rise as song to penetrate my consciousness, often in subtle and ethereal forms I cannot readily decipher. But despite all of that, she--I mean me--I continue on, dancing and sending messages to myself, waiting for my brain to catch up with my soul, waiting for me to put the words to the music, which I do best when I sit down to write. She--I--am where the dream begins. And ends.

At the Fountain of Forgiveness

After a walk along the dry riverbed, which had its own austere beauty, my two lovely resident serpents whispered to me that the Fountain of Forgiveness was very near. They nudged me in the right direction, and I found a lovely shaded pool with a cacsading fountain of water. I sat by the pool for quite some time with my two companions, who lay on a warm rock that the sun struck as it penetrated the trees. I could not think of the person that most needed my forgiveness, and so was hesitant to drink from the fountain. I ate the delicious lunch that Cook packed for me and drowsed by the fountain. AFter a brief nap, I cupped my hands and drank from the fountain. Immediately I knew who needed my forgiveness and why. I pulled out my notebook and wrote a letter, which I folded into a tiny paper airplane. I stashed it in my bag for a later date, a day when I was near a cliff, so that it could be lifted on a rising thermal column and deliverd to the universe. The snakes formed themselves into a heart shape on the rock, which made me laugh. I walked back to the H of S along the dry riverbed, and caught sight of a serpentine path formed lazily in the air. As I gazed at it, a fish fell from the sky. I caught the poor thing, and took it back to the fountain, placing it gently in the pool. It swam away with a flash of gold.

Raven Courier--River woes

Three separate sightings of a large apparition have been reported in Duwamish in the last 48 hours. The Sheriff's officer reports that one Emily Philpot made the first call. Here is the transcript from Duwamish dispatch:

Dispatch: "Hello, what is your emergency?"

Philpot: "This is Emily Philpot. There's a large silvery thing in the sky just south of our place. It's moving in a strange and serpentine manner. It's a bit...ominous."

Dispatch: "Does it appear to be headed your way?"

Philpot: "No, just slithering about aimlessly. Have you heard of any severe weather in the region?"

Dispatch: "No, ma'am. We advise you to stay in your home with the doors and windows locked until we send a constable out."

Philpot: "All right, then. My stars! I think I see a fish lying on the lawn. Wherever did that come from?"

Dispatch: (Sighs) "Signing off, Madam."

The Sheriff reports that initially, he suspected a prank or hoax, but as two additional individuals of sound character have called, forces are being mobilized to investigate the sighting. The Sheriff is asking anyone with information to call his office.

The Gorgon's Wisdom

Fellow travelers, I was so nervous during my troubadour number that my palms were sweating. As I turned to leave the stage, I saw the Gorgon rise from her throne. She was heavily veiled--a necessity--or we would be but statues before her. She gazed at me steadily, and I began to swoon in fear, but then fascination took over and I resolved to stand with pride before her.
She nodded, once, and lifted the corner of her veil. I gasped and quaked with fear, but could not turn away, waiting for my limbs to turn to stone. Instead, a gift. Beneath her veil, I saw moons, stars, planets; oceans giving birth to islands, volcanic explosions, constellations being formed and dying, an endless expanse of infinite power--the power of creation and destruction. The veil fell, and once again she nodded. Weak and trembling, but thrilling with this vision, I returned to my seat at the banquet table. At my place was a covered dish of fine silver. I lifted the lid and was greeted with this sight:

The brilliant purple serpent slowly slithered toward me, gliding across my chest and neck, twining itself in my hair, along with the jade green snake that was curled there. They moved as one, lowering their tiny heads and glittering eyes, one hovering by each ear, and whispered to me. Their sibilant voices became deep--the voice of the Universe; the voice of the Gorgon:

"The mysteries of the body are as sunlight upon the water.
The mysteries of the mind shine deeply,
a single shaft penetrating the depths.
Dive deep, daughter."

