Wednesday, August 31, 2005

I Am Not Alone

The Chilean poet, Pablo Neruda once said, "And we must pass through solitude and difficulty, isolation and silence, in order to reach forth to the enchanted place where we can dance our clumsy dance and sing our sorrowful song--but in this dance or in this song there are fulfilled the most ancient rites of our conscience in the awareness of being human and of believing in a common destiny."

What a profound quote, and seemingly apt for this journey I've embarked on, but...I can't help but be disagreeing in part with what he said. I mean, *stops to think in order to try and put the words in the way they'll make the most sense and convey what I mean in a clear, concise manner* figuratively and sometimes literally, life, if you like to think of it this way, is a tapestry of journeys. A journey of the mind or imagination. A journey of the soul, or self-discovery and awareness. A journey of choices with consequences of either rewards or mistakes. A warm, nostalgic journey of memories and "Remember Whens..." And a rocky, bleak journey of regrets and "What ifs..."

Each thread is a different journey; each one having a beginning and an end. Each one intercepting or connecting to others to form a larger, more complete and intricate picture, a whole that becomes a person's life. No tapestry is the exact same, for each life is different, unique. Though some are similar in size, texture and scene and some aren't, and some are more vibrant and rich in color and some are duller and more sedate, Neruda was correct in saying "we must pass through solitude and difficulty, isolation and silence" to reach our journey's end or destiny. No one can live our lives for us but ourselves. No one can sit before our looms and weave our tapestries for us.

Our choices are our own and they affect our destiny, what colors, size, threads and design our individual tapestries will have at our lives' end. In this, we are alone on our journeys. And in order to grow and progress along any of them, we must needs have adversity. As my grandma was fond of saying, "Fire is the test of gold; adversity, the test of men."

But here it is where I disagree with the esteemed Señor Neruda. People cannot live my life for me, but they can touch it, for good or ill, sometimes leaving a lasting impression. And with an omnipotent God watching out for me, and with people coming and going along the way, I am never truly alone. And never will I be.

Take this journey I impetuously started, for instance. This morning I awoke to rain tap-tapping on my windows and thatched roof and was seized with the impossible and highly whimsical desire to see just what lay at the end of a double rainbow. It was so compelling I couldn't ignore it. Perhaps I am touched in the head a wee bit, or the luck of the Irish is with me, or I have a bit of the blarney about me, or just simply the magic found me and was kind...but however it came to pass this afternoon, I discovered my humble self to be standing before my whimsical idea. I had chased and found me a rainbow. Not just any rainbow, but a double rainbow!

It smelled fresh and clean as it only could, like rain. *laughs* But, of course! And when I finally regained presence of mind and gathered my courage to satisfy a child's and old woman's curiosity from so many years ago, I closed my eyes and reached out, holding my breath and stepping through the many hued magic gate.

It's a curious sensation, walking through a rainbow. Just like being enveloped in the lightest of gossamers, a gossamer so thin it seems to seep into the pores to flow through your veins somehow, filling you with its many colors and a sense of rejuvenation and well-being. And the sparkles one feels in the charged air standing before the rainbow continue to travel along the nerve endings, causing a pleasant energized, yet tingly feeling.

In fact, even now, several hours later in my new room in the Cave of the Enchantress, I still feel energized and tingly from head-to-toe because of them. I can't see them--unless I close my eyes, then they are winking in and out of existence in all their rainbow glory--but I sense them under my skin and all around me, like an aura.

Getting back to my journey and not being alone... From the start of it, I may have looked to be alone to anyone daft enough besides me to be out of doors in the dwindling rain, but I wasn't. I had my grandma's spirit to keep me company. It was she who instilled the magic of and love for rainbows in my young heart those many years ago. She's with me even now--I can feel her--as I lie on this comfortable bed on my stomach, writing this in one of the journals I brought with me on impulse. (There's no phone jack here in the Enchantress' cave. Any and all travelers who manage to find the secret gate to her grotto are simply told such modern conveniences, such as the phone and tv that link us to the outside world, aren't necessary here. "The travelers who come here are here for one purpose and one purpose only," she said. "Whether or not they know or understand it yet, they, like you, are here to start a magnificent journey that'll be a feast for the imagination and soul. It'll be a journey you'll never forget. Of that I'm confident enough to assure you.")

A feast for the imagination and soul. I knew this afternoon after stepping through the magic gate and seeing my surroundings and the cave 20 feet before me my day, my life, had taken an unexpected and magical turn.

"We're not in Ireland anymore, Grandma," I said to her.

The whole landscape had changed. The terrain was now mountainous and rocky in places, especially before me leading to the cave. The cave with an arched stout wooden door with iron hinges and handle.

How curious, I thought. I wonder who lives there?

Bemused and awed, I stood in a small clearing with trees to my back and a small stream to the northeast of the cave some yards away. It rippled and gurgled softly along its course to some unknown destination. Jammed into a small pile of good-sized rocks near its grassy bank was a wooden sign painted a pristine white. Neatly printed letters in turquoise pronounced this "Mnemosyne's Stream." I would have to check it out later, I determined.

Turning around, still wide-eyed and probably a wee bit slack-jawed, I noticed and was somewhat disappointed to see my rainbow was no more. It was like a friend had dropped me off at an unknown place and disappeared without so much as a fare-thee-well.

Ha! That's exactly what happened! I thought with some amusement and trepidation, which settled in the pit of my stomach.

I looked up and shaded my eyes with a hand. The sky was cloudless and an intense baby blue. If I hadn't known better I would have believed there hadn't been a storm today. The sun had traveled to the west aways and burned brightly, a yellow-white orb hanging low in the sky. Its rays were warm upon me as they fell to the Earth.

I lowered my hand and gaze to look about me more closely. Directly ahead of me, mixed with the deciduous trees I recognized but could not name at the moment, I noticed some trees I'd never seen before, and...what were those things on the branches? I squinted and took a few steps closer. "Olives? Where, by all that's holy in Ireland, are we Grandma?"

"Umbria, Italy. The Cave of the Enchantress."

I started and felt a hot blush creep up my neck and face, settling into my cheeks. I'm sure I jumped a foot before tightening my grip and readjusting my bag on my shoulder, spinning around again.

"Er...hi!" I said, striding forward to the now open cave's entrance and the woman standing there. My brow furrowed in consternation as what she'd said sunk in. "Umbria? Italy? But that's not possible!" I blinked at her. "I was in Ireland not more than...than 15 minutes ago!"

She looked back at me calmly, then quirked a brow. "As impossible as chasing a rainbow and passing through its gate?"

My blush burned fiercer and, chagrined, I realized she was right. My mouth opened and closed a few times without any words coming out and in the end I just swallowed. Stepping back inside the cave she waved for me to come in. "Come along and I'll show you to your room." she said, going deeper into the cavern. "I am Sybil, the Enchantress of this cave. And you, my dear Treasa, have a long and glorious trip ahead of you tomorrow. You'll need to get a good night's rest."

Curious, stunned and bewildered, I meekly followed her from the main cavern. She raised a long-fingered, graceful hand and the door swung shut with a soft click all on its own. Turning left we entered a long corridor. Here, elegant gold wall lanterns with spiraled bases hooked into the stone walls at intervals on either side. As we passed they lit up on their own as well, illuminating our way, then winked out once we'd moved on. The hem of the enchantress' peacock blue robe swished softly as it moved around her trim ankles, and her matching slippers made no sound on the stone ground. Her white hair, worn in a bun at the crown of her head with loose ringlets on either side of her cheeks, was lightly gilded in the lanternlight.

If you've ever been in a cave before then you know how dim, musty-smelling, dank and chilly they are. But this cave isn't like that. There're no stalactites or stalagmites barring the way. It's dry and warm and has a cozy feeling. And the air is fresh with an enigmatic scent I can't quite identify...roses, a hint of sandalwood and something...mysterious. Perhaps it's simply the magic of this place; perhaps that's the scent I detect. I dunno.

It was then that her words registered with my bemused brain and I stopped in my tracks. "Wait!" I called, hurrying to catch up with her as she rounded a right corner. "How did you know my name? And what d'you mean, I'm going on a trip tomorrow? What trip?"

Three people, a man and two women, were coming from the opposite direction. Each smiled and nodded in a friendly manner as they passed by. "Oh, how lovely!" one of the women declared, twisting aroud to wave at me. "Another fellow traveler! You'll love the Soulfood Silk Road, honey."

"The Soulfood Silk Road?" I echoed.

"Yes. The road you'll be traveling on for the next little while." The enchantress turned left again and walked several more paces down the newest corridor before stopping in front of a door similar to the one at the cave's entrance.

She waved her hand again and the door opened inwardly on well-oiled hinges. She looked at me briefly with a slightly amused smile on her youthful face, her emerald green eyes sparkling with a secret knowledge.

