Happy Belated Birthday

It was Harlee’s birthday on March 21. Hmmm, it might be the 22nd. Definitely not the 23rd.

It’s the 21st because I remember it was the first day of Spring.

Harlee and me, March 2017.

Oops, the first day of spring in 2017 was March 20th.

Okay, let’s try this again.

It was Harlee’s birthday a few day ago; either the 20th, 21st, or the 22nd of March.

He turned seven.

At least I think he’s seven. The rescue association, Labs4Rescue, told me he was two years old but the folks who work at rescue places don’t always know the exact ages of the animals they save.

So, Harlee might have had a 7th birthday.

At least he got a donut.

Harlee on his ‘maybe’ birthday.

And even though I don’t remember the exact date, and yes, I could get up and dig out the paperwork from when I adopted him but it doesn’t matter, I’ve had him in my life for five incredible years, that’s what matters.

Harlee, 2017.

He’s been with me through losing my sister, hip surgery (my hip, not his), COVID (me), falling multiple times (again, me, not him), serious visits down the rabbit hole of depression (yup, that’s mine too), and a gazillion gallons of ice cream (mostly me but he helps out from time to time), and multiple donuts (both of us).

He’s been by my side through the loss of Shadow, and then Cleo.

Cleopatra.
Harlee and Shadow.

He’s entertained me…

‘I’m keeping my toys.’

…and keeps the ducks in line.

Harlee and my flock, 2021.

He’s loves to go for rides in the car and in the canoe.

‘Let’s get going.’

He’s a serious pillow, or whatever, pounder.

Supervises all outside chores…

…and can sniff out a chipmunk no matter how deep the hole.

He’s a pro at guilting me into giving him a cookie.

‘Cookie, please.’

He’s my confidant, sounding board, witness, and companion.

Harlee, 2022.

Happy birthday, pal.

Blessed be :}

Mi manchi, mia amata immortale.

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A Joyous Ostara to One and All

Mole was busy cleaning his home when he caught a whiff of something in the air. Something pure. Something wonderful. Something that beckoned him to the out of doors.

It was spring.

Something above was calling him in the most demanding way, and he headed for
the steep little tunnel which was his house’s exit. He scraped and scratched, working
busily with his little paws and muttering to himself, “Up we go! Up we go!” until at last,
pop! his snout came out into the sunlight, and he found himself rolling in the warm grass of
a great meadow.
The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame

Ah, I know little Mole’s desire to leave the confines of four walls and heed the call of spring.

The joy of living and the delight of spring made him jump into the
air…

I did my share of jumping today.

Well, maybe not jumping but I did take Harlee for what I’ll call a Farewell to Winter walk. We listened to the birds singing, checked out the little green shoots peeking out of the softening earth, peed on some of them (Harlee did the peeing, I stood and watched), and inhaled the scent of the approaching season.

Now I know that spring in New England isn’t all mild temperatures and sunshine.

March, 2020

But no matter, it’s still spring which means flowers are coming my way…

along with humidity, gnats, yellow jackets, and black flies… (I’m hyperventilating — give me a sec.)

Male Eastern Bluebird.

Ahhhhhh, bluebirds always calm my raging pulse.

Where was I? Oh, yes, spring, or for those of us who follow the craft, Ostara, the Vernal Equinox, a time for new beginnings.

Ways to celebrate Ostara include:

  • Starting seeds for a vegetable or flower garden
  • Feeding the birds
  • Buying a bouquet of flowers and giving them to an elderly neighbor
  • Taking a walk and looking for signs of spring
  • Baking an egg-based delight like Ostara cakes (see recipe below)
  • Meditating
  • Setting intentions for the season
  • Coloring eggs and sharing them with friends
  • Cleaning your living space
  • Stretching your arms and singing at the top of your lungs

There are loads of ways to celebrate. Let your imagination break free like pussy willows breaking out of their casings.

Photo by Brett Sayles from Pexels

Truly, this is a time of year to celebrate. I know things are hard for so very many of us; we struggle with money issues, depression, illness, death…it can be too much to take sometimes. That’s why we need to stop and breath.

