Monday, August 30, 2010

Your environment influences you subtly (and sometimes not so subtly).

The Land matters. Where you live, How you live, The culture with which you surround yourself, Matters.

Your environment influences you subtly. This is one of the reasons I love living in New Orleans. It is a wonderful mix of Old World and New World. We have strong European influences. These influences tend to be from the French, Spanish, German, Italian primarily Sicilian cultures. We have strong African influences a result of the period of slavery. We have, in American, unique mixtures of European and African influences in the legacy of the French Code Noir. We have American Indian influences mingling with African influences. We have the Cajuns who came to Louisiana in the 1700s.

This place and its unique melange of history makes for an open and interesting life. It has an interesting way of existing "between the worlds", slightly out of phase with the rest of the world. This protects us. So some would say it isolates us and insulates us and makes us backwards. But in many ways we are so far behind we are head. We still have a walkable city with unique neighborhoods. We support local businesses and miss them when they are gone. We don't mind being silly. Or being perceived as unusual. We dance in the face of death. Our jazz funerals are a unique combination of a Irish funeral dirge and African dance. Where else could this have happened?

Can you imagine another city on the planet that, in 2005, could have been completely emptied of every citizen by hurricane followed by an engineering disaster that would have had so many people WANT to return? It's amazing. Some would say foolhardy, others magical.

Where ever you live take the time to know your landscape. Sure this means climate, geography, etc. But it should also include history of the place. Nature (climate, location, geography) influences "Place" but so do the imprints left by history. Get to know these as well. Knowing yourself is part of what it takes to make a witch. So is knowing the place where you live.

Sunday, August 29, 2010


By Mark Folse

Please watch the video and remember.
If you think it can't happen where you are... think again.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Women's Work & Post Katrina New Orleans

The Post-Katrina, Semiseparate World of Gender Politics
Pamela Tyler

When the New York Times reported "a wave of citizen activism" in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, it failed to mention that much of the wave was wearing lipstick and carrying a purse. Mopping up is, and always has been, women's work, so it comes as no surprise that large numbers of local women were active in post-Katrina recovery efforts in New Orleans. While some worked singly, volunteering their help in countless ways, others chose the timeworn path of women's associations. This essay focuses on the activities of three organizations formed by women after the hurricane: Citizens for 1 Greater New Orleans, the Katrina Krewe, and Women of the Storm.

In the weeks after Katrina, educated, economically comfortable women in New Orleans passed through historically familiar stages that led from a growing awareness of unmet needs, to frustration over official ineptitude, to the formation of women's organizations, which flowered into full-blown women's activism. Indignation over the failure of government galvanized New Orleans women as it had women reformers of the Progressive Era, with whom they have much in common. As women have done for decades, they responded by joining with like-minded women and pursuing a course of activism to bring change.

The experiences of these New Orleans women activists reprise themes of Progressive Era women who battled along a broad front of issues, including the prevention of cruelty to animals, the care of the mentally disabled, consent laws for marriage, and better teacher salaries. These activist women in post-Katrina New Orleans exemplify the silk-stocking tradition of reformism, which has a long history in the Crescent City. In the 1890s, the Women's League for Sewerage and Drainage, led by the sisters Jean and Kate Gordon, of later woman suffrage fame, advocated a modern sewerage and drainage system to curb the periodic epidemics and flooding caused by primitive waste disposal methods and entirely inadequate drainage, which the city had done nothing to improve. Their energetic work resulted in the passage of a property tax increase; the New Orleans press claimed that their small women's pressure group "probably did as much work for the special tax as all the men in this city put together." After 1920, enfranchised New Orleans women frequently participated in electoral campaigns under the banner of "good government" to oust individuals they labeled "corrupt." Their unpaid work of lobbying, canvassing, monitoring, and publicizing often bore fruit. Women pressed state and local governments to adopt measures to protect women and children in factories, to close saloons on election day, and to pay male and female school teachers equally. Elite women reformers became darlings of the local media, as press coverage typically lauded their efforts and praised their motives.

New Orleans women reformers of those earlier eras made use of the southern lady mystique and the magic cloak of privilege as they worked toward their goals. Woven of manner, speech, and social connections, enhanced by the wardrobe and confidence that money can buy, that cloak guaranteed them entrée and helped shield them from criticism. In the wake of Katrina, New Orleans women of the economic elite, equipped with similar advantages, again donned that cloak and stepped forward to work for reforms that they found compelling. * * *

All true, but also so did many less well connected and less well off women join in the fray. One was my friend Karen Gadbois who created Squandered Heritage and who's capacity to see the Web of Life lead to a Peabody, who now writes for The Lens and who still inspires me.

* * * There are about 4475 more words in this article. But there is a fee to read them.

Friday, August 27, 2010

A 911 Investigation .... an 829 investigation

Levees.Org has been recommending that there be an investigation into the largest engineering failure ever to occur in America.

Click here for more detail...

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

What is is about New Orleans supporters know that a letter from nearly always contains an action item or some pressing to do right away.

But as we approach the 5th Anniversary of the Worst Civil Engineering Disaster in U.S. History, we will make a couple of exceptions and reach out perhaps only to share....

This past June, I met Dr. Steve Gorelick at a 3-day conference in New Orleans hosted by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice. On his own, he wrote me recently about his reaction (and his family's) to the City and its people. I found his letter fascinating, and with his permission, I have reprinted it here.