"I am an enchantress, remember?" she answered, then entering the room she spun around to face me as I followed her in. "I know most anything: past, present and the near future. I knew you were coming as of yesterday, before you even thought of chasing that rainbow.

"As for the journey, you've earned it. You are here because you're not afraid to attempt the impossible, you're not afraid to reach out and chase your dreams. There are very few like you left in this world, my dear, which is a pity. You are the ones, with the open minds and imaginations, that are needed to keep hopes and dreams alive, for without them the world would die. You and your grandmother have wanted to know what lies at the end of a double rainbow. Now is your chance, Treasa O'Leary, to find your answers."

I looked at her solemnly, overwhelmed with emotion. "This is all so...surreal!" My brow furrowed. "I honestly get to find out?" I was hesitant as I slid my overnighter to the bed.

"Yes."

And so here I am--well, we are, Grandma and I--in a room in the cave of an enchantress. Already, because of two women, my grandma and now the enchantress, my life has forever changed. I am, or rather my grandma's spirit and I, are embarking on a journey of a lifetime to follow a lil girl's and old woman's dream. So please, don't tell me, Señor Neruda, that I am traveling alone in isolation, solitude or silence, for I am not. I will reach that enchanted place with the help and company of others. I will dance or sing my song with the support and encouragement of others. I will recognize my humanity and reach for my destiny with others as they recognize their own and reach for the common end we all share. In the end, when my life is over, my tapestry will be richer for this experience.

I am not alone. I rather like knowing that.

Monday, August 29, 2005

The Gypsies have spoken...

And the word is, more parties, hooleys, and barn door dances!
The Gypsy Chief wishes it to be known that Baba Griga is a great dancer and welcome at his camp fire anytime.
He also wishes to inform all travellers that any birthdays, anniversaries, weddings, engagements, whatever, will be celebrated at the Gypsy camp with much enthusiasm. So if you'd like to be the guest of honour at a hooley at the tober (translation: a big party at thecampsite) you are to send your birthdays and/or other important dates to gailkav@yahoo.com
Talk about a slave driver, he's as bad as Baba Yaga.

Breaking News - Map found in Antique Map Store

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Karen Roberts has found this and other, detailed maps, of the Soul Food Silk Way in an Antique Store. What a find! Instructions so far have been scanty but no-one will get lost now. Just hang on to the map and you will get where you need to be.
Sibyl

The Magician's Great Grandchild



I wrote a little story over at the Chambers Of Horrors and a few people inquired about the central character who was based on my Great Grandfather.

How much of the Character of Stuart was Real was one question...

Well, I won't tell you too much because a Magician NEVER gives up their secrets but I will say that Magic is in my blood!

I've pulled this from the Memory Blog and brought it over, just to share and show you that a lot of my inspiration for my stories comes directly from my own life.

Enjoy!
Anita Marie

This memory of mine is no longer kept in a trunk, but that's where it started out.

My Great Grandfather was a Magician and in my Grandmother's basement in a closet was his prop trunk.

When my brother and I busted into it we found some of the props were falling apart with age and other things, like the rings, boxes you could use to make things like birds or what have you disappear and then reappear where in there too and they were still in good shape.

The props were very basic, but complicated and my little brother and I at the ages of nine and eight worked and worked until we managed to make some of them work. We did this on our own and by watching magicians on TV and at local fairs.

I'd like to say our Parents supported us and ran out and bought us our props but they didn't.

They gave us each Magic Show Kits and left us to it.

My brother and I went from performing in front of an audience of two ( our baby sister who was about 5 at the time and her stuffed pink cat, which she named Hamburger Helper...her favorite boxed dinner at the time ) too our friends and then at times to their parents as well.

I was the "Amazing Anita" and my brother called himself, " Daring Douglas "

I don't know why we stopped our magic shows, but after about 4 years we did. By then I was learning the guitar and wanted to be a musician and my brother went on to discover girls.

In my twenties though I ended up managing a gift and novelty shop...and part of our business listed under category nine on the cash registers was...Magic Props. Most stores could sell about 60.00 dollars worth of magic props a week. This wasn't stage quality stuff. It's the stuff you buy for your kids or for the curious.

There were Rings, card trick kits ( by that I mean shaved and marked decks ) those little plastic egg cups where you make the plastic egg disappear and reappear. Scarf tricks, rope tricks, magic kits.

Things like that.

I sold, on my own easily a couple hundred dollars a week worth of this stuff. These weren't high end items, so I had to sell a lot of it.

It's funny though, I never felt like I was selling anything. I felt like I was doing a public service.

Learning to do those little tricks and having fun...I was of the mind everyone should experience that 'magic' . It was just too great, in my opinion, for only a few people to have that feeling to themselves.

Learn one trick, learn a dozen, amaze your friends...amaze yourself. That was my philosophy, that's what I found in the Memory Trunk. Amaze yourself with life every darn chance you get. I believed it then, I live it now.

I'm a Magician of sorts again, I can make Monsters appear out of thin air, with a snap of my fingers across my keyboard I can conjure up mummies, werewolves, vampires, abandoned mines, devils, graveyards and catacombs.

I perform magic everyday now.

SO..........

Step right on up and let the Amazing Anita puzzle and dazzle you...now performing LIVE at the Soul Food Cafe...

Before the Journey

RELEASE

The waves lapped blackly
on the granite and agate pebbles.
The rhythm matched fluttering chest
more than any distantly remembered tune or dirge.
"Gone at last, you miserable bastard,"

A slight drizzle splashed
like meager tears on the crumbling pier.
Rare sunbeams winked through gasps
in the roiling clouds to flash
fairy dances on the lazy surf.
The reflected glow lit alike the grooves
in the arching cliffs and canyons
in her face -- both bleak in despair.
The distant lake shore was shrouded
in mist, and like her life, only
faint images were revealed.

A fish leapt unexspectantly to cause
ripples to swell toward her.
A sign? A gift?
The shadow of anger passed
into the pines and a smile
responded to their gentle waving fronds.


"Perhaps there is still some joy,"
she chuckled., though squirrels near
by heard only a dry cackle.

With a sigh, shoes were discarded to the drift
wood and frayed shawl to thicket bush.
Whether she leapt in or was drawn in
is hard to say -- the chilling water did not care.
All memories of his evil were washed away.
Down or up -- which way to go?

Youth was born again.

Lounging Traveller's Unhappy Fate

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The traveller on the right, in the digital image I took only yesterday, having such a nice time in the sun at Baba Yaga's, is far more use now. A charming vase don't you think? With poppies of remembrance to remind everyone else that this is not Camp Lucky Dog. Well! The dogs that cleaned the bones were lucky I guess!

Diving In

I am not sure what the 'theme' is here,
but perhaps this will entice ...

faucon
........................................................................

RIPPLE

Cory dropped her toe tentatively toward the rippling surface below. Concentration blocked out the shrill scolding of the Jays and echoing roar of the tiny rapids upstream, as memory returned of a childhood game long forgotten. Anticipation caused a shudder to raise a patch of goose bumps along her arching thigh; her slender foot straining for the instant of contact with the chill. The play of light dancing from the surface mingled deceptively with the shifting reflections from the granite boulders beneath the rushing stream. Quaking aspen whispered a warning of a ‘giant trout lurking below, intent on nibbling toes.’ She laughed aloud at this teasing jibe of her brother Paul – “Oh Paul, where are you now?”


A gray ghost of squirrel fled chatteringly through the brush at the sudden sound. With a flash of sadness, Cory plunged her foot and ankle through the surface, destroying her reverie and releasing a cry of shock and pleasure. The numbing cold did little to kill the disappointment over loss of control and judgment.

“It’s just like getting close to people,” she thought, “So close, so beautiful, so urgent; - - such yearning for close sharing. Then a careless response or a thoughtless remark mirrored as vulnerable surprise in expectant eyes -- all gone!"

An observer in the hidden glade might have guessed at tears but Cory laughingly brushed droplets of golden mist from her lashes and the tips of her long golden hair. Her lithe, tanned body rejoiced in the flickering sunlight; the tops of majestic pines swinging to the tune of an unsung melody. The figure Cory saw when sighting down her leg for another bout with will and water was just past ripened womanhood. Innocent curves added promise to a proud carriage. Life held suspended in the deep mountain canyon that few had ever troubled to explore. No moment in Cory’s quest for fulfillment combined such splendor, promise, and expectation as during this youthful game. She had returned to this spot more and more frequently in recent years.

The placid forest sounds gradually became more discordant. Twinkling lights from remembered waters became, as in a dream, flashing neon signs winking through holes in a threadbare curtain. Stringy, sandy hair framed a lined face staring vacantly at peeling paint on the ceiling. Pale moonlight seemed absorbed by the sickly pallor of flesh slowly turning to flab.

“Why can’t people see the girl inside?” thought Cory.

The tears were real!