Stop and listen.

Stop and smell.

Stop and taste.

Stop and feel.

Stop and be here in the present moment, not tomorrow, not next week, but ‘now’.

Because ‘now’ is all we have.

I’ll share a ‘now’ moment with you. While walking with Harlee I kept my ears open for the call of the Pileated Woodpecker. You see, it’s been 10 years since I’ve seen a Pileated and last week, when Harlee and I were walking on Old Middlesex Turnpike, we saw a Pileated banging at a dead pine tree in the woods. I hadn’t had my camera with me so I missed out on getting a picture. but I had it with me today and I was determined to get a picture.

Sadly, no luck.

No Pileated Woodpecker.

No biggie.

The day moved forward and I worked at cleaning the leaves and sticks from my gardens and sighing with delight at the sight of the new growth I uncovered.

peony bush
Look! The pink growth of peonies!

While I had my focus on the ground guess what happened?

Yup, the Pileated Woodpecker came to me!!

I ran into the house and…

Male Pileated Woodpecker.

I finally got my picture.

I know it’s not the best picture, give me a break; he was up in a very tall tree (30 feet or so) and my hands were shaking (not from excitement but because I had been raking for a couple of hours). Who cares, right? I got a picture and he stayed around for a bit, showing off his dope red feather cap.

So cool.

Here’s a link to Cornell’s info on Pileated Woodpeckers.

Sooooo very cool.

Aside from some computer issues this was a pretty dope first day of Spring.

Here’s the Ostara recipe I promised you. Enjoy!

Oh, and one more thing.

Shhhhh.

Listen.

Do you hear them?

https://www.hummingbirdcentral.com/hummingbird-migration-spring-2022-map.htm

Here they come!

Ahhhhhh.

Blessed be :}

Mi manchi, mia amata immortale.

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May You Soar Like an Eagle

But make sure you also know how to swim.

Two Bald Eagles stopped by for a little duck hunting. One sat in the tree…

Possibly the female Eagle waiting for the male to catch her a fat duck for breakfast.

… and the other eagle, I’m assuming the male, went for a swim in the cold waters of the Concord River.

American Bald Eagle in the Concord River.

Upon emerging from the river, the Eagle said he’d had enough with doing his mate’s bidding, shook off the frigid droplets, and hit the air.

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Eventually, the female followed, leaving behind a Red-Tailed Hawk who was wondering where the scraps of duck meat went.

Red-Tailed Hawk

Cool, I whispered, grateful I had been sitting at the table getting ready to start on my morning cup of coffee.

What, I wondered, would the rest of the day bring?

Well, hello!

A Carolina Wren visited the top of my oak slag (the tree I had topped) and sang a tune to welcome the day.

Carolina Wren

Bring it on, I told the day. I’m ready for more.

More, as in a pair of Common Mergansers sunning themselves on the ice edging the river.

More, as in a male Northern Pintail hanging with the Mallards.

Male Northern Pintail

And more, as in a male Eastern Bluebird choosing my mealworms for his and his alone. Okay, maybe not all for him; he does share with the female who travels with him.

Male Eastern Bluebird.
Female Eastern Bluebird

And do you remember this Mallard hen from September, 2021? Humor me, just nod and smile, even if you forgot.

Mallard hen with a white apron.

Well, she came back to say hello. At this point she deserves a name. Let’s call her Hazel.

This blog post wouldn’t be finished if I didn’t mention the incredible sunrise the universe granted me.

A glorious sunrise on the Concord River.

Yup, it was a day to remember.

Blessed be.

Mi manchi, mia amata immortale.

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Acres of Diamonds

A farmer heard stories of fortune by other farmers who had discovered diamonds on their land and became rich beyond their wildest imagination. The farmer became discontented with his own life and desperately desired the same fortune. He eventually sold his farm and left his family to begin a quest for land that would lead him to riches. He searched through many lands far and wide. Eventually as an old man he became depressed and despondent. He threw himself into a great tidal wave to his death, never to be seen again.