As Ye Reap, So Shall Ye Sow

When I was just a bonny lass
No more than sixteen year
I’d walk the woods for hours alone
I’d not yet learned to fear

One day I chanced to meet a boy
Along the sunny path
He stopped to speak, but on I went
I feared my mother’s wrath

The next day he was there again
And so our love began
He’d follow my steps through the wood
And hold my trembling hand

One day he asked me for a gift
T’was one I would not give
What happened next I’ll not forget
For all the days I live

He pushed me down, he tore my dress
I’m sure you know my fate
The love I thought I held for him
Hardened quick to hate

When nine months passed
The babe was born
But cold and blue and still
I buried him all by myself
Atop a lonely hill

I grieved the child and sorrow was
A stone upon my chest
I’d never feel his rosy lips
Against my swollen breast

The years moved on, I lived alone
A spectre in the wood
I gathered herbs and moss and stones
To make my livelihood

One day I hap’d upon a lass
Who’d lost her lonely way
I brought her home as darkness fell
And bade her, “Mistress, stay.”

Her husband was the same young man
Who’d left me in such need
Her bulging belly told me that he’d
Planted one more seed

I fixed her pennyroyal tea
And waited for the night
I knew the herb would start her pains
Before the morning light

She cried in pain and rent the sheets
And pushed with all her might
A lovely girl came squalling forth
With early morning’s light

I wrapped the babe, ignored the lass
Prepared myself to leave
At the door I paused and said
“It’s now your turn to grieve.”

I took the babe and crossed the sea
And raised her as my kin
My grief is gone, my heart is light
Despite this evil sin

The boy had stolen from me twice
My honor and my son
my double sorrow still outweighs
the theft of just this one

So all you girls
Be careful when you wander in the wood
And all you boys remember
What you give, you’ll get as good.

Maria Tortilla

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Every day like clockwork, Jesus comes by.
Cousins and aunts drop their tortillas. They make the sign of the cross,
rush to her bedside, stir death and flour into the air.
Her son and husband stand nearby clutching prayer cards,
While the women surround the bed, clucking and patting.
She reaches out to her Savior.
“Dios mio! Dos mio!” The rosaries click.
“Go on, take his hand, hermana. It’s all right.”
Jesus walks away empty-handed every day.

The women become disgruntled with Jesus.
There is muttering, dissatisfaction.
He is beloved but he is just a son, like their sons.
It is the Virgin Mother that they trust.
To her they gossip, make their petitions, one mother to another.
But the Virgin cannot persuade her son to take the woman.
And so, like all mothers of obstinate sons, the Holy Mother suffers too.
She joins the aunts and cousins at the counter, elbow to elbow,
patting the tortillas into pleasing pale circles that call to mind
the moon, a pregnant belly. The fullness of life.

The women become bitter.
“Here comes the drive-by Jesus! Oh, there he goes…”
They jostle La Virgen a little more at the counter,
returning to the work of the living,
rolling and folding the tortillas, recipe the same as always
but fortified with prayers, enriched with blessings.
“Take her, Jesus, she has suffered enough. Talk to him, La Virgen!”
The moon fills her cup and drains away two times.
Tortillas fill the house, the freezer, the side tables.

Jesus comes by the next evening.
He is tired of the grumbling, as tired as the woman is of living.
He has had his fill of tortillas.
In the quiet of the empty room, he takes her hand. They walk away.
The table is full: aunts, cousins, son, husband.
The eldest aunt passes a platter of tortillas;
the Virgin nudges her. The tortillas fall to the ground
and the plate shatters.
They run to her room. She is gone.
Her son and husband sob, “Thank you, Jesus, thank you.”
The aunts and cousins make the sign of the cross and murmur, “Maria, Maria.”

by Karen Roberts

Greetings, fellow wanderers! My journey has been a deep
one, full of surprises and delights. I hope that I won't
get lost along the way... Karen
H of S, Finally!