Caught on digital

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Don't let anyone spin you any sorry tales about how hard they have to work at Baba Yaga's. I was out with my digital today and spied some of them sitting in the sun relaxing. No wonder Baba is in a rage about stolen eggs and people resting on their laurels. She is muttering about how she isn't running a health farm out by the Lake and wants something done about it.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

tis too dark to see

I love to travel; I loathe to leave home. I am the bewildered one. I would embrace the world if I could find the key of willingness to open my arms. The size of the roof over my head belies the reality of the mansion that is my heart. It is a mansion with a hundred doors I cannot open, behind which is all the wisdom to be had if I would brave all the fear that is before. Even when I would leave forever, never to return, I stand tiptoe on the threshold anxiously seeking my way back. How is this so? Why is it so? It is as though I am two completely different women, but it is more likely I am one complete woman torn asunder.

Stepping away from the threshold of indecision, I nip and swat and swipe tensely at the fears blocking the many ways to wisdom. With that I fill my days as a store clerk tending the illusion of importance, of authority, of busyness by diligently wiping the fingerprints off the glass cases and straightening the displays. Yes, the work needs to be done, but the greater purpose lies in the doorways beyond, not beyond the doors.

Yes, I mean "in the doorways". In the absence of willingess no doors are needed to block my way to these dark places, and the transformation I undergo simply by walking through them with nothing to comfort me but the vague promise of wonder is often part of - if not wholly - the reason such ways are so dark: to impress upon me that with every act of faith I become the light by which I travel, and by which others may follow my path.

I cannot draw this dark passageway any more than the most talented artist in the world could draw the face of God: blind in my personal night, attempting to define the shape of the way by feel, I reach out and touch neither wood nor stone, but

words

in the form of a question:

"What will I become?"

steph

Chasing Rainbows

For you Winnie, who has been wanting to know what's at the end of a double rainbow.


What's at the end of the rainbow?
  • It isn't a pot of gold. Nay, no wee spry leprechaun lies in wait for a bumbling human to come along for a bit of sport in the game of "Catch the Leprechaun...If Ye Can."

  • It isn't a pool of rainbow water, where the fairies in charge of Nature come to replenish their store of dyes.

  • It isn't a gateway back to Kansas from Oz. Nay, only the Ruby Slippers and a powerful wish can send someone back home.

  • It isn't a fountain of rainbow colored Skittles, where one is told to "taste the rainbow."

  • And, sorry it is I am to say, it isn't a roadway to Rainbowland or Rainbow Brite.

    Ooooook, then what have you found at the end of the rainbow?

  • The joy of dreams.
  • Renewal...fresh hope.
  • Magic...beauty.
  • A place which only innocent eyes and those with open minds can view. It's here, in the few precious moments when the rainbow touches earth, the gate to this unseen world is opened to mortals.

    It's here, if such a one is lucky enough to pass through the bands of color into this new, unknown world, they will see and experience things beyond their wildest imagination.

    It's here, where time has no meaning or seems to stand still, one can remain ageless.

    It's here that dreams come true.

    It's here that one is granted a boon, but only one, by the great Queen Mab.

    It's here that one can dance with the Fae folk in one of their enchanted circles while Queen Mab presides over her court in a secret glade.

    It's here that one's innocence is sustained and renewed.

    Aaahhh, so what happens when there is a double rainbow? Are there two gates?

    *smiles* I think ye are just the explorer needed for that answer, my child. Next time ye see a double rainbow, ye can tell me your answer.

    Aye, Grandma.

    *Inspired by a P-O-Y archived post.

    *******
    Lil did I know it at the time, that entry in my journal was to be the beginning of my journey along the Soulfood Silk Road. The child in it, now grown up and having seen a double rainbow just now on one of her many excursions just outside her village, is off to find the answers to her questions of what lies at the end of this twin beauty.

    Last night the wind blew hard enough outside my windows to be heard, and I knew the heavens would soon be opening up to release the cleansing tears we mortals call rain. For when the wind comes, moisture is sure to follow. It was a playful wind I heard, scuttling the first of the fallen leaves of the changing season along the path following the west wall of my cottage. It swirled through the village square, and sometimes, lying abed, if the wind brought it near I'd hear the slow wooden cccrrreeeakk of a business sign hung outside Paddy's Pub and a few other shops down the road aways. It rustled and pushed through the leaves of the trees, and in my mind's eye, snug warmly under my covers, I could see their limbs dancing and swaying to the wind's whistling tune.

    If there's rain on the morrow, I thought before drifting off to sleep, as sure as Ireland is green, a rainbow is sure to grace our sky. And I determined then to watch for it.

    Ever since I was a wee one, I've loved the tales told me by my grandma. Tales of Old Ireland, tales of the Fae Folk and Queen Mab, tales of the heroes of yore. They fed my fertile, young imagination and oft times I would go exploring, to see if I could stumble upon Queen Mab's court and espy what it was the Fae Folk were up to. Or perhaps to try and catch myself a leprechaun and have three wishes granted.

    One day when I was seven, and it was nearing the end of the summer vacation my family and I had taken to visit her here in Ireland, it had rained most of the day. I was quite put out because I couldn't leave the cottage. I wanted to explore! I wanted to see if I could find and capture a wee man or woman and have them grant me my wishes. I knew exactly what I'd wish for too. I wanted to stay in Ireland with Grandma, not having to go back to the States come next week. I wanted to meet Queen Mab and dance with her people. I wanted to be great, like the hero Cuchulainn.

    "Now child, don't mope so," Grandma told me as she sat knitting in her rocking chair. "Ye can go explorin' tomorrow. 'Tis sure to be a better day."

    The rain had stopped by then, but twilight would soon be falling upon the tiny village and my parents and sister and brother would soon be returning from the next town over. The adults didn't like it if it was nearing dark and I wasn't within calling distance.

    I was at the window, despondently watching the leftover raindrops slide in slow, meandering rivelets down the pane of glass. I was about to turn and answer her when an arc of color caught my eye. A rainbow! A beautiful, brilliant rainbow perfectly arching across the gray sky!

    "Grandma! Look, a rainbow!" I said excitedly and launched toward the door, throwing it open and hastening out into the front yard. I pointed to Earth's natural prism hanging above the trees and drank in the deep red that lightened by degrees then bled into what soon became orange and all the other colors. I had never seen a rainbow this vibrant before and I wanted to take in every last detail so I could tell Da and the others about it later. Da loved rainbows.

    Grandma was slower in coming, but come she did and placed her thin arm around my shoulders, a smile wreathing her beloved wrinkled face. I noticed then one end of the rainbow seemed to touch the hills in the distance, and I remembered the tales of a leprechaun's pot of gold being at the end. Having a child's curiosity I asked her. It was that day she shared the true magic of what lies at the end of a rainbow if one is lucky enough to get there before it fades. It was that day my world changed just a lil, my imagination expanded to include new possibilities and my own love for rainbows was born.

    I never forgot that day or her words to me when I asked about double rainbows. "I think ye are just the explorer needed for that answer, my child. Next time ye see a double rainbow, ye can tell me your answer."

    Now I'm grown and have come back to Ireland, having inherited Grandma's cottage.

    Sure enough, the rain came. I awoke early this morning to the tap-tap-tapping of its drops on the windows and thatched roof. I smiled into my pillow and curled my toes into the mattress, my heart dancing at the prospect of seeing a rainbow. Grandma's words filtered up through the lingering mists of sleep and I was suddenly gripped with the whimsical thought of chasing a rainbow to see what was at the end of it. Maybe this time I would be quick enough to slip through the gate into the invisible world of the Fae and finally meet the queen I had so longed to know.

    What if there's a double rainbow? You could finally have your answers and no more wondering... This thought followed closely on the heels of the first and my eyes opened. Sleep was firmly banished in the new compelling whimsy of the idea.

    Why not? I thought as I stretched, pushed back the covers and rolled from bed. It's crazy, but then Grandma would say, 'It's magic. It does'na haveta make sense.'

    True, and it would give me another excuse to take my camera, journals and things and go exploring. And maybe, if today's is a double rainbow I'll be able to find the answers to my long-ago questions for both Grandma and myself.

    The chilled wooden floor instantly cooled the soles of my bare feet, sending lil shivers up through my legs, causing me to yelp in surprise. Hastily I reached for my Irish green zip up slippers and put them on. Hugging myself and chafing my arms a bit to ward off the chill that invaded my room early this morning, I walked down the short narrow hallway to the common room where the fireplace and kitchen are. I knelt and started a small fire to warm the place up then moved to the kitchen area to start a pot of tea.

    "If the rain lets up later, Grandma, I'll go exploring," I told her. "Perhaps then I'll be able to answer those questions we both wanted to know about and find out what's at the end of a double rainbow."

    It may seem crazy, I know, talking to a dead loved one, but it's comforting to me. Since she died four months ago I've been missing her something terrible; talking to her fills the void and brings her spirit close.