My wife Amy, 12 year-old daughter Molly and I have not been able to stop talking about NOLA. I mean, I know NOLA is hip and mysterious and legendary and what-not. But setting aside all those popular, oft-repeated perceptions, I think it's safe to say that -- completely unexpectedly -- we hooked into a much deeper narrative, one I don't think we even fully understand two months later.

Maybe it was the unexpected lack of repression or puritanical nonsense. Maybe the lack of shame. Or maybe it was the disarming, fearless expression of emotion as people described their homes, their parents, their lost photos, their recipes. I just know that it seemed like a level of personal investment by people in their own, special place that I have never seen anywhere in the world.

And I don't think that many Americans - especially policy makers and politicians -- get what looked pretty obvious to me: All the anger people still feel, all the activism like fueled by that anger, and all the mournfulness about the shameful way Katrina refugees and other residents were and are still treated, looked to a first-time outsider as so raw, so intimate, that I started to see it as a marriage. Strange, huh? A marriage?

What I mean is that so many people talked about their connection to their place almost as if they were in long-term, committed, passionate, occasionally rageful, yet lovingly turbulent relationships. I just don't remember ever seeing or hearing that anywhere else. Ever.

At one point, a week after I got back, I actually found myself laughing as I thought: "God help anyone in public life who imagines that the people in NOLA fighting to rebuild and fighting to investigate the history of negligence might actually settle for half a solution or half an investigation! Settle? Please! The people I met seemed as likely to settle for a cold beignet as for a half-baked investigation that reveals anything less than the whole truth of what happened.

It's funny: I have been to conflict zones and countries where people would, in a split second -- kill if they felt their place threatened. Yet I had the feeling New Orleans people have an even stronger tie. And it's not that they would kill. It was even stronger than that. It was an almost mystical refusal to die.

And I need to feel it again. There. Soon.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Chapter 26 – Magic, the Astral Plane, the Law of Return

Owen was standing out in front of his new pathway smiling. As she pulled into the driveway and looked over the work that had been done on Owen’s yard she thought it still looked so stark and new. It wouldn’t look anything like the picture she had in her head until much later in the season or even next year. Their vision of what the garden would look like had been so expansive she was almost afraid Owen would be disappointed.

She got out and shut the door of the truck and said, as he looked over the newly installed path, “Well what do you think?”
“I think that I'm going to have to find other work for Latasha's grandson this summer.” And he waved his hand. "No more grass for him to cut." And she smiled knowing how he did his best to take care of the people in his life.

It was Thursday and she had taken a half day off from work so she could be at Owen's at the crack of dawn to make sure the guys understood where she wanted the larger plants placed and give some general guidelines on how she had learned to put the plants in ground and why this made long term maintenance easier and helped them survive in heat of summer. Then she went off to work for the rest of the day, while these larger plants went in. It has been really hard to walk away and let someone else dig in the mud, but Owen had more than enough people to do the work and she knew it wouldn't be good if she hovered. She was now back at Owen's that same afternoon, early enough to take a look the work that had been done and to place the smaller plants so that the guys could finish the planting on Friday. She had chased Owen off. He wanted to help but his hovering wasn’t really helpful so she finally said, “Owen, This is one of those times where you can’t help, any more than you could help an artist paint a picture. The pots are small and easy to carry and place. I got it.” And knowing that kissing him made all the difference gave him a light kiss. He smiled and realized just how much he was hovering. So he went in side and ordered Port of Call hamburgers and was now off picking up their dinner. When he returned she was finishing setting the roses in the front yard. She was pleased with what she saw except that there wasn't enough mulch. As he met her in the drive way she said, “The plantings look good. I thought we had gone a little light on the mulch so I picked up another truck load on my way from work. I’ve set them where they’re most needed. The guys know that I’m looking for about 2 – 3 inches of mulch in all the bare areas. Mulch now equals less work later.” And she waved her arm around so he would look at the yard. He stood there looking at how quickly the pots had been dispersed and how different the yard looked already.
“Please tell Maurice and Larry thank you for the string on the walls for the vines. It’s absolutely perfect.” She turned to him and said, “It’s going to look a little paltry and stark for a while as the plants dig in and fill out. But they will as long as you water consistently” and she smiled then said, “but not too much. It’s all about the balance.”
“Don’t worry, your creation will be just fine. All it needs is a little time. When we walk away from a job, with all its fresh paint and straight lines and no furniture, it’s the same feeling. Time makes a home. Time makes a garden.”
She looked at him impressed and then brushed of her hands and said, “That’s beautiful Owen. I was a little worried about what you thought.” And she sighed, “Now you better take me inside or I will stay out here wandering from plant to plant and waste all evening.”
He grinned at her and they walked back to the kitchen. He handed her a glass of the Ruffino Galestro Griffe.
“Oh the Galestro… You know I looked that up and it’s not a grape. It’s essentially Italian for Schist.”
And he looked at her with eyebrows raised.
“Sorry, geologist term… Schist… metamorphic rock, slates, mudstones... it makes for dry rocky soils.”
He was surprised, “You said the wine tasted like it came from dry rocky soils.”
“Well how about that? It does.” And she smiled at him. “And it tastes good too. I looked up Griffe too. If I’ve googled correctly then the wine is Ruffino’s ‘Designer Label’ Galestro. Apparently Galestro is a common soil type in wine regions in Italy and Ruffino created a designer label wine from this harsh soil.” She took a sip and smiled at him.
As they ate dinner he thought about how she could taste the kind of soil the grape had been grown… How it seemed she paid attention to everything and bothered to learn about the smallest things…like a word she didn’t recognize on a wine label…