After walking for two hours in the woods, my foot had blistered and swollen to quite an enormous size, so I was in a bit of a temper by the time I drew near. I knew that I was getting close, as tiny green jewel-like snakes kept crossing my path. I was tired, hungry, and thirsty--I hadn't thought to take a drink at Blind Springs, much to my chagrin. I finally reached a structure, covered in shingles that looked like scales, that wound a serpentine path through a clearing. All odd angles and curves, it had an organic feel to it. The arched doorway had a handle that I could swear writhed beneath my hand as I pulled it. I stepped inside and allowed my eyes to adjust to the light, and limped painfully up and down the halls looking for the nurse of the house. I felt a bit feverish, and so wondered if my eyes were deceiving me when I found a large lizard administering some sort of concoction to a very drunken Heather, who was lolling about on the divan in her room. She covered Heather, who was singing a rather rude song about showing one's bloomers to the crowd, with a blanket, patted her head and turned to me.
"She'll have a bit of a headache tomorrow, I'm afraid." Her voice was whispering, with sibilant consonants, very lizard-like, I'm afraid, but she was kind and cleaned and dressed my wounds with some sort of magical unguent. She wrapped my foot in a large portion of spider's web and whispered some incantation over it. I began to feel better directly.
"Where is everyone?" I asked.
"Oh, they are gathered at Deadwood Hall, sharing tales and libations," the nurse lizard said. The Mistress was gone when most of them arrived, but she has just returned."
"I look forward to meeting her," I said.
"Well, let's just hope she's in a good mood," said the nurse. "That's the last person who was looking forward to meeting her, over there." She pointed with her tail, and I looked over at a bundle in the corner, wrapped in a shroud and clearly dead. I swallowed, hard. "There you go, mistress. Now go on over to Deadwood and see the others. Take two of these leaves at supper and call me if your fever rises."
"I thanked her and went on my way.

The Road to the House of Serpents

After what seemed like hours of riding through the woods, my poor donkey, Agnes, complaining bitterly at the pace the entire time, the riders stopped, looked to one another, and then simply vanished, leaving me and Agnes by ourselves in the wood.
“Well, this is a pretty turn of events,” Agnes remarked. “And me with my aching hooves. Those riders were merciless, mistress, merciless!”
“I am sorry about that, Agnes,” I said, patting her neck and trying to soothe her. “You were very fast, though. I had no idea donkeys could run so quickly. You’re a very brave girl.”
She straightened up a bit then, with pride, but immediately sagged at the middle.
“Er, mistress,” she said, “my back is a bit sore-like, from all of that riding. Do you think..”
“Oh, of course!” I slid to the ground, not a far trip as my long legs hung only inches above the forest floor on either side of poor Agnes’s belly.
“Ah!” She sighed. “That’s better. Now, mistress, do you know where we are? Which way shall WE walk next?” She looked at me, rather pointedly.
“Oh, Agnes, you don’t know? I’m not from around here; in fact this is my first time in the whole region. What shall we do?” Agnes began to bray, loudly, in distress, and large tears ran from her big brown eyes. “Here, here,” I said, “please don’t take on so. You’re supposed to be helping me out—silly goose.” I dabbed at her tears with the corner of my shawl, and the braying started to subside. “Just let me think for a moment.” I walked round the clearing and then sorted through my bags. “I remember, yes—there it is—that the Enchantress gave us a bag, filled with things that might be helpful on our journey.” Agnes stuck her nose in the bag.
“Is there any food in there? I’m very hungry.”
“Can’t you just eat grass or something, Agnes? I mean, you are a donkey, after all.”
“Well, I can… but it gives me the wind something awful. But I guess—“
“No, that’s all right,” I said, hastily. “We’ll see if there is food in here.” I shook the bag, and out fell a set of spectacles, a candlestick, a tiny anchor, a medallion with the imprint of the Unicorn and a set of wings. A bag of apples also fell to the ground, and Agnes stuck her nose in it and started munching away. “Agnes! Slow down! We don’t know how long that food might have to last us.” Agnes slowed her pace, finishing the apple in her mouth, her second, rather sheepishly. “Look, here’s a map.” I lit the candlestick, as it was getting rather dark. “Here—Blind Springs, near the House of the Serpent. That’s where we’re headed. But where are we now….” I suddenly noticed Agnes, who had stopped chewing and was visibly trembling. “Agnes? What’s wrong?”
“House of the S-Serpents?” She shook her head wildly. “You can’t make me, mistress, no, I won’t do it! I have whatsit---herpetophobia. Snakes, aaaughhh, noooo!”
“Agnes! I’m sure it’s just a name, you know, like um, Canyon of the Giants.”
“Giants? You didn’t say anything about giants? My mother was eaten by a giant. That’s it. I’m leaving you. I’m sorry mistress, but I simply can’t go on any further.”
“Agnes.” I said, sternly. “We are not going to see any giants. It was merely an example. Honestly, I had no idea that donkeys were such hysterical creatures. I thought your type was rather sensible.”
“That’s horses, mistress. We donkeys are a sensitive lot. So, if I could just have one of your apples, I’ll be on my way.”
“Nonsense, Agnes. Now, sit down with me here and let’s have a think. Here, you may have another apple. I promise I will allow to come to no harm.” My vision was a bit dim, with the fading light, so I thought to put on the spectacles.
“A bit schoolmarmish, if you ask me,” sniffed Agnes. “Rather hoity-toity.”
“Hush.” I picked up the map and suddenly, a large arrow appeared. “YOU ARE HERE.”
It pointed to a small glade, quite a distance from the House of Serpents. The wood adjacent, between us and the H of S, as I had to refer to it now to keep Agnes from blubbering, was also newly marked. “DANGER—SEVERE TROLL IMFESTATION.” Imfestation? Hmmm. Some spellers these cartographers were. I wondered at the accuracy of the map. Suddenly, I had an idea.
“Agnes, what’s the bravest horse-type creature you can think of?”
“Well, let’s see, there was that Shetland pony that rescued the little boy that washed out to sea, and a llama reportedly stood down a lion...but on the whole, I would have to say…(“unicorns” I whispered) oh, yes: unicorns.”
“Well, we are in luck, then, Agnes, because I happen to have with me a Seal of the Order of the Unicorn, which, when bestowed upon a creature, endows said creature with all the powers, privileges, and bravery of the unicorn. Come here.” Agnes turned toward me and I stamped the seal right between her limpid brown eyes. I held it there for a moment, and she visibly brightened.
“I feel it, mistress,” she said, in wonder. “D’you think I’ll grow a horn?”
“I don’t know, Agnes, but let’s get moving while you’re feeling brave.” Tucking the map beneath my arm, carefully hiding the notation about trolls—didn’t know if Agnes could read, you see--we set off. Agnes walked, head held high, munching the remains of her apple. We progressed into a deeper forest, with taller trees, and darker shadows. We hadn’t been there more than a few minutes when we heard a great noise in the brush. I quickly ascertained the situation—a horrible smell was coming our way, along with a clomping noise and some growling type vocalization.