    *******
    The rain let up just after one this afternoon. I spent my morning in restless anticipation, cleaning my cottage and then packing any and all things I thought I would need for this exploration in my oversized Texas Flag overnighter. When I noticed the rain was letting up outside my bedroom window I slung the bag over my shoulder and started down the short hall toward the door. My image in the hall mirror caught my eye and I stopped briefly for a quick once over. My reflection grinned wryly back at me. Dark brown hair was pulled into a bun, but flyaway wisps were falling around an oval face on the rounding side with sea green eyes evenly spaced apart. Thin-rimmed tortoise shell glasses were sliding down a short wedge of a nose. I pushed them up then looked down at myself. A red sweatshirt with the old-fashioned Mickey Mouse sewn on the front and on the right shoulder, paired with black floral-printed stretch pants and Ugg hiking shoes. I had to laugh. Eccentric Colleen O'Leary's granddaughter was sure to be thought of as eccentric as she if people ever caught wind she was chasing after a rainbow.

    Stepping outside the rain was falling intermittently now, and I knew I had to hurry. Not caring that the occasional drop splattered on me or my glasses, I followed the muddy path in front of my cottage until it forked left or continued straight on into the village. Turning left I walked at an increasing pace until I left the path altogether and began climbing a knoll. The heavens soon dried up and cleared, and though I crested the small hill and kept going and climbing others, I remained alert, searching the lightening sky for the rainbow.

    Stopping to catch my breath for a moment, having climbed over a low stone wall and hoisted my bag over it, I twisted to my left to scan the horizon. And there it was! A double rainbow! The inner arc of banded colors was more vibrant and prominent than its outer sister, but I thought the first just as lovely as the second. I knew I was grinning foolishly and my heart jumped into joyous overdrive. A double rainbow!

    "What a magnificent sight, Grandma!" I cried as I shouldered my bag hastily again and took off in that direction as fast as my bag, the terrain and stone walls allowed. "Here we go!"


    Always keeping the curved bands of color in sight, I prayed they wouldn't fade before I could get there.

    Funny how magic works, especially on Time and distance and other things. The rainbows always seemed to hang in the distance, no matter how far I traveled. Then all of the sudden they were before me! Shimmering arcs of brilliant color, one about 25 feet from the other and duller, but no less beautiful. Their ends barely brushed the tips of the grass blades, and they sssooaarred into the sky. I felt insignificant standing there in front of them and shivered.

    It's difficult to describe what it's like standing in front of a rainbow, but I shall try. Words, speech failed me as I stood there looking up with my mouth hanging open. The air seemed thin, charged with some invisible force and my nerve endings tingled as if sparkles, all the colors of the rainbow, traveled along them.

    I don't how long I stood there in silent awe. A hundred years, or mere seconds, I couldn't tell you. Belatedly, and excitedly, I remembered my digital camera and began recording pictures. Talking to Grandma, I put the camera away back in my bag and, looking at the wonder of colored light and mist I stood up, taking my bag with me.

    "Ready Grandma, to find out what's on the opposite side?" Taking a deep breath and closing my eyes, I stretched forth my right hand and walked through the rainbow's curtain...

  • Some Advice From The Muses



    "Please help me get out of the way so I can write what wants to be written."
    -Anne Lamott-

    Saturday, August 27, 2005

    The Fool begins Her Journey



    "The greatest of journeys begins with a single step." Would this quote be the root of my undoing, or would it be the beginning of another glorious adventure for me to learn from? No sense in dithering about that now. I am standing before the door I must pass through to truly begin.
    It is a door, like any door; except that it is sturdy and old-fashioned. It reminds me of the doors in the house I lived in back in Oregon, solid hardwood with gracefully arched trim on the thin part of the panels. It isn't painted, it is gleaming with varnish, the brass handle shiny from use. I know this door, and don't fear what lies beyond. It was through this door I fled when a life gone painfully awry became completely unbearable.
    There is a difference now. I am not thoughtlessy, heedlessly trying to escape, now I am conciously choosing to walk through the door and see what lies beyond calmly and in depth.
    I know that beyond lies the ocean of dreams, where I have floated serenely. I have eaten from the tree af fantasies, the times life felt loveless and unbearable. My path was guided by constellations of ideas on a sky of shifting colours, like those of the Aurora Borealis and Aurora Australis.
    What will I see now, when I am expected to look deeply, and report on what I see here? Will I have the words to say what lies across this threshold?
    Pye and Skye snuffle impatiently at the crack at the bottom. I reach my hand out to the handle, there is the tiniest arc as skin contacts brass. The cat's tails fluff and their eyes widen.
    The door opens smoothly on gleaming, well-oiled brass hinges, the hinge-pins looking like the towers of minarets or Greek Orthodox Churches. As it swings open Pye and Skye stare at the vista for a breath, whiskers trembling as they sniff excitedly.
    The air wafting towards us is rich with the perfume of the earth, dew on new-mown grass, the beach slumbering beneath a midsummer sun, the scent of growing things and the Circle of Life.
    Through the door we three go, stepping in unison to soft grass and just the right amount of sunshine. The cats look up at me, their gazes saying, "I KNEW this was within you, you are too catlike for it not to be!"
    I laugh and scritch one pair of shoulderblades, then the other. "I know kitties I know. Where do you think I learned to look at the world with 'new' eyes? Now, we are to seek the Cave of the Enchanteur? Our spirits shall lead us there? Non?"
    Pye takes our lead, the crook in his tail pointing the way.

    Stringing Black Beads

    Lying here in blackness, in an unknown place, deprived of sensory perception, I pinch the skin on my forearm and welcome the pain that proves I'm alive. To hold onto my sanity--if it still exists--I will chronicle the events in my mind and if--when--I get home I will tell others. Or perhaps not. I can think of no one who would want to hear what I have to say about my meeting with Koshchey the Deathless.

    Could it be that I am to blame for my current situation?

    Was it a gap in my knowledge, a lack of information, or do I just have slow switches, as my mother used to say? I had just finished reading a warning from the Enchantress about Koshchey but instead of heeding it immediately, I began a letter to the Abbey to ask about Oreo and Tookey. Has the letter been found? Will someone look for me, or will I remain lost in limbo?

    How afraid I was to meet Baba Yaga, how repulsed by her death fence and haunted by images of her in childish nightmares. Now I count the meeting an adventure; such is the comparison between Baba and Koshchey. The bones and skulls on Baba's fence brought me face to face with my mortality, Koshchey's whirlwind and icy grip made me long for death.

    The remembrance of that fearful embrace sends a shiver down my spine as I hear again the shrieking wind that blew through the open window and spirited me away to this un-place. I remember a prolonged scream when Koshchey's bony fingers clutched me to his withered frame. The scream was mine.

    How many fears make a up lifetime? I tally them in my mind and string them, black beads on black thread: fear of loving, fear of not being loved, fear of failure and fear of success, fear of dying, fear of life. All faced and conquered, but this time, here, where nothing exists but a void, I have met my match.

    It's getting harder and I struggle to remember but--remember what? One thing. Trying to hold on as he steals my words and thoughts. Losing. Nothing left but Koshchey. A word, please.

    Faith.

    "Believer, can you hear me?" Sound. Words. My name. "Drink a few drops of this, careful, take it slow." Taste of water and tears. "Put your arms around my neck, I'm getting you out of here." Touch, compassion. "Rest here in the shade of the sycamore you're safe now." The scent of someone I know and the sweet smell of new mown grass. "Come on Love, open your eyes."

    "No hood?" I murmur, staring in bewilderment at a man I know well but have never seen.

    "Not important under the circumstances. Are you all right? Can I get you something?"

    "Where are we?"

    "About a mile from the Abbey. You'll be home soon, don't worry."

    "Koshchey's here? Near the Abbey?" I start to tremble and my breath feels like it's being siphoned out of me.

    "No, and he can't hurt you or anyone else. That was a mistake, it never should have happened. Somehow things got out of control and Koshchey had you too long. Baba Yaga's Knight's rescued all the others, but they couldn't find you. If it wasn't for your pets. . . . . "

    Before he finishes I hear a squawk from high in the tree and a bundle of green feathers plummets into my lap. Quickly recovering from her typical clumsy landing, Tookey sidles up my arm and begins to nuzzle my neck. A moment later, a white nose and whiskers peep out from under a bush and Oreo pads over to greet me.

    "Lemurian brandy," my rescuer says, offering me a silver flask with strange symbols etched around the base. He stands and gives a whistle to the horse I know as Firestarter. "I'll answer your questions tonight in the Common Room at the Abbey. Your friends are eager for your return. You don't want to keep them waiting."

    He gives me his hand and helps me to my feet.

    Gypsy Camp

    Dear Heather,
    Wishing you good fellowship and laughter around the campfire under a starry sky.
    We are all together and free to express ourselves to one another. What a great
    gift!

    Friday, August 26, 2005

    Moon Dream: overheard in the bath house




    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.