As they were finishing up dinner, he said, “The pool guys called today. They confirmed they're starting on Monday. It's going to be at least a week before you can work your magic on the back yard.”
“Perfect lead in.”
He looked at her quizzically.
“I had planned to talk about Aradia’s Words on Magic tonight. Where would you like for us to settle?”
“It's a beautiful night out so how about the front porch. If I try to keep you inside your mind will just be out there anyway. Or will the plants be too distracting to you?” he teased.
She teased back and said with mock seriousness, “Oh, I don’t know,” and sighed, “But I'll do my best to stay focused.” Then thought practically, “Is there enough light to read out there?”
“Yep, The overhead is on a rheostat but turning it up to reading light will make it too harsh. We can move the lamp from the Library to the porch, I’ve done it before.”
“Ok Chief.”
“Chief, was what my pipefitter grandfather called anyone who was in charge or designing a project. It was his way of saying the plan was good. Let’s do it.”
“Ok Chief.”

She stood holding their glasses of wine and the wine bottle while Owen set up the chairs, table and lamp from the library. When he was done and settled she was still standing there looking out at the garden. Owen had settled in the chair and was waiting and watching her watch the garden, then he cleared his throat.
“Oh, I’m sorry."
He teased again, “I don’t know, this might just be more than you handle.”
She smiled at him and said, “Don’t sass your teacher. Where’s the manual?”
He grinned at her and waved the Manual, which had been face down on the table open to Aradia’s Words on Magic. “Shall I read for us?”
She settled in the chair, sipped the wine and said, “Please.”
He read,
“There is a force which dwells in all things, which is called the Numen. The power of an object is the power of its Numen. This essence has, of its own accord, a definite consciousness. If you are in harmony with the Ways, then you may call upon any Numen which you desire, and it will assist you. This is but one aspect of Magickal rapport.”

Numen is a concept that spans many cultures. In anthropological circles it is often referred to as mana, a term that comes from the South Pacific. It is thought of as an unseen force which can interact with and influence our lives. I think of it as a critical component of the web of life. When you are aware of and plugged into the web of life you feel the mana or numen and you can work with these forces. The elementals are another kind of force. We'll get to them later." She looked at him as if to ask, Do you have questions. But Owen hadn't formed any so he kept reading.

Know that all things of the same nature (or essence) are as links in a chain. Through one you may influence the other. By this law do we make use of clay puppets. Yet even the mind is linked by thoughts and has power to reach out on its own.
Nola said, "Links in a chain, the web of life. The book 'The Web of Life' by Fritjof Capra outlines, as a scientist, just how this web of life works and how connected we moderns rarely realize our world and our actions are. Have you read it?
"No, He's the same guy who wrote the 'Tao of Physics' right?"
Nola smiled as she appreciated the fact that Owen was exceptionally well read. "Same guy. 'The Web of Life' was written after the 'Tao of Physics.' I'll bring it next time if you're interested in reading it?
"Woman, I'm interested in reading everything you recommend.
She smiled at him and said, "Be careful what you ask for."

He smiled and kept reading.
The substance of Magick is best controlled and directed through the use of ritual. Ritual attracts power and through repetition it is accumulated.
"Like most things you get better at magic with practice. Ritual is part of the training program for interacting with the web of life."
Owen kept reading,
"Certain channels of power are formed through ritual, which becomes a link to a desired response or contact. Thus do we make use of the secret signs, symbols and gestures (which are empowered). Repetition is necessary as well as consistency."
She smiled and said, "When the musician asked, 'How do you get to Carnegie Hall?' He was told, 'Practice. Practice. Practice.' "

and Owen smiled as he read,
"As Strega, we draw power down from the Moon and also do we draw power from Nature. The God and Goddess oversee our works, as do the Grigori. When our Magick does not produce the desired effects, it is because a greater power resists its power. This is often a sign that the nature of the Magick was improper. Yet it can be that another Strega works against you. If this becomes the matter, then seek this person out and resolve your differences."
"I've seen many people read this and think, 'oooo those other witches they are stopping my magic from working'. I like to think of this as a safety net. If I am doing magic and it might not be best for me or others or even accomplish what I want, then the Grigori are looking out for me. If I have rapport and connection to them then they will stop me from hurting myself. As for the rest, confrontation bothers some people, not me. I have no problem talking to someone who may disagree with me. So seeking someone out to resolve differences isn't a stretch. But it can be for others. The advice is sound regardless of whether the differences are about magic or the more mundane." And she looked at him waiting for a comment but he just kept reading.

"Understand that you must always work in harmony with the phases of the Moon, under the blessings of the God and Goddess and in accordance with the laws and ways."
We'll talk about the Law of Return a little later.

He nodded and kept reading:
"The Moon symbolizes the hidden things revealed in darkness. The night is the side of life which is unknown. The light of the Moon is subtle and active on hidden levels. So too is our Magick."
Many folks want to "do magic" and think its all about the tools and techniques. They think if they have the right spell and the right stuff then anyone can say the magic words and make it happen. Magic is more subtle.