“Quick, Agnes, up here!” I had spied a stairway in the trees and instinctively made for higher ground. We ran up the stairs, Agnes clip-clopping behind, breathing heavily, and reached a sort of stone plateau. It was empty except for a fire ring, over which hung a spit, on which was skewered the remains of a decidedly horse-type creature. I struggled back to block Agnes’s vision, but she had already seen the worst. She began the loud, hysterical braying I had become acquainted with in the glade. “Hush!” I hissed, clamping my hands around her jaws—the troll will hear us!” Too late, I realized my error.
“TROLL?” she shrieked, through clamped jaw. Her eyes rolled, and I feared she would faint.
“Unicorn power, Agnes, Unicorn power!” She braced herself while I dumped the contents of the bag on the stony ground. We heard heavy steps ascending the stairs, gnashing of teeth and loud bursts of breath which increased the foul odor. I grabbed the first thing my hand fell on, a set of wings, and they began to flutter. Thinking fast, I hooked them to Agnes’s bridle and scooped up the rest of the items, tossing them in the bag. I threw myself across Agnes’s back and felt a slight lift. Agnes brayed all the louder, and I bit her ear to quiet her.
“Unicorn power, Agnes! I think I see a slight horn growing from your forehead. Come on, Agnes, think light thoughts—fairy dust, angel food cake, billowy clouds, cotton candy—oops, there we go!” And suddenly we were airborne, but just barely. My feet still brushed the stone plateau, and as I looked down I saw an enormous troll, rushing about the surface. Fortunately, trolls have poor vision, so it didn’t see us immediately. Soon, though, it smelled our fear and raced in our direction. It swung an enormous club over its great shaggy head, and with a vicious growl grabbed my ankle. “Light thoughts, Agnes, light thoughts!” I kicked at it, and managed to free my foot, leaving behind only my shoe, as Agnes screamed “Alfalfa meringue pie!” and we were aloft, flying high above the angry creature. We heard its shouts for many minutes, while I consulted the map and tried to rudder Agnes toward Blind Springs. I felt troll drool dripping off my foot and looked down to see it blistering just a bit. I shivered at our near escape.