    Thursday, August 25, 2005

    tricks and treats

    I have yet to meet a challenge I do not despise. Thankfully, travelling alone is a pleasure, not a dare; anonymity is the ultimate freedom. In keeping with the avoidance of challenge, I travel very light. I plan to test the endurance of my curiosity and awareness, not my body. I will head off wearing my canoe gear: sturdy Garamont hiking boots, breathable waterproof rainpaints (great for keeping off the muck)over pale blue silk longjohns, and a comfortable t-shirt covered with a long-sleeve button shirt.

    In my light and sturdy backpack I will pack:
    extra pair fluffy socks
    hiking pants
    extra t-shirt
    down vest
    rain jacket
    rain hat
    sketch pad and Staedtler pens
    writing pad and Cristal Bic pen, black ink
    very little gold (too heavy)
    many small jewels of wide-ranging value
    down sleeping bag (soft, light, and very warm)
    bivvy sac (rainproof cover for sleeping outdoors)

    The paper I call money may be valueless elsewhere, and so I bring goods to trade: gold, jewels, and the means to draw pictures and write stories. The rest tells simply this: Like a watch, I lose the ability to function when I get cold, tired, or worn out.

    By and large, I will trust the people I meet along the way to help me, either with information or donations, to meet what needs I have not anticipated. But there are many, too, who would harm me, I know, and so I will trade for this one tremendous journey all the luck I have ever known, or would ever have, for a slick magic that will make all hands who try to restrain me simply slide off, no matter how hard they try. The only drama on this journey will be the drama of discovery. The fear I will know, is the fear of myself...of my own blindness, unwillingness, and judgmentalness. Not one step forward will be a treacherous one. The only horror I will encounter will be that of standing at the foot of something beautiful, unseeing, and therein pass by without having loved it.
    My only intent is to see and embrace as much as I can bring myself to accept and appreciate, thereby sparing myself the shame of returning a fool.

    And now...a good night's rest before I begin.

    Stephanie

    Wednesday, August 24, 2005

    Packing for the journey




    What to pack?? My minds whirls briefly and then begins (from force of habit) the mental countdown of 'necessities', mercifully small after living on the back of a motorcycle for a month.
    Clothes, comfortable, versatile, stain resistant; I'll wear my beloved first 'Hippy' skirt in such vital shades and a plain, short sleeved cotton shirt in faded black. I toss in a fuzzily warm sweater, closed shoes for rough terrain, and socks to go under them. There is a pair of comfy and sturdy jeans in a lovely barely worn prussian blue.
    I hang my medicine bag around my neck as I am a-swirl in the scent of smudging sage. I tuck my favourite crystal, and my antique French Tarot deck, and my runes in a little gold figured velvet bag as I ask the support and protection of the Creator of Man and the Mother of Man.
    There is a new journal/notebook, a sketch pad, basic pencils and charcoals with a kneaded rubber eraser. My camera, and extra photo cards wrapped securely in the jeans and sweater for protection.
    Should I bring gifts? I already bring them, all I really have to give is myself. If that isn't enough, no material thing will do either.
    Stop, take a cleansing breath, redolent with sage and the small bottles of herbal oils I take for small injuries, and relaxation if needed. Check the weight and balance of my pack. Although the pack itself is light, it is also heavy with anicipation and expectation. Last, but most certainly not last is my staff of seven-barks wood, engraved with the face of the Father of Man, a green suede handle and my secret Wiccan name engraved on it. across from the thong that goes around my wrist is the summoning rattle that found me.
    The summoning rattle is seven times seven, seven strands of tiny wooden beads, with seven slivers of mother-of-pearl equally spaced around each strand. Thrice magical in form, and powerful in function conjoined with my staff.
    Last but not least my books on herbalism, and wildfare, for foraging along the way, and adding to my stock of herbals. Who knows what magic lies in a tiny white flower? Or what may be needed along the way. Slip on my comfy, secure sandals, looking so Greco-Roman in style, settle my feather hat on my head and take another deep breath.
    As I turn off the lights in my room and head out the door I 'chirtle' to Pye and Skye to join me on this adventure, my familiar and her brother fall in on either side, light blue eyes burning with excitement and curiosity.
    And thus begins the jourmey...
    Let the God and Goddess be with us on our way!!

    Tuesday, August 23, 2005

    The Merlin Tarot

    I come face to face with a gypsy as I approach the camp. She is small and has a pair of deep green eyes which seems to pierce into my soul. Her hair was silver, streaked between strands of black. Finger nails too long for her little hands.

    I got carried away examining her and jumped when she broke the silence with an offer to do a tarot reading for me. That was what I have always wanted! A tarot reading by a gypsy! My nervous jump immediately becomes one of joy.

    Her lips curl into a smile and I followed her into a brownish tent. The inside smells of freshly cut grass mixed with dried mud. I would expect her to smell exactly like that too. In the center was a redwood table. There were no chairs and I found myself standing opposite her.

    "I see that you have a question." the gypsy stated as a matter of fact.

    "Yes!" I replied with glee, "How did you know?"

    "It's pretty obvious actually... " she responded with a cheeky glance over her glasses as she handed me her deck, which I immediately recognised as the Merlin Tarot.

    I shuffled the deck a couple of times. I loved the feeling of the deck. They fit my hands perfectly... which also means that they are much too big for those little hands of the gypsy.

    I handed back the deck reluctantly and watched with complete attention as she lays the cards on the table in an elaborate pattern.


    She contemplated on the arrangement for what seems like eternnity...

    Finally, she begin to speak.

    "Very good. Your readings shows a very positive and gentle energy surrounding your life in the immediate future. You are in the mist of transformation. It is uncomfortable but you must experience breakdown before you can achieve breakthrough. You will shed your masks and ressurect as a pure child, much like a caterpilliar becomes a butterfly. You will soon discover your purpose in life. You are on the right path. This journey will be a pilgrimage"

    The old gypsy paused to catch her breath before proceeding.

    "Do not be afraid. The Enchantress and your fellow travellers will be a source of support and inspiration. You are not too far away from your dreams. Just walk the path with faith and as you reach the end of one road, more roads with appear."

    I was filled with excitment and my mind was running wild with ideas and anticipation for the future! I could not sleep that night... just laid on the hard ground all night... until the air became cold and moist... and the birds are singing to the dawn.

    Monday, August 22, 2005

    Performing at the Hermitage

    I read in awe "The Wild Ride" by Simone. I found this piece as I make my way out of the labyrinth. I read the words, drawn into the Nightmare with each breath... I could see my own shinning black stallion manifest before my eyes.

    I was off, hanging on for dear life...

    The feeling of flight was great. I felt like a star...

    "Just be who you are
    You are born a star"
    My stallion screamed.

    As I arrived at the Hermitage, I was told by a Hermit that I have 5 minutes to present a performance for the Amazon Queen... what should I do with such little time?

    Ah I remember... I can be who I am...
    I always thought I could paint... but I never really tried.
    I was told I couldn't... so I never dare tried...
    I thought about it sometime... but mosting I just cried...
    at how I fear even to try...

    So I asked for some brushes and I started to paint...
    I ended with a quote... & the canvas was no longer plain...


    I painted a flower from the labyrinth...
    I stared at it with pride.
    Now that I have tried,
    I was shinning in the night!

    Sunday, August 21, 2005

    Blogger and Image Shack Instructions

    Image Hosted by ImageShack.us

    To become really familiar with Blogger you need to open it and have a good look around. There are a number of tricks that can make life so much simpler for you.

    This screen shows all the posts. If you have administration powers this is what your screen will look like. See the edit boxes. If you click this box the original post will come up in a Create box. Administrators can scroll over this and copy - html code and all - and then copy into the blog you are responsible for. I always sign in twice, have two sets of screens showing and use the minimize button to move between screens.

    So long as you do not hit Publish nothing will change during this edit process. I always just go back out once I have copied and paste into the other blog and only publish there.

    Image Hosted by ImageShack.us

    This screen will pop up if you click Settings. There are a series of options - most of which you never need to worry about. The members one at the end of the right hand side is the one where you can invite members to join the team. Otherwise I wouldn't worry about settings.

    Template requires knowledge of html so it is best to leave that alone.

    Image Shack

    Image Shack is a very user friendly program for uploading images that can be inserted into blogger.
    Save an image on your computer but make sure it is only small. I use photoshop to change size but there are other programs

    Go to http://imageshack.de

    This screen will appear

    Image Hosted by ImageShack.us

    Click browse and select your image.

    Click host it

    This screen will now appear

    Image Hosted by ImageShack.us

    Highlight the link I have highlighted in this image - the web link and copy and paste it straight into the blogger compose box.

    Publish and your image will be there.

    Good luck
    Sibyl Enchanteur

    Where Did That Come From?


    ( Fear by Goya )



    People read the stuff I write and will beat around the bush for a few seconds ( the polite ones anyway ) before they ask...where do you get these ideas from? What scares a person like YOU?