He kept reading:
"The powers which are obtained through the knowledge of the Old Ways are neither good nor evil, it is only the way in which you use them that is good or evil."
When I first started studying I bumped heads with my teacher over this concept. I was personalizing things too much. I know that there are some people who are evil. There is no explanation or excuse for what they do. But this passage isn't about people. People can have evil intent. This passage is about the powers or energy in the web of life, about the numen, about the laws of nature. These are neither good nor evil. It is our intentions that can be good or evil, sound or misguided. It's the way we interact with these forces that are good or evil not the innate and essential forces themselves. Energy is energy. It can provide power to your light your bulb or split a tree. There is no evil or good innate in the energy itself."

And Owen thought to himself that at it was good to hear that Nola had struggled with a concept. So often she seemed to have absorbed the concepts so completely and woven it so thoroughly into who she was that it was hard to know where the concept stopped and Nola started. She saw him thinking and sipped her wine while she waited for the question.

But he kept reading.
The mind is most receptive to the influence of power when the person is intoxicated or asleep (within two hours of awakening). This is true also of trance, which is induced through chant and dance.
And Owen stopped and said, "Well I can vouch for that. Papa Eric definitely knows how to reach me when I am drowsy or asleep."

Then he read,
"The mind which dreams (the subconscious) is directly linked to the Moon Worlds (the Astral Realms) just as the mind which knows the daylight (the conscious mind) is directly linked to the Physical World. It is through the dream mind that the Moon Worlds are contacted. It is through the Moon Worlds that Magickal influences and Magickal forms, are created. These in turn, influence the Physical World."
"You mind is a powerful part of what is necessary to do Magic. But while your conscious mind which interacts with the physical world is important and you must have conscious intent, it is your subconscious mind that links best with the powers of numen, the plane of forces, the Astral."
And she made the Triangle of Manifestation with her hands, then separated her hands still holding the shapes necessary to make the triangle and gestured with her right hand,
"To do Magic, you have to have intent, with your conscious mind on the physical plane" and she wiggled her right thumb.
"But this intent needs to mingle with your subconscious, with numen, be reinforced, or sometimes restrained, by the Gods and Grigori." And she touched the tops of the pointing fingers of her right hand with the tips of her left. "You have to link the Physical to the Astral."
Then she put her left hand up in the shape necessary to make the Triangle of Manifestation. "When Magic works the result comes from the Astral," and she touched the tops of the fingers of her left hand with the right, "and return to the Physical Plane." Then she wiggled the thumb of her left hand. And then she put her hands together and created the Triangle of Manifestation and wiggled her right thumb. "You send it to the Astral, it mingles with the hidden forces and then returns to the physical plane. And she wiggled her left thumb.

"Wow, I've seen you make the Triangle of Manifestation a bunch of times but I really didn't realize how powerful that symbol was until just now."
And she nodded and smiled at him while he sat there still looking a little surprised. So she looked out at the garden again, took a sip of her wine and let him soak it in.

She felt him stir in his chair and his thoughts settle back into his body and he smiled at her and started reading again,
"It is the purpose of symbols to speak to the dream mind, and plant the Magickal seeds which will manifest. It is the purpose of rituals(and spells) to establish the patterns of power. These patterns are established to either draw upon power or to raise power (or both)."
And he said, "Triangle of Manifestation, symbols repeated through ritual. I think I get it now." She smiled with the delight a teacher gets when the pupil catches on.

And he read,
"Magickal and ritual correspondences are incorporated to take advantage of the Numen qualities in objects, times of power, links to Deities, and states of consciousness (awareness)."
And she said, "The web of life again, the cycles of the season, learning to be still and listen so we can make the connection and participate in the web."

Owen nodded and read:
"The art of Magick is a blending of inner or personal power with that of the natural powers and divine powers."
Witches, Streghe do Magic because this blending and joining becomes a innate part of how we and our inner and personal power or consciousness interact with the natural and the divine. At the Summer Solstice we are called upon directly to do Magic to heal the earth. Magic is a part of our religion.

And Owen sat back in his chair and took a sip of wine thinking out loud, "You're going to tell me you want me to do Magic."
"Well, I want you to think about doing Magic. I want you to understand how Magic and the Ways work together. I want you to understand what Magic is and what Magic isn't."
"But I'm not so sure I really want to do Magic."
"Really? Most folks who get into this stuff can't wait."
"Well, I'm not most folks."
And she smiled at him and said, "No, Owen you're not." And then she let him think about it some more. Then she said, "I'm not asking you to twitch your nose right now."
"Twitch my nose, you mean like Samantha in 'Bewitched'?"
And she nodded and grinned, "Didn't everyone who saw 'Bewitched’ want to be able to twitch their nose and have what they wanted happen? That's just what I call it when I do Magic or even how I refer to doing ritual. When I need a little alone time to do ritual or interact with the Lare Shrine, I'll say to James and Jamie that I'm going to twitch my nose."
"So you're nose twitching right now?"
"Well, not exactly but I did say, " 'I'm off to Owen's to twitch my nose', when I left the house tonight."
And he smiled at that and she said, "Shall we read Aradia's Words on the Astral Plane?"