I pulled an apple from the bag and fed it to Agnes while we were in the air, stroking her neck and her ego.
“What a brave donkey! If it wasn’t for you, Agnes, our goose would be cooked! I knew you had it in you.”
“Oh, well,” Agnes said, blushing, “it was only ONE troll, after all, I mean, really, hardly a threat, is it?”
“Look, there’s the H of S below. We’re almost there!” Agnes started quaking once again.
I made a quick decision. In honor of her courage and wise use of unicorn power, we would bypass the H of S. “Just go on by, Agnes. We’ll go directly to Blind Springs. I spied it below, a rushing waterfall tumbling toward a pool that bubbled from within, visible one moment, gone the next in a mist. “Hmmm, perhaps that is why it is called Blind Springs,” I said, as I dropped the little anchor. We began to descend slowly, circling round and round until Agnes’s hooves touched down on a grassy knoll above the springs. “We’re here!”
“Glory be,” Agnes shouted, braying a bit with joy. I laughed and slid from her side, and then I noticed something. I looked, looked again, and then took off the magic spectacles. It was still there.
“Why Agnes,” I said, “You really do have a horn growing from your forehead. You will be the world’s first uni-donkey. You were magnificent, really you were.”
“Thank you mistress. Now if you don’t mind, I’ll be off.” And with a dignified nod, she turned to go.
“Agnes, wait!” I took one apple from the bag for myself and tied the rest to her bridle, under her chin so she could reach them. I kissed her on her new horn-bud and patted her neck.
“Good-bye, dear Agnes.” She trotted off. I lay upon the grass for a bit, consulted my map, and then turned to head toward the H of S. I saw a raven overhead, and hoped it would bring word of my pending arrival to the Enchantress. I reckoned another two hours walk should bring me to my destination.
Here is how I am feeling

I am discovering that this journey will be a deeper one than I suspected. I wear Pandora's I open the box of my self, I feel a bit frightened but also curious and exhilarated at what I will release. I feel the universe is waiting for me to let loose my secrets, but I must be courageous enough to take the first step.

Into the Grotto

The First Guide

As I sat idly in my armchair, staring at the dapple of leaves
and sun on the floor below, I heard a knock at the door. I went to
it at once, and opened it to find a woman standing in the dark. She
was quite tall, and quite old, though not a bit bent, and she wore a
gown of vivid crimson. In her hand she carried a staff, a sturdy rod
of dark wood, topped with a cluster of quartz crystals which gave
off a thin silver light.
"Mistress," she said, inclining her head toward me.
I peered past her into the darkness. I could see a faint
sparkling, sense a subtle movement of air.
"Hello, Old Mother," I said. "How kind of you to guide
me tonight."
I picked up my bag and said, briskly, "Shall we go?" I
motioned with my hand to Katy, who sprang to my side, tail wagging,
dog smile shining toward the crone.
"Come, child," she said, and turned to walk away. I took one
last look at my little cottage, the sunlight shimmering through the
windows, throwing prisms on all of my beloved objects. It was the
last I would see of it for three months. I stepped over the
threshold into the darkness.
Immediately I tripped over something. I stooped to feel for
it, and found myself holding a large geode. I tossed it into my bag
for later study.
We wound our way through tunnels, small rooms filled with
stalactites and stalagmites, caverns with the sound of dripping
water, through iron gates and crystal doors, through rooms lit by
phosphorescent lichen, and past a singularly magnificent room,
penetrated by a single shaft of light falling on a small pool ringed
with pink lotus blossoms. After some time, we stopped to rest and
dip water from a shallow depression in the rock to our mouths.
"Not all are called to the Grotto, Mistress," my guide said.
As she faced me I noticed that her skin was firmer, her eyes
brighter, her hair less silvery. She looked familiar. "Those who
are called must make use of the gift, or be lost." She pointed her
staff at me. "You could be lost, Mistress. Take care."
As I pondered her words, we passed through what was to be
the final gate, entering a central atrium of sorts, a cathedral-
shaped cavern with a central pool, a small waterfall, and a statue
of a dark goddess, a goddess I had not seen before. Instinctively, I
knelt before her countenance. The crone laughed with delight, and I
looked up to see her shed her gown and frolic naked around the pool.
She was young as a girl, firm-skinned and silken-haired, and she
danced lightly. I gasped.
"Welcome to the Grotto della Sibilla," she said, and danced
down an adjoining tunnel. Her laughter echoed in the chamber. I
approached the pool, from which Katy was drinking, and looked into
its depths. I saw within it a young girl, the girl I was at age 10
or 11, fearless, creative…wild. I touched my face; it still bore
the wrinkles and roughness of my forty years, but within the heart
of the pool, I was reborn. A lotus blossom unfurled near my
reflection. In its center was a shimmering jade-green snake. It
uncoiled itself in a leisurely manner, glanced at me with a knowing
look, and slid onto the cave floor. It proceeded along a corridor,
and it was clear I was meant to follow. After some length of time,
we reached a bright blue door with a raven painted on it. The snake
slithered up the door and wrapped itself around the knob, waiting.
I opened the door and my guide silently slithered away. I
was in a chamber, comfortable and cozy, hung about with vivid
tapestries and silks. There was a downy bed laid with pillows and a
soft robe, a glowing lantern next to it, and a great expansive
length of table set with a simple plate and cup. Fruit, cheese and
bread waited. A small alcove in the wall was carved with the
words "il desiderio del cuore" (the heart's desire). I
would explore this later. Tired from my journey, I lay on the bed,
and within minutes, my eyes closed. I was at rest.