    Well, I made a list ( which is a actually from a writing excercise ) and here it is:

    Anita's List of Fears



    Having my Mummified remains turn up in a thousand years in a musuem where a bunch of people will stand around it and say things like, " If that's preservation I hope to God I never see decay "



    Full Moons Creep Me Out...it's like having a dead Sun up there



    Head Hunters: I'm terrified of them...no kidding. My number ONE fear of all times is to end up like this



    One of my favorite Sideshow Attractions of all times: To bad I'm afraid of it... The Fiji Mermaid. Go ahead and just try to prove it wasn't true.



    Having my Family do this to my Grave...they would too!
    ************************************************************************************

    So there it is, the things I'm afraid of.
    I'll bet Satan rides a snow plow to work before a lot of people ask me a silly question like that again!

    Anita Marie

    The Fountain of Forgiveness Part 2


    As I drifted off into sleep, I could feel the slip of water I drank from the Fountain of Forgiveness flowing through my body. My consciousness followed the flow and I found myself in a labyrinth. My legs were walking by themselves again and I was an observer. I heard the voice of Alexandria (my spirit guide donkey) as Maya (my totem spider).

    “There is only one path in a labyrinth. This path always leads you to the source of forgiveness and unconditional love. You have made the choice to enter. Now, follow it with faith and you will arrive at the center of the labyrinth where a sacred space is waiting for you to experience healing and rejuvenation. There you will feel the redemptive powers of forgiveness and you will be empowered with the energy of love! You will once again feel light and free, without the chains of anger, bitterness and guilt! Forgiveness frees your spirit.”

    “Easier said than done... ” I thought to myself.

    “The labyrinth symbolizes a transformative journey into your own inner essence and back out into the world... just follow your heart and listen to the music from your soul” whispered Maya, “and you will find your way.”

    I continued walking through the circuitous, spiral and meandering path, keeping my focus on reaching the heart of the labyrinth where I will find the secret of forgiveness.

    “Wrong!” screamed Maya in the voice of Alexandria the donkey. “There is no way to forgiveness... forgiveness is the way. You reflect on your life as you walk this labyrinth and you will become aware of how your life is like this walk... and you will come to realize the importance of forgiveness and why anger, bitterness and guilt are all unnecessary.”

    So... I will learn the lessons as I walk... hmn.

    I pushed on. This labyrinth was a test on my patience... there were sharp turns that led me along rocky parts and there were long, slow portions that seemed to go on forever. I felt I was going in circles and not getting anywhere. I observe the flowers along the paths and I notice that I am in a different place. There were subtle differences that marked my progression towards the center. I quickened my pace and as I did so, the path seems to grow in length!!! I felt that I was somehow farther from the center than when I first started!

    “Am I still on the right path?” I questioned myself.



    “Good... ” I heard her voice again “I see that you are awakening... you are becoming aware of your experience. Now just relax and enjoy the walk. Do not panic and do not rush, or you will miss the point. As it is with walking the labyrinth, so it is with life... the point of living is being in the present moment. The present moment is where you find power and have the responsibility to make choices.”

    I realised an inner knowing of the truth that exists within these words of wisdom. The past is gone and the future has yet to arrive. Only in the present moment do I have the power to live my life to the fullest. There is no sense in feeling regret, angry or guilty about the past. Similarly, there is no reason to fear or worry about the future. Instead, I must learn from the past, be inspired by the future and simply take positive action in the present. I felt a surge of elation, engulfed by a deep sense of peace. Peace of mind.

    A distant memory invaded my tranquility and at that instant, my peace was lost. I was suddenly filled with anger at my girl friend for deserting me. My mind was flooded with shame as the memory replayed itself with 32 bit true colour and 3 dimension surround sound. Although we are back together again, I never really forgiven her. I was overwhelmed with both anger and guilt at the same time. As I stood frozen in my tracks and wallowed in self pity, I heard Maya's whisper coming from all directions.

    “Just because you do not agree with the decision someone has made about their life does not mean that they are wrong. Each of us are walking in this labyrinth called life. Each will walk at their own pace and each will be at different points of labyrinth at any one time. Cultivate the compassion to see your fellow beings clearly and you will no longer need to judge them.”

    My hatred dissipated and with it my pain. I remember all those beautiful memories we shared together and the previous scene faded into oblivion. I t was suddenly clear to me that I have unconciously allowed allow one negative event to define the course of my love story! The speel was broken forever and the truth set me free! Now I understand.

    I was the one at fault all this while and I could not see... how stupid can I be? I am so unworthy of love!

    “Maybe it will help if you also stop judging yourself. Forgive and you shall be forgiven... you are on the right path too. In the labyrinth of life, there are no wrong paths. A labyrinth may look like a maze at first but it is not. A labyrinth has twists and turns but there are no dead ends. There is only one path, and you cannot get lost. The same path that brings you into the labyrinth brings you out again. Walking the labyrinth of life need not be frustrating or frightening. You can choose how you feel while you walk. Why not choose to enjoy the flowers?” Suggested Maya faithfully.

    I found myself at the center of the labyrinth and I saw the Fountain of Forgiveness resting in the embrace of nature. It was overflowing with what I now recognise as unconditional love. I understood that at this present moment, both my girl friend and myself were no longer who we were when that awful incident happened. That was a moment in the past which cannot be changed. The two of us that existed at that moment were gone forever... ...

    There were a piece of bark and a burnt twig sitting quietly at the base of the fountain. It was as if they have been waiting patiently for my awakening. I picked them up and started writing a letter of forgiveness to my beloved.

    As I finished off with my signature, a strong gush of wind blew past and the bark glided away from my fingers into the Fountain of Forgiveness. I watched in amazement as the letter dissolved and became one with the holy water. At that moment, I knew that I too was ready to become one with the water in the fountain.

    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.

    The Fountain of Forgiveness Part 1

    After missing in action for so long, I feel disconnected, isolated & lost. It is a sad feeling but I just have to endure the immediate loneliness by fueling my spirits with the beautiful memories from the recent past and inspiring visions of the impending future. I resolve to find my fellow travellers again!

    But how? Hmn... I remember... I reached into the dusty bag and pulled out the pair of magic spectacles and the special ear piece...

    My reality expanded beyond possibilities once I put on these magical aids! I began to see colours and hear sounds that form an infinite grid of energetic pathways that is the proverbial zone which is also know as the field. When I am in the field, I was at one with nature... I was in the universe and the universe was in me... I was the rustling of the leaves and I was the gurgling waters flowing along the underground rivers... I was in the flow and the flow lead me to the Fountain of Forgiveness.

    (I was not given a serpent as I was late and all the serpents have gone away...)

    As I enter the waters in the Fountain of Forgiveness... I felt myself being purged from the flow... I heard the water speak to my heart... I realised that I was not being rejected by the Fountain of Forgiveness... it was in fact me rejecting the pureness of the Fountain water.

    There were people I needed to forgive... and before I do that, I cannot be at one with this source of life. Take a sip from my crystalline waters... I was told... and you will find it in your heart to forgive...

    I took a sip and I felt sick... I have to rest now... I wonder what awaits me tomorrow...

    A Late Presentation for the Gorgon


    As my physical body travelled back to Singapore, my spiritual body got lost and I found myself trapped in a universe parallel the House of the Serpents. I tried to present myself to the Gorgon but she could not see me without my electronic connection to the virtual world...

    Now that my physical, spiritual andn virtual bodies are one again, I am asking for another chance to make my presence felt... the Gorgon granted my request with grace.

    Grace... Ah... I decided to share my encounter with Grace on my 2nd last day in Melbourne. That was the finale of my recent pilgrimage...

    After writing my response to Christy's "An Act Without A Name... ...,” I was out in the zone and just allowing divine grace to carry me along in the flow... ... and the most extraordinary synchronicity took place... ... I have been embraced by so much synchronicity since I embarked on this journey... ... but this one was by far the most magnificent.

    Worry was starting to creep into my being again… … I am going back to Singapore tomorrow… … I recalled the downpour that greeted me on my second night in Melbourne. I was lost in the rain that night… … drenched but feeling refresh… … I did not really mind the rain as it sort of washed away my pain.

    This rain reminded me of the feeling of being lost… … I guess I was feeling a little lost again… … and this rain was a reflection of my mood… but I finally found my way back anyway… … and maybe that was my spirit’s way of reassuring me.

    And then I recalled the verse that I wrote in response to Christy's… … And I marvelled at the opportunity to play in the rain… … I took a deep breath of inspiring air and was soon on my way to Fitzroy Gardens.

    I was suppose to be going to Telstra Dome and Victoria Harbour to take photographs so I really did not know what came over me… … I mean Telstra Dome was at least indoors… … what made me think I could take any decent photos out in the rain at the gardens? The rain was getting heavier at this time… … but I followed my heart anyway, and I rationalised that I might get a good photo for the “playing in the rain” part of my verse.