He picked up the book and read,
"The Astral World, through the Plane of Forces, receives the thoughts and vibrations of actions from the Physical World. Just as solid materials are used to create objects in our world Thoughts and vibrations create etheric object on the Astral Plane."
And he remembered her Triangle of Manifestation and wiggling her thumbs along the base of the triangle to indicate the Physical World and the apex of the Triangle where her fingers touched and said, "I think the Triangle of Manifestation is a very powerful tool. That symbol and how you used your hands to describe is exact what this refers to.
And she smiled and nodded at him indicating silently, You got it, exactly.

And he kept reading
"Therefore, what people strongly believe in enough can be created astrally. This is one method by which ritual Magick is performed. Energy is first raised with a specific purpose in mind, then it is given up to the Plane of Forces, where it is drawn and channeled to the Astral World, and so obtains a thought form."
He looked up and she said,
"So you generate energy yourself and/or you connect to it as numen in the web of life and/or you connect to the energy from the Grigori and the Gods and you send it to the Astral where it becomes a thing, a thought form on the Astral. This Thought Form exists in the Astral before it returns to interact on the physical plane. Sometimes I find it a bit scary to thing that what people believe strongly enough can be created astrally. I think about all the people whose view of the world is so different from mine, so unaligned with the web of life and I worry. I think this is exactly why Streghe are charged once a year at the Summer Solstice to do Magic to heal the earth. We do it to counter act the Thought Forms that might not have the Earth's best of intentions at their core."
And Owen thought and said out loud, "Well that is something when you think about it like that. You really think that everyone can interact with the Astral?"
"Sure why not? The component parts exist whether people realize it or not. Some people are more naturally talented than others. Remember that scene in the first Harry Potter where Harry is at the Zoo and he sees the snake and connects with it and feels strongly that it would be good if the snake could get free and then suddenly the glass is gone and the snake is free. Natural talent." And she saw Owen grin remembering the scene and said, "Sure it's a novel but it illustrates the point pretty well don't you think?"
"Yep, it sure does. Just don't tell Pat Robertson it's possible."
"Oh well in some ways Pat Robertson already knows. What do you think Christians are doing when they pray?"
And he sat there and thought about it a minute. "Interacting with the Astral?"
"Yuk." and he wrinkled his nose.
And she chuckled, "I know, right? Scary.” Then said seriously, “But it again only illustrates that these concepts and the component parts are there for anyone to apply."

She could see him thinking ‘Hmmm.’ And waited until he returned to the book and read,
“The true purpose of the Astral Plan is to prepare us for future lives and existences by burning out (purifying) or exhausting, all of our fears, desires and false concepts. These bind us to the lower worlds. So it is our afterlife experiences in the lower astral world which transforms us.”
This is to remind us that while the Astral is a critical part of how we do Magic it's not the Astral's primary purpose. The Astral is there to ensure that we have a place to work out the lessons of physical life, to learn from these so that we can be transformed, learn and grow.

And Owen said, "So the concept of reincarnation is integral to Stregheria."
"Yes, absolutely. I've always thought that reincarnation made a lot of sense. In science we have the carbon cycle, the water cycle, the sedimentary cycle...." and she waved her hand in the air to indicate many others. "Reincarnation is simply the soul cycle."
"Well that's an oddly logical way to look at it."
And she thought 'oddly logical', but said, "Do you think that reincarnation is possible? Have you ever felt like you've had something from a previous life influence this one?"
"Well, I don't know. It's odd, sometimes I think that the reason why I'm in New Orleans is because I have to be here to complete something. But I do believe that we humans are more than just our physical parts. I think that we have, for want of a better word, a soul. I like the way you put it, a Soul Cycle. Yes, I think there is a soul cycle."

And she had so much she could say on this topic that she knew she could get them of course so she said nothing and he decided to continue reading,
"The Astral World is under the Divine Law of Cause and Effect, action and reaction. It is the essence of the Three-fold Law."
"We'll read the Aradia's Words on the Law of Cause and Effect next."

So he kept reading ,
"The Astral Planes contain all the heavens and hells which followers of all religions believe in. They will experience what they believe awaits them."
"In short we create our own heavens and our own hells. 'What Dreams May Come' is a fascinating and sad movie, with Robin Williams, of all people, that illustrates this concept exceptionally well. I use it as a teaching tool but really don't like watching it myself. I'll watch with you if you want but you're going to have to talk me into sitting through that one with you."
Owen said, "Ok, I'll keep that in mind. Although if you don't like it why do you recommending it?
"Oh, it's not that I don't like it. The movie is really well done. It's just that watching someone create their own hell and then watching what that does to the people around them is hard to take. It's a very powerful movie."
And Owen thought she actually looked stressed thinking about it and that it might be best to watch it without her. He tucked that thought away and picked the book back up and finished reading Aradia's Words on the Astral Plane.

"On the Astral Plane, thoughts are things. As you believe so shall it be."
He grinned and said, “As I learned from Star Trek and you when you were remembering your other Taurus friend.”
And she grinned right back at him.
"Ok Chief, what's next?"
"Aradia's Words on the Law of Return. You should probably read them straight through and then we'll take then pieces apart and put them back together."

So he found those in the book and started reading:
"Every act which you perform will draw to itself three times the nature of the act. Such is the Law.

This affects not only the acts of each day, but reaches into the future as well. Here the Law establishes those debts which must be paid.

Therefore consider well your actions. Nothing escapes the Law, nor is anything hidden from it. The Law does not punish nor reward. It only returns the intent of each action to its origin.