The successor of his land, another farmer, one day strolled along a creek that ran through the property. He noticed a blue flash from the creek bed, knelt down and sifted through the water until he pulled a crystal object from the mud of the creek. He wiped it off, took it home and left it on his mantel above the fireplace, where he quickly forgot about it.

Several weeks later, a visitor stopped by the farmer and noticing the crystal on the mantle picked it up. Instantly he became excited, he was holding a diamond in his hand. The farmer protested at first and the visitor reassured him that it was indeed a diamond. That farm eventually became one of the largest diamond-mines in the world. Had the original owner of the farm simply known how to identify and look for diamonds, he would have had the fortune he so desperately wanted.

Or something like that.

The above story is thought to be true. One never knows; at times truth and fiction merge, forming a blending of half-truths and dreams. However, the moral of the story remains the same: Everything is right at your feet, as long as you’re able to recognize that which you desire, and you have the right tools with which to dig.

Pussy Willow said it best: Everything that anyone would ever look for is usually where they left it.

Pussy Willow by Margaret Wise Brown

Or something like that.

Basically, the grass is only greener elsewhere because it’s receiving better care. Tend to your own fields and you may discover diamonds, which is exactly what happened to me the other day.

My story goes as follows:

Back when the Blizzard of 2022 dumped a foot of snow on my little corner of the Concord River my new, let me emphasize the word NEW, snow blower bit the dust, or, in this case, snow. I was left having to use my snow shovel and elderly muscles to clear the 12 inches of snow covering my driveway.

February arrived with more snow. Eight inches, instead of the two inches forecasted.

No biggie, my trusty snow shovel was ready and waiting.

The perfect tool to use when digging for diamonds.

So there I was, in the early morning light, shoveling the snow as the birds sang and flitted about, and the ducks quacked loudly for me to hurry up and finish what I was doing so I could feed them. I took a break in the cold, morning air to watch the sunrise.

I inhaled the cold morning air and marveled at the beauty before me when two American Bald Eagles flew low over the frozen river.

Wow!

WOW!

How’s that for a field of diamonds?

American Bald Eagle on the Concord River

You would think, since I had my phone out to take a picture of the sunrise, I could have captured the eagles in flight but, nope, I was too busy whispering a prayer of thanks to my Goddess.

I am blessed.

This time last year I did manage to photograph a pair of eagles playing in the water of my river.

Mr. and Mrs. American Bald Eagles Circa 2021.

Yup, I’ve seen it raining fire in the sky and I’ve seen eagles fly.

I am truly blessed.

So, that’s my story about my acre of diamonds called the Concord River.

Sing it, John.

https://JohnDenver.lnk.to/subscribeYD SME (on behalf of RCA Records Label)

Who needs a snow blower?

Blessed be.

Mi manchi, mia amata immortale.

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Imbolc 2022

Welcome, Imbolc 20222; Welcome, Brighid.

www.witcheryblog.wixsite.com

Pronounced EE-molc, Imbolc, which loosely translated means ewe’s milk or in the belly, is the celebration of light and the return of life, representing the halfway point between the winter solstice and the spring equinox. For those of us following the pagan path, Imbolc is the first day of spring, the day the Celtic goddess Brighid (pronounced Breed) wakes from her winter slumber. For half the year she’s been living in the underworld, perhaps knitting scarves or darning socks, but her return is the transformation from the crone of winter to the maiden of spring, and the beginning of new life. Imbolc is also the time when lambs give birth and their milk starts to flow, which ties in nicely with the whole ewe’s milk translation.

Imbolc dates back to early 10th century in the British Isles, pre-Christian Gaelic Ireland to be exact.. Back when online shopping wasn’t a thing and gardening catalogues hadn’t happened yet. All the people had to help them mark the seasons were the sun and moon, and lactating ewes.