    Seconds after I stepped onto the wet grass of Fitzroy Gardens, the rain stopped and I was miraculously greeted with a rainbow. It was over this Conservatory and it was beautiful… … I pulled out my camera and the photographer in me took over… …


    After a couple of shots, I notice that it was more beautiful than I had realised… … It was a full rainbow… … it was huge and it was so near… … I sort of chased after it and noticed a twin appearing on the right end… … and then I noticed the colours intensify… … It was like a flower blooming right before my eyes! A peacock strutting in its full glory! A phoenix at her peak!

    This was the first time I have ever seen a full rainbow in my life. It was breathtaking. Then it started to dissipate and disslove into nothingness… … I hung on to the euphoria… … capturing this divine image in my memory for eternity.

    It was then that I saw this little Japanese girl… … she was near to tears because by the time she saw the rainbow… … by the time her parents took aim with their camera… … the rainbow was gone… … she had wanted to have her picture taken with this divine light… …

    It was also there and then that I realised how few of the people in the gardens noticed this rainbow… … At this point, I realised how lucky I was. It was yet another instance of being at the right place, at the right time, having all that I need, and doing the right thing.

    I was still basking in the euphoria as I lingered a little while longer in the gardens… … there was nothing else there really… … it was like I was lead there just to experience this wonderful sight… …

    As I was walking away, feeling grateful and full of joy, I suddenly remembered that I had silently wished for an opportunity to take my own photo of a rainbow just a couple of days ago! I am at a lost for words… … totally dumbfounded!

    What can I say but thank you!!!

    And now the piece of work by Louis Armstrong that popped into my mind when I first read Christy’s verse makes sense… … The connection is very clear to me now… …

    When You Wish Upon A Star
    Louis Armstrong

    When you wish upon a star
    Makes no difference who you are
    Anything your heart desires
    Will come to you

    If your heart is in your dreams
    No request is to extreme
    When you wish upon a star
    As dreamers do

    Fate is kind
    She brings to those who love
    As sweet fullfillment of their secret drowns
    Like a boat out of the blue
    Fate steps in and see's you through

    Moma when you wished upon a star
    Your dreams come true

    (instrumental break)

    Fate is kind
    She brings to those who love
    As sweet fullfillment of their secret drowns
    Like a boat out of the blue
    Fate steps in and see's you through

    Baby when you wish upon a star
    Your dreams come true
    When you wished upon a star
    Makes no difference who you are
    Your dreams come true

    Friday, August 19, 2005

    Time for a Soak

    Mme Eclectica,

    What a wonderful bath house you have here. There have been so many things going on in my life that I wanted to have some time for myself. So here I am!I wandered around and found a wonderful warm tub with special salts to soothe my aching bones.

    Slipping into this warm bath, I couldn't help thinking of a tale someone told about the huge cumbersome jovial lady who popped into the bath with her. Apologies to whoever wrote it for not remembering your name, but it has kept me smiling many a time. Remembering this I lay back with not a care in the world letting my body relax completely.

    As I lay there, I recalled a time when life was not so complicated, a time when my husband and I took our 6 children for a long weekend in our big bus (or van) down to the Tara Valley. We left on a Friday night after work and travelled down the Princess Highway. All went well until we turned off the highway. To set the scene for those who don't know the area, there is a ridge of mountains between the highway and the valley.

    The problem was that in the dark of night we took a wrong turn. The road became quite bumpy and there were rocks, quite large rocks in places, and the road twisted and turned, around and around. We became rather concerned as there was no way we could turn around on the narrow road. So on we went.

    Of course the children were quite excited by this. To make it more interesting, there were small kangaroos hopping across the road and the odd wombat as well. The children were hanging out the windows, no seat belts in those days, and loving it. Of course, Mother and Father were a little less excited, as they were worried about where they were going to end up. By about ten o'clock that night we finally came to a main road - the Grand Ridge Road- so we could then begin to work out where we were. We finally arrived at the park where we were staying, and had the most wonderful weekend in very beautiful country. We discovered that the track we had taken was actually a logging track so in hindsight we were very lucky to get through.It was a weekend of togetherness, adventure and fun.

    Thursday, August 18, 2005

    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.

    Meeting the 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, I have another travel companion. 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.

    Wednesday, August 17, 2005

    Reflection

    Baba Yaga has led me on a very interesting journey over the last day or so. In reading her story and struggling to write about my visit to see her, I decided to make my special doll. What a surprise this turned out to be!



    To understand my surprise, one would have to know that I love colour and things more on the 'pretty' side. My doll has a very earthy feel, is rather shapeless and has a lovely big double chin. So I dialogued with her, telling her that I was surprised at the way she looked and wondered how she could help me. She replied that she would know what I had to do, so that all I had to do was to ask her in trust.

    I was then led in a very mysterious way to read some words of wisdom in my book, 'Women Who Run With The Wolves'. These are the words that struck a chord with me:

    "......A wise woman keeps her psyche environ uncluttered. She accomplishes such by keeping a clear head, keeping a clear space for her work, working at completing her ideas and projects.......because it is Baba Yaga's hut that Vasalisa sweeps, because it Baba Yaga's yard, we are also speaking of keeping unusual ideas clear and ordered. These ideas include those which are uncommon, soulful and uncanny.

    ......to cook for the Yaga one lays a fire - a woman must be willing to burn hot, burn with passion, burn with words, with ideas, with desire for whatever it really is that she loves. It is actually this passion which causes the cooking, and a woman's ideas of substance are what is cooked. To cook for the Yaga, one will arrange that one's creative life has a consistent fire under it. Most of us would do better if we became more adept at watching the fire under our work.........the fire bears watching, for it is easy to let it go out. The Yaga must be fed. There's hell to pay if she goes hungry. So it is the cooking up of new things, of new directions, of commitments to one's art and work that continuously nourishes the wild soul.

    .....Women's cycles according to Vasalisa's tasks are these: To cleanse one's thinking, renewing one's values, on a regular basis. To clear one's psyche of trivia, sweep one's self, clean up one's thinking and feeling states on a regular basis and especially to cook up a lot, to feed the relationship between oneself and the wildish nature."

    My doll is now called Clarissa and she has pride of place on my table where I do my work.

    Tuesday, August 16, 2005

    TROLLS ARE REAL IN SEATTLE!




    Funny Story: This is a troll that really does live under a bridge here in Seattle. There's actually a movement to rename the street it's on as
    " Troll Street " because that's what everyone calls it now. FYI this thing is huge!

    My Meditation on staying with Baba Yaga

    ``We have to go through the woods, to the house of an old lady who lives by the lake,” Mei Ling said, as I stowed her carefully in the bag so she wouldn’t fall out. ``we have to ask her the way to the camp of the Amazons.”
    An old lady who lived in the woods? ``Will we be leaving a breadcrumb trail,” I said, only half joking.
    ``There will be no need – I know all the ways through the woods,” Mei Ling said.
    So we set off on foot. It was a sunny day, but not too warm for my jacket. I felt quite festive and all I heard as we set off was the lonely barking of a dog from the gypsy camp.
    On the way over the bridge I called into the mill for some bread for the journey and the baker wished me luck. He was a bonny young man, with a nut brown face and curly hair. I saw two pretty children playing outside as I left.
    On the way, Mei Ling told me some hair raising things about Baba Yaga, the old woman who lived in the forest. I found her description of the fence around the cottage quite unnerving – apparently it was made of human bones.
    She sounded like an evil old witch, but it was clear that Mei Ling had a lot of respect for her, and she seemed unafraid. But then, she was a china doll. I got less optimistic when we reached the forest. As we walked along a narrow, twisting path overgrown with tree roots and hedged in by thick shrubs, it seemed to me we were going into an area where light could not penetrate.
    When I judged the time to be about mid morning, we stopped and ate some of the bread. Mei Ling ate daintily, refusing the crusts. I had some water with me and we sipped from the bottle, but I realised I should have brought more food with me – I had thought there would be berries and other wild food, but the forest was too dense and dark to offer much in the way of berries. There were mushrooms – or some sort of fungi – but I thought it wise not to experiment.
    In spite of Mei Ling’s assurance that she knew where we were going, I felt completely lost, as if we were going round in circlers. I was certain we were passing the same glowering oak tree several times.
    But it seemed she did know, because all of a sudden the path forked. One fork led off into some unprepossessing undergrowth – the other had a rickety sign that said No Junk Male, although I couldn’t see a mail box anywhere. This was the path Mei Ling told me to choose.
    Ahead of me was the fence Mei Ling had spoken of – the palings were jagged splinters of bone topped with grinning skulls. The gate hung lopsided on its hinges, swinging back and forth with a mournful squeaking noise.
    Over the top of the gate I could see a house leaning at an odd angle and – moving.
    ``The house is falling over,” I said in alarm.
    ``No, it’s probably just having a scratch.”
    I saw what she meant as I inched through the gate. The house was scratching – it stood on two scrawny chicken legs and it was scratching the earth like a chicken – two steps forward, scratch, scratch, then one step back to see what it had exposed. There were two windows either side of a porched door, and these looked for all the world like eyes and a beak. Even the walls and the roof were covered with russet red feathers.
    Seeing me, the house stopped scratching and folded its chicken legs neatly. Now it looked like a proper little house, foursquare on the ground.
    ``Knock on the door,” Mei Ling urged.
    There was a knocker hanging there – a human skeleton hand curled into a fist. As I reached gingerly out to take hold of it, the skeletal fingers suddenly straightened out and shook my hand cordially. Then the door swung open and I found myself looking at the ugliest old woman I had ever seen.
    She had warts on her face with hairs growing out of them. Her legs were the same as the house, scrawny and chickenlike, and she was dressed in an eclectic collection of skirts, aprons and a peasant blouse and vest that had certainly seen better days.
    The first thing she said to me was, ``Do you come here of your own free will, or because someone sent you?”
    I was about to protest my free will, and then I hesitated. Suddenly I wasn’t sure.
    ``Well – I said - ``actually, on the one hand I was told to come here – but on the other hand, I did choose to go – so I’m not really sure.”
    She smiled at that, baring a formidable set of teeth that looked like iron.
    ``Good answer,” she said. ``Well, it looks as if I don’t get to eat you today. Pity,” she added, eyeing my ample hips. She stood aside and I went into her extraordinary home.
    I found it strangely comforting. It looked like my Grandmother Bridget’s caravan, with bundles of herbs and onions hanging from the roof, and handcrafted items everywhere. There was a good smell coming from the pot on the stove, that made me twitch with hunger. Baba Yaga cleared a small rickety table – by tossing everything onto a spare chair – and indicated I should sit down. Soon I was tucking into a thick stew fragrant with herbs. To my relief, there was no meat in it, just turnips and barley and thick wedges of potato.
    Mei Ling had a small amount as well, and a sip of water. She and Baba Yaga seemed to know each other well, and chatted happily through the meal. It was growing dark outside, and the warmth of the cottage, and the heavy meal, was making me feel sleepy.
    ``Our guest is tired,” Baba Yaga cackled. ``Well, you should sleep now, because we rise with the dawn here and I have some work for you to do.”
    She gave me a rough cot by the fire, and I lay thankfully down, my bag on the floor beside me, and Mei Ling resting on the pillow. In no time at all, I was asleep.