If you step off from a high place you will fall, and this is consistent. There is no intent, there is nothing good or evil. It may be good to leap upon your enemy from a high place and surprise him, or it may be bad to fall and be injured. But the nature of the descent is only a law. So too is the nature of the Law of Return."

And Owen said, "Three times."
And Nola smiled because this too was a common sticking point. "Yes. I was taught that ‘3 times the nature of the act’ doesn't mean 3 times as powerful, good or bad. It means the act returns to us 3 ways: in the physical, mentally, and spiritually. This return will be on the physical plane, you do something with good intent and effect and this act returns to you some way, some how on the physical plane. It also returns to you and affects how you think, what you have the capacity to create on the Astral in the future. It can impact your world view. It also returns to you on the spiritual plane. It can reach into your future lives and establish debts that can only be repaid in the next cycle. This is one of the reasons why the saying, 'Be careful what you ask for.' is so very, very appropriate when we talk about Magic."

And she paused and took a sip of wine, "Do you remember Disney's Mickey Mouse in the Sorcerer's Apprentice?" And Owen looked like he thought he did but wasn't sure. So Nola described it. "Mickey is the apprentice and the Sorcerer has finished with a ritual and spell. Mickey is responsible for filling the basin with fresh water but is still thinking about the Sorcerer's magic and puts on the Sorcerer's hat and uses magic to get the broom to do his work. Then he falls asleep. Think about the fact that Aradia's words on Magic indicate that it is through the dream world that we can connect to the Moon Worlds or the Astral. Anyway, Mickey knows what he wants to accomplish: fill the basin. He gets the broom doing his work for him, falls asleep and wakes up to an overwhelming and out of control flood."
"Oh yeah I remember now, and he chases the broom around with an ax and ends up with hundreds of out of control brooms. Then he gets caught by the Sorcerer who gets the magic and the brooms under control and Mickey wanders off a little sheepish and chagrined."
Nola was nodding at him, "Excellent illustration of 'Be careful what you wish for'. I remember telling my daughter when she we 4, 5, 6 or whenever we watch Fantasia that part of doing magic is knowing when to tell it enough, stop."
"I bet your daughter has had a very interesting upbringing."
"I hope these little lessons are so woven into the rest of her life that they are boring enough to hide in plain sight until she needs them."
Owen smiled at her and then looked back at the manual and said, "There is that bit in here similar to what you said earlier, how did you put it? 'Energy is energy." There is no good or bad.
And Nola said, "Yes, the Law is part of the same laws of nature if you will. The Law of Return just is. When something happens as a result of the Law of Return it isn't to punish or reward. The Law is just responding to the laws of nature, to the web of life and the cycles of rebirth."

Owen sat thoughtfully and finally said, "Well that's sure a different more sophisticated and comprehensive view of Magic than I am used to."
"What do you mean?"
"Oh you know, the fluffy bunny stuff of most Wiccans was never explained to me or practiced that way. It just seemed superficial and silly.”
"Oh, well when you talk about doing something that can affect you on 3 different levels and potentially impact a lifetime to come, I'm not thinking it's silly. Magic is a part of how we practice and worship. Oh I don't think that you need to be twitching your nose like some sort of physical exercise routine. But I do think, as your teacher, that you should practice in order to understand it and in order to be able to use it when it is necessary or useful.

He took another sip of wine and looked at her skeptically as he saw his glass was almost empty and poured some more in to both of their glasses.
Nola saw the face and said, "It's not that different from how you practiced to circle casting or the Rite of Union. Your ritual skills are better than I ever was at this point in my training. I resisted the smells and bells. I was all in my head about the philosophy and theory. I’m sure some of that was because I was learning online and didn’t have someone to show me how it was done or to practice with me, except on rare and special occasions which we had to work to make happen. So it kind of had to be all in my head." And she smiled at him and said, “It is so much nicer to have someone to actually practice with, rather than having to do it all by myself alone.”

And he smiled back at that and teased said, “So I'm tempting again, even though I take up significant quantities of your time."
And she smiled a little sheepishly about how blunt she could be sometimes, while he said, "I can’t imagine doing this without having someone to talk to in person and to show me how it works. I’d have probably ended up throwing the book away in frustration without you to talk me through the Lare Shrine problem.” And he heard Papa Eric say loud and clear, “Then why aren’t you listening to her now, son?”

And Nola said, "Then why the resistance?” Then her intuition tingled, “Or dare I say disdain? Is the thought of doing magic too fluffy bunny for you?”

And Owen thought and said out loud, “Well, maybe. In reading other books about how magic is done there is all this talk about anointing candles, choosing the right oil, picking the color for the candle or the flowers or the right kinds of herb or…”
and she interrupted him with a giggle and said, “then don’t use those tools.”
And he looked at her confused. “Owen those are only the trappings. And she repeated what she had said earlier, "Magic is more subtle than that. Those things are only there to help focus your energy, focus your thoughts. It’s the thoughts that are things. It’s you mind that makes that magic."