Christians adopted Imbolc, changed the day by one, called it Candlemas, and bingo, a new saint, St. Brigid, was given to the people of the land as a replacement for the pagan goddess, Brighid. According to author Patti Wigington, “When Ireland converted to Christianity, it was hard to convince people to get rid of their old gods, so the church allowed them to worship the goddess Brighid as a saint – thus the creation of St. Brigid’s Day.” Here’s an interesting tidbit, the perpetual flame burning in most early Christian churches is likened to goddess Brigid’s fire.

As time passed a groundhog found his way in the mix and we got Groundhog Day.

No, not that Groundhog Day.
Yup, that one.

Honoring Brighid includes the lighting of fires, or white candles, and celebrating the sun’s rays, which can include perusing plant catalogues.

https://www.bluestoneperennials.com/

At present time I have over $300 worth of plants in my virtual shopping cart. OMG!

You can also make a milk-based foods. Say, for example, baked custard.

Baked-egg-custard-ramekin

Baked Custard

Ingredients
  • 4 large eggs
  • 3 cup cold evaporated skim milk (or regular whole milk if you’re not counting Calories)
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • A pinch of salt

Directions

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Combine all the ingredients in the bowl of a mixer and beat for about 15 seconds, or until well mixed. Pour mixture into ramekins or custard cups. Place the ramekins into a baking dish, and fill the dish with hot water up to a depth of about ¾”. Bake the custards for one hour. Remove from oven and allow to cool. Dust with nutmeg before serving.

Those of us in the Northern Hemisphere who follow the wheel of the seasons don’t need a groundhog (though they are very cute) to know the sun is returning to bring warmth to us once again. A few buds might be seen on the trees and, if there wasn’t a foot of snow on the ground, one might see some crocus flowers as well. Alas, today the goddess is wearing a cloak of winter white instead of her vibrant green.

One common Imbolc ritual is a deep cleansing of the body and home and an offering of milk, to represent the awakening seeds. I won’t lie and write that my house is clean but at least I can attest to the clean skin. Hopefully Brigid is forgiving and will accept my white candles, dirty kitchen floor, and offering of cracked corn. At least the ducks were grateful.

Blessed Imbolc to you and may the seeds of spring grow in your heart. Blessed be :]

Mi manchi, mia amata immortale.

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So an old lady walks into a hardware store…

… and she hands the man behind the cutting desk a slip of paper. On the paper are the dimensions for two pieces of plexiglass she needs to buy. The man wanders away and does his thing, eventually returning with her order. Embarrassed, she mumbles that she needed clear plexiglass, not blue.

No, this isn’t a joke, it really happened, and I was the old woman.

Sigh.

The guy behind the counter looked at me as if I had sprouted three more heads on my shoulders. If I had sprouted more heads perhaps one of them would have figured out that the plexiglass was clear, not blue. The blue was because of the plastic coating stuck on the plexiglass.

In my defense, there is such a thing as blue plexiglass. There’s even red, yellow, and green plexiglass, so stick that in your hat, Plexiglass-Cutter-Man.

Double sigh.

My 31-Day Gratitude Challenge

Check out the videos for the 31-Day Gratitude Challenge I held during the month of December.

Day 1 of the 31-Day Gratitude Challenge

As you know, I suffer from depression, and some days it’s difficult to get out of my own way. I figured a gratitude challenge was just the ticket to help me cope.

It worked! Cool.

Each day I found something for which I was grateful and I was able to find pockets of joy. Also, by sharing my journey with my viewers on YouTube I helped others find joy in their lives too.

Double cool

Go ahead and partake in the challenge on your own. Over the next thirty-one days open one of the videos and follow the gratitude prompt. If you participate during the a month with only thirty days, or twenty-eight for February, just double up a day or three.

Have some fun and remember to say thank you to the universe for all your joyful blessings.

Please share my video and the challenge with your family and friends; you’ll earn Karma chips.

Animal Antics

And now for a new segment to my blog: Animal Antics

I have a squirrel who figured out that by climbing the screen house – well, watch and see –

Not ones to be outdone, a couple of my Mallard hens decided to show the squirrel even ducks can perform antics fit for Cirque du Soleil performers.