    The sound of a horse’s hooves woke me, galloping up to the cottage. I jumped out of bed, pausing only to pick up Mei Ling, as Baba Yaga opened the front door and light flooded in. But what a changed Baba Yaga! Now she was a graceful young woman – only the flash of her iron teeth as she smiled at her visitor gave her away.
    I peeked over her shoulder. I saw a knight on a white horse, his armor so bright that it cast rays of light.
    ``Good morning, my bright dawn,” Baba Yaga said playfully. ``What does the morning bring?”
    ``Fresh mushrooms, sorrel and wild thyme for your breakfast eggs,” the knight said, bowing low and offering her a basket filled with these goodies. ``And a daisy from the dew sprinkled fields.”
    Baba Yaga took the daisy, and gave her white knight a flirtatious smile.
    ``Nothing else to report, my lady,” he said, ``the morning dawns fair and clear on your forest.” And with that he turned the horse and galloped away.
    ``Mushrooms for breakfast,” Baba Yaga cackled. She was a crone again, and she stood the basket on the table. ``That’s your first task,” she said to me. ``Collect the eggs.”
    I followed her out of the cottage. She spoke some strange incantation at it, and at once it rose, with a great cackling and ruffling of feathers. Lying underneath it, between the chicken legs, were six freshly laid brown eggs.
    ``These eggs are not free,” Baba Yaga said. ``If you want them you must pay for them – the cottage, not me. Leave something of value, or the cottage will sit on you and squash you before you can escape.”
    What would a cottage that looked like a chicken (or a chicken that looked like a cottage) consider to be just exchange for its eggs? I looked helplessly at Mei Ling.
    ``You must give up one of your songs,” she whispered. ``A favourite, one you value – sing to it when you take the eggs.”
    So I started singing as I walked between the legs of the chicken house. I was singing as I bent to pick up the eggs one by one, and singing as I turned to walk back to Baba Yaga. The legs remained upright, so I continued to sing as I walked safely out from under the house.
    And do you know, I cannot for the life of me remember what song it was I sang to the chicken house. It has gone forever, and all I know is that it was precious to me.
    Another incantation from Baba Yaga, and the house once again sat down. She cooked a fine breakfast of scrambled eggs with sorrel and wild thyme, and mushrooms on the side.
    After breakfast, Baba Yaga wanted to go herb gathering in the woods, so Mei Ling and I followed her through the twisting paths. She stopped frequently to pick some plant or another and told me what each one was for – I realised I was in the presence of great natural wisdom and tried to make notes so I wouldn’t forget. I made little sketches of some of the herbs as well.
    On the way back to the cottage we met another knight, this time in red armour and riding a chestnut horse. I looked back at Baba Yaga and was not surprised to see she had changed again. Now she was a mature woman in the full bloom of her beauty, but with lines of experience and wisdom just beginning to be etched around her eyes and mouth.
    ``Hail, my Red Sun,” she said. ``What does the day bring?”
    ``Tomatoes ripe from the vine,” the knight said, bowing low to both of us. ``And full blown roses to reflect your beauty.”
    ``Salad for lunch,” Baba Yaga said happily as the knight rode away. Her gnarled fingers touched the bloom of the roses gently.
    After a very good lunch of salad greens and tomatoes tossed with herbs, she handed me a scroll of parchment.
    ``Your second task is written here,” she said. But when I unfurled it, the parchment was blank.
    My face must have looked much the same, because Mei Ling rolled her expressive eyes and sighed gently. Obviously, the answer was very simple and I should know it already.
    ``My glasses!” I said, and I grabbed the purple specs from my bag. With these on, I could clearly see Baba Yaga’s spidery writing.
    ``Name that,” it said, ``which you fear most, so much that it blinds you to what you already have. Cast this parchment into the fire and be rid of it forever.”
    I thought for a while, and wondered what I would be like without that fear – would I really be myself any more? But then I took up the quill, and I wrote – but I can’t remember what I wrote, because as soon as the parchment burned up in the flames, I was free of it, and I saw that there was so much else in my life that was more important and I knew I could pursue my creative dreams unhindered by it.
    So in one morning I had given up something very precious to me for a few eggs, and something I no longer needed. Mei Ling and Baba Yaga were nodding at each other in a conspiratorial manner and I wonder what else they had in store for me.
    As the afternoon wore on, I helped Baba Yaga prepare some of her potions and wrote the recipes down for future reference. She used the petals of the rose to make an exquisite lotion which she gave to me in a small bottle.
    We settled by the fire and I wondered what my third task would be. I had a feeling it would be the last, and that I would be leaving Baba Yaga very soon. I was sad about that – I found her company delightful, and I had lost my fear of the old fairy tales. Baba Yaga had so far proved to be a vegetarian, anyway.
    Suddenly we heard the thunder of hooves approaching the cottage. Baba Yaga opened the door, but this time she did not change. Looking over her shoulder, I saw a black knight on a black horse, studded with stars. There was a silver crescent moon on his helmet, which he raised. I saw the kindly and wise face of an old man.
    ``Good Eve, my Dark Midnight,” Baba Yaga said. ``What does the night bring?”
    ``News of travellers heading to the Camp of the Amazon Queen, and your guest must join them,” he said. ``And a star from the sky for my dear love.” He handed her a diamond so bright it flashed with a million rainbow sparkles.
    After the black horse and rider vanished into the darkness, Baba Yaga turned to me.
    ``One more task,” she said, ``then you must be on your way.” She looked at me with her wise old eyes. ``I am the guardian of the waters of life and death,” she said. ``I can command the Sun, the Moon and the Stars in their courses. I can change time.” She delved into her capacious pocket and drew out three objects hanging from leather thongs, which she laid on the table. One was a small daisy with a heart of gold, and next to it was a finely wrought rose in full bloom. Lastly there was a lump of coal, twisted in a loop of silver wire.
    ``Choose carefully,” she said.
    I understood, as I looked at the pendants, what each one represented. The daisy was the morning of my life – the young woman, setting out with freshness and hope. The rose was the afternoon of my life – the mother caring for her children and nurturing their dreams. But the lump of coal – surely that could not represent the years ahead?
    My hand reached out for the rose, because the happiest years I had known were those when my children were young. But they were grown now, and I had grandchildren. If I changed my time, I would be changing theirs as well.
    I reached out for the daisy, and again I hesitated. It would be wonderful to be young again, but why would I go that far back when I had finally learned not to long for the past, or fear the future?
    So my hand closed around the lump of coal – and as I lifted it up to hang around my neck, it changed into a diamond.