Owen wasn't convinced. "Well I don't know. I don't see myself as being very good at this."
"Everyone has the capacity to do magic. When you turn the force of your personality on someone it’s pretty impressive. You can visualize. It is part of what you do for a living. You see potential and possibilities in the houses you renovate and repair. You are just using your earth sign tendencies to make them real in an earthy, practical fashion. You have the potential. I trust that the Grigori won’t let you get yourself in too much trouble."
And she saw him seriously consider that.
"I'm not asking you to whip up a spell this evening. I'm just trying to be thorough in how I teach you The Ways. All I want you to do at this point is think about it."
And he smiled at her and said, "I can do that, Chief." And he winked at her. "I can do that."
And she smiled back.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Protective Charm for your Vehicle

Place the following in a white cloth:
- salt,
- a sprig of rue,
- a tiny gold horn (or cornu)
- if you can't afford or find a cornu consider using a dried chili pepper
- and a small pair of scissors or a small knife.
Tie the ends shut with red ribbon.

Place the charm on the Chariot Tarot Card and charge on a Full Moon.
You must infuse the charm with your will. You should spend sometime thinking about what it means to be in control of your vehicle. Is it well maintained and fully functional? Is it insured? Do you know how to handle in different circumstances. Think about being a successful and safe driver. Envision yourself capable of handling your car safely as you drive.

After the charm is charged under the moonlight and with your intent place it in the glove compartment.

To enhance your own safety and that of your passengers in the vehicle, dab some protective rue oil (charged under the moon for at least 3 days) on the seat belts locks, and then wear them.

If you are concerned about your vehicle being stolen, use rue oil to mark pentcles or the symbol of power inside the door frames and trunk of your vehicle.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Magical Yeast

A few weeks ago I got this really great book by Judika Illes titled Encyclopeadia of 5000 spells. It is a great reference book and a fun read. This made me think about the reference books I typically use when ever spell crafting. One of my all time favorites is Tarot Spells by Janina Renee. This book literally changed the way I do spell work. I find that tarot cards are a great way to draw in universal energies and archtypes and help focus the mind for visualization. Also I don't think I've worked a spell in the past 10 years when I didn't reference Scott Cunningham's Encyclopeadia of Magical Herbs..

All that said, I never do spells straight out of someone elses book even when the book is fun and well researched. It is my experience that magical use items (things like oils, candles, color symbolism, incense, tarot cards, herbs, flowers, etc.) are like magical yeast. You use yeast to make bread rise and to create a transformation. Each recipe is unique and your bread won't be *exactly* like anyone else's. How you use the magical yeast depends on what you are trying to make and the conditions surrounding the issue. As any baker can tell you, the environmental conditions might mean that you have to alter the recipe. This is why all magic should be carefully evaluated in context and carefully "crafted", before acting.
They don't call it witchCRAFT for nothin'. This is also why the saying "Be careful what you ask for" is something even "muggles" understand.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Works by Sabina Magliocco

"Aradia in Sardinia: the Archeology of a Folk Character," in D. Green and D. Evans, ed., Ten Years of Triumph of the Moon: Essays in Honor of Ronald Hutton, 40-60. Bristol, UK: Hidden Publishing, 2009.

"In Search of the Roots of Stregheria: Observations on the History of a Reclaimed Tradition," in Speaking Memory: Oral History, Oral Culture and Italians in America, ed. Luisa Del Giudice; 165-182. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009.

"Italian Cunning Craft: Some Preliminary Observations," Journal for the Academic Study of Magic 5 (2008), 103-133.

"Reclamation, Appropriation and the Ecstatic Imagination," in James R. Lewis, ed. Handbook of Contemporary Paganism, 223-240. Leiden: Brill, 2008.

"Italian American Stregheria and Wicca: Ethnic Ambivalence in American Neopaganism," in Modern Paganism in World Cultures: Comparative Perspectives, ed. by Michael Strmiska (Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-Clio, 2006), 55-86.

"La reclamación del folclor y la costrucción de la brujería Ítalo-estadounidense," in Modernidades Locales: etnografía del presente múltiple, ed. Steffan Igor Ayora Dias and Gabriela Vargas Cetina; 179-219. Istituto de Cultura de Yucatán, Universidád Autonoma de Yucatán, 2005.

"Altars and Shrines" and "Ritualizing and Anthropology," in Encyclopedia of Nature Religions, ed. by Bron Taylor and Jeffrey Kaplan; 36-37 and 1388-1390. London and New York: Thoemmes Continuum, 2005.

"Imagining the Strega: Folklore Reclamation and the Construction of Italian American Witchcraft," in Performing Ecstasies: Music, Dance, and Ritual in the Mediterranean ed. Luisa Del Giudice and Nancy van Deusen (Ottawa, Canada: The Institute of Mediaeval Music, 2005), 277-301.

"Witchcraft, Healing and Vernacular Magic in 19th and 20th Century Italy," in Popular Magic in Modern Europe, ed. by Owen Davies (Manchester University Press, 2004), 151-173.

"Magic" (Vol. 2, 669-70) and "Sardinia" (Vol. 2, 1013-15) Medieval Italy: an Encyclopedia, ed. by Christopher Kleinhenz (Routledge, 2004).

"Wicca" (441-44) and "Neopaganism" (307-310), Encyclopedia of Religious Rites, Rituals and Festivals, ed. Frank Salamone (Routledge, 2004)

"The Opposite of Right Society: Witchcraft, Terrorism and the Discourse of Evil." Etnologia Europaea 32/2 (2003), 13-22.

"Aradia" and "Strega," Encyclopedia of Modern Witchcraft and Neopaganism, ed. by S. T. Rabinowitch. Citadel Press, 2002; 12-13 and 262-63.