The remains of my dead oak tree.
Two Mallard hens survey the river from high upon their perch.

So, that’s it. Not much else is going on with the other wildlife in my little corner of the Concord River, unless you count beautiful, gorgeous, brilliantly-colored Eastern bluebirds a truly amazing sight.

Cool.

Okay, I’m finished. I’ll leave you with a shot of the sun rising over my river.

Double cool.

Blessed be and Happy New Year. :}

Mi manchi, mia amata immortale.

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The Pursuit of Happiness

According to biographers, Charles Dickens wrote A Christmas Carol as a commentary on the deplorable child labor conditions in England. You can read the history here. For now, let’s discuss the meaning of the story.

I’m sure you’re familiar with A Christmas Carol, especially the ending, when Scrooge is scampering around his bedroom as happy as an angel, as merry as a schoolboy, and as giddy as a drunken man.

The vision of George C. Scott’s wiggling legs aside, what is the lesson A Christmas Carol wanted to teach the reader? Before I go on, you must understand one thing…this is just my interpretation of the Dickens’ classic, but I like to believe Charles would nod and agree. I believe the moral of A Christmas Carol is that we can only find happiness when we tend our fellow travelers on this wonderful blue planet called Earth. I’m including animals along with people.

You see, Scrooge was happy not because he had been given time to make lots more money or squeeze more emotional blood from Bob Cratchit but to bring joy to others. To help others.

Remember the prize turkey in the butcher’s window?

Scrooge didn’t buy the turkey for himself. He didn’t dance around and sing ‘I’m going to eat turkey, yes I am.’ No. He sent the turkey to Bob. He gave freely and that brought him happiness. Dickens understood the science behind obtaining happiness long before psychologists studied happiness.

Here, let me allow his ghostly voice to say it best.

According to medical research, Scrooge probably lived for another thirty or forty years because he embarked on a journey of unselfish behavior. Okay, I’m stretching the year-factor, but you get the point. Check out this article: https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/5_ways_giving_is_good_for_you

It doesn’t take a ton of time or money to be kind. Performing a simple act of kindness each day will get you started and, as a reward, you’ll be happier than you are now. Honestly, are you happy right now or could you use more joy in your life? That new phone you’ve been wanting won’t do it. Nor will the new shoes, or the big house filled with (sorry, but let’s be honest) crap.

Here are five ways to get started:

  1. When you’re paying for your coffee pay for the person behind you too.
  2. Clean out your closet and donate gently used items to a local charity.
  3. Help your child select gently used toys he or she no longer plays with and donate the items to a homeless shelter.
  4. Purchase a bag of pet food and place it in the pet shelter bin located at your local market.
  5. Let a stranger go in front of you in line.

Notice money isn’t required for some of the things on the list. Or, horror, TIME, that constant excuse for not being able to do kind gestures; ‘I don’t have the time.’ Whine, whine, whine.

https://lauravanderkam.com/

Happiness, or joy if you prefer, is contagious. By doing something nice you’ll feel joy and you’ll spread that joy to others who will spread joy and soon the world will be a nicer place in which to live. There’s even a song to inspire you.

℗ 2010 Master Classics Records
Ghosts of Christmases Long Past

They dance around my chair
Mindless of the fire crackling in the grate
They twirl and spin
And sway

Each one adorned in Christmas finery
Bright reds
Sparkling golds
Rich greens

Each whisper of secrets long buried
Secrets better left alone
Tales from Christmases long past
My past

I hold many regrets from those days
Too few hands held
Too few cheeks kissed
Too few moments cherished

Scrooge would get it
'Dance with your ghosts,' he would tell me
Twirl and spin with them
For the ghosts are there to show you the Christmases of yet to come.

So, go out and make someone, or some animal, or the planet happy. And have a blessed Yule (or Christmas if you prefer) and may your ghosts be kind.

Blessed be. :}

Mi manchi, mia amata immortale.