Tables and Doors

Thru the door

This is the door that belonged not to my mother, not to her
mother, or even to her mother before her. It belonged to a woman
three generations before that, a woman who lived in the deep dark
wood of the Jodlowa forest of Poland, quite near the Lysa Gora,
enchanted home of the witches' Sabbath. In this holy place, she
used only the wood the trees gave freely, building her shelter from
downed branches and logs. The morning after a great storm, (during
which she had spent the night invoking the goddess with all of her
most powerful protective charms) she found that a great tree had
been struck by lightning, and was lying near the river that ran
behind her shelter. She and her neighbors blessed this bounty and
set to cutting it, soothing the tree and thanking it for its
protection, releasing the druid spirit to wander free, preventing it
from taking up residence in the chimney or woodshed and keeping them
awake all through the night. From this gift, she took much wood, but
in particular, a long and wide piece, as thick as her hand that was
marked through with the sign of the lightning, a jagged blackening
that bespoke of nature's power. From this piece she made a great
trestle table. Throughout the remainder of her life, she prepared
her herbs, charms and potions on this surface, carving in symbols of
magic and protection, smoothing the wood with the oils of her hands
and sacred plants.
This table passed, daughter to daughter, crossing the ocean
twice. Each daughter was schooled in the old ways by her mother, and
each added her spells, charms, and magical symbols, until the
surface of the table was covered with beautiful and mysterious
patterns. The wood to this day smells of honey, herbs, stones,
crystals, and berries—all the things ground into in by hands
fashioning a future, a past, a present.
It was my fortune, when I got the table, to have a lovely
cottage of my own, but it was small, too small for such a great
table. I, too, lived in a wood, beside a river, tucked beneath a
mountain. After careful consultation with my mother and my own
oracles, and with the blessings of the goddess, I turned the table
into a door, placing brass hinges and a knob on it, and mounting a
knocker in the shape of a raven clinging to the surface, pecking for
a juicy insect. It is the sentry and portal to my existence, my
This door needs no lock, as it is so heavily enchanted. It
will freely allow all those who love me and mean me no harm to enter
at will, keeping out those of cold heart, limited imagination, and
cruel spirit. It protects against all manner of dark forces, and I
anoint it yearly with protective herbs and oils, taking it from its
hinge to clean and bless it, adding what few small symbols and
spells I can to an undecorated edge, a tiny corner still bare. The
inside of the door, being the underside of the table, is, by and
large, a blank canvas, save for some small childish carvings placed
there by little girls, daughters, as they frolicked beneath the
table while their mothers, powerful sorceresses all, worked atop it.
It is mine to create, mine and my daughters, and their daughters
after them.
It holds magic within my hearth and home, but also leads to
places of enchantment at special times throughout the year. For it
is not always my dear forest I see when I pass through it, nor is it
my own little cottage that some see when they enter. It is the
greatest tool I have received from my foremothers, they who gifted
me with the inner vision I bring to you today.

Packing to Leave

My sturdy "Art Can't Hurt You" totebag is filled with sunlight(and
maybe a few corn shucks from the Farmer's Market!) I embark on this
journey with new eyes and the pilgrim's soul. My familiar, Katy, is
at my side, whispering canine codewords of encouragement. I clear my
mind. The enchantment begins.

Sights along the way

I passed a still body of water...leaves lay dying on the surface. They had fallen there trying to reach the was only reflection...but still they surrendered