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Damn, these rabbit holes!

I would love to type that I’m referring to the cute little critters who eat my flowers during the summer months …

… but I’m not.

The rabbit hole I’m referencing is the type those of us with depression fall into on a regular basis. In fact, some people, yours truly to be exact, spend a great deal of time wandering around in the dark. If I do manage to drag my sorry butt out something usually happens to knock me right back in.

Photo by Filipe Delgado from Pexels

Case in point, today I put my last elderly cat to sleep. Cleopatra, Cleo to those who knew her, was 16 and, sigh, had cancer. She died in my arms while a compassionate veterinarian stood by. Thank you, Dr. Wharrie.

Bye, Cleo.

One more pet sent over the Rainbow Bridge and one more day spent bumping into things (I’m speaking metaphorically; keep up!). Seriously, have you ever stopped to think just how dark it is in a rabbit hole. No windows, no skylights, no recessed lighting, nothing except an inky blackness.

Today should have been a day of rejoicing. You see, it’s the Winter Solstice, the first day of Yule, the returning of the light, but, nope, life had to go and get in the way, sticking out its frigging foot so that I tripped and tumbled into — I know, you get it and enough with the metaphors.

Okay, since Yule covers a 12 day period, do you mind if I end this post and come back in a day or two? You see, I’m really, really sad.

Blessed be :{

Mi manchi, mia amata immortale.

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The Anniversary

Marked by years
That pass too soon
Counted by heartbeats
And measured by tears

If I could
If I held the power
I would stall time
So this day would never come

Losing you
Was hard
Is hard
Will always be hard

Weeks
Days
Moments
Breaths

You are gone
Sadness has taken your place
Another year
You are missed

Mi manchi, mia amata immortale.

Dear Reader,

Here is another shameful plug for my small book of poetry. All the proceeds from the sale of my book will be donated to Ovations for the Cure, a cancer awareness organization that helps women struggling with ovarian cancer. Please consider purchasing my book or at least making a donation directly to Ovations for the Cure. Your kindness won’t go unappreciated by the Universe, and me. Blessed be :}

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The Circle Continues

The Circle of Life is a concept that many people know about. It speaks to the recycling of living tissue, both plant and animal, to death and back to another life form. Grass (or in my case garden mums) to rabbits to snakes or hawks to bacteria and back to grass (or mums) again.

Darn rabbits, leave my mum alone!!

What the Circle of Life doesn’t or shouldn’t include is a transformer.

No, not that type of transformer.
Bingo!

You see, we had a wind-driven rainstorm a couple of days ago and the transformer located at the top of a nearby electrical pole blew, emanating a loud zapping POP! My house lost power for about five minutes but then the lights came back and my life continued without missing a beat. Sadly, much to my ignorance, the zapping POP resulted in death. Today my neighbor came to tell me there was a dead hawk at the base of the electrical pole.

It was a beautiful Cooper’s Hawk and I believe it’s the one that’s been hanging around at the top of my trimmed oak tree. (see my YouTube Short below)

My neighbor and I used sage and conducted a blessing ceremony for the beautiful bird, hoping to send its energy soaring free. We placed it in a plastic tub, also cleansed with sage, and at present the hawk’s body resides in my basement while I wait to hear from Christine or Ashley, the Billerica Animal Control officers. I don’t know if I can bury the body or if Fish and Wildlife will want to record information about its weight, etc. Soooo, in my basement it will stay for at least another day.

My Cooper’s Hawk was stunning; a truly regal bird of prey. But he, or she, is no more.

My Cooper’s Hawk

Go ahead, tell me it’s all part of the Circle of Life and I’ll scoff, again pointing out man-made items shouldn’t be part of the circle. Mother Nature didn’t allow for things like cars, boats, guns, and transformers.

Once again, not that type of transformer.

I’m sure, in time, another hawk will move in and take over population control. Until then the squirrels in my yard can party like rock stars.

Now that’s what the Circle of Life is all about.

Blessed be. :}

Mi manchi, mia amata immortale.

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