"Who Was Aradia? The History and Development of a Legend," The Pomegranate 18 (2002), 5-22.

"Imagining the Strega: Folklore Reclamation and the Construction of Italian-American Witchcraft" Italian American Review 8/2 (2001), 57-81.

"Coordinates of Power and Performance: Festivals as Sites of (Re)Presentation and Reclamation in Sardinia," Ethnologies 23/1 (2001) 167-188.

"Spells, Saints and Streghe: Witchcraft, Folk Magic and Healing in Italy," The Pomegranate 13 (2000), 2-22.

"Witchcraft" (Vol. 20:208-9), The New Book of Knowledge (Grolier, 2000).

"The Real Old-Time Religion: Towards an Aesthetic of Neo-Pagan Song," in Ethnologies 20/1 (1998), 175-201 (with Holly Tannen).

"Introduction," Ethnologies Special Issue: Wicca 20/1 (1998), 7-17.

"Ritual is My Chosen Art Form: The Creation of Ritual as Folk Art Among Contemporary Pagans," Magical Religions and Modern Witchcraft, ed. by James Lewis (SUNY Press; 1996), 93-119.

"Playing With Food: the Negotiation of Identity in the Ethnic Display Event by Italian-Americans in Clinton, Indiana," Studies in Italian American Folklore, ed. by Luisa Del Giudice (Utah State University Press, 1993), 107-126 [Reprinted in Barbara G. Shortridge and James R. Shortridge, ed., A Taste of American Place (New York: Rowman & Littlefield, 1998), 145-162].

"Eels, Bananas and Cucumbers: A Sexual Legend and Changing Women's Values in Rural Sardinia," Fabula 34 (1993), 66-77.

"Folklore and Language Teaching: Preliminary Remarks and Practical Suggestions," Italica 69/4 (1992), 451-465.

"Single Women in Sardinian Pastoral Society: Contemporary Roles and Historical Models," Proceedings of the First International Conference on Mediterranean Pastoralism (Nuoro: Istituto Regionale Etnografico Superiore, 1992).

"1846 and All That: a New History of Folkloristics," Folklore Forum 21/1 (1988), 128-137 (Reprinted in Metafolkloristica, ed. F. Kinder, 1989).

"The Bloomington Jaycees' Haunted House," Indiana Journal of Folklore and Oral History 14/1 (1984), 19-28.

"Italian Immigrant Narratives," Folklore Forum 17/1 (1984), 61-67.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Festival of Torches

Taken from:

by Helen Park
The Ides of August is one of the most magical times of the year, in my opinion. It's the time of a most ancient Feria (festival) of the Nemoralia (aka Festival of Torches), later adopted by Catholics to be The Feast of the Assumption. (1) In Italy, this Feria is celebrated either on the 13-15th of August or during the August Full Moon. If it just so happens that the Full Moon comes on the 13-l5th, hold tight!
This poem by Ovid, from his Fasti, describes the ancient celebration:

In the Arrician valley,
there is a lake surrounded by shady forests,
Held sacred by a religion from the olden times...
On a long fence hang many pieces of woven thread,
and many tablets are placed there
as grateful gifts to the Goddess.
Often does a woman whose prayers Diana answered,
With a wreath of flowers crowning her head,
Walk from Rome carrying a burning torch...
There a stream flows down gurgling from its rocky bed...

Picture this. It is the August Full Moon. A long procession of twinkling lights wind down what is now called Via Diana, or, Diana's Road. The pilgrims forming this procession of torches and candles line up alongside the dark waters of Diana's Mirror, or Lake Nemi. (2) One of the Earth's most sacred sites, the lake is just a few miles south of Rome, Italy, and is dedicated to Diana, the Great Goddess of the Moon. The lake, in a volcanic crater, is almost perfectly oval, and from the vantage point where the Temple of Diana once graced its banks, you can see the Moon reflected clearly in the smooth as glass, dark mirror of water.
Picture again the August Full Moon night. Hundreds have come to Diana's lake, wearing flowers wreathed around their necks and foreheads. According to Plutarch, everyone there had made a special ritual of washing their hair before dressing it with flowers. Garlanded hounds also marched by the side of hunters. Little boats, lit by oil lamps strung on prow and stern, ferried festive crowds back and forth across the lake, traveling from the south jetty to Diana's temple on the north bank. La Luna, rising high overhead, gazed down on the pilgrims and on Her reflection in the lake.

Those gathered there would write small messages on ribbons and tie them to a fence at the sanctuary, in supplication to She Who Provides. Likewise, numerous small statuettes of body parts would have been found there. It was common practice in Italy (and Greece) to bake a small model of an afflicted part of the body and offer it to a God or Goddess as a votive. Also offered were small clay images of mother and child, and tiny sculptures of stags, one of the favored animals of Artemis/Diana (and perhaps a symbol of Actaeon, who spied on the Goddess while She was bathing and was turned into a deer). Apples were likewise given to Diana as the Soul of Nature who protects all species, including humans.

Offerings of garlic are made to the Goddess of the Dark Moon, Hecate, during the festival. In Wicca, Diana is often considered the Maiden aspect of the Moon Goddess, Who manifests as Maid, Mother, and Crone. But at the festival of the Nemoralia, Diana is the Mother, and Hecate is the Crone.

So who is the Maiden? Diana has a legendary daughter, Aradia, whose birthday is given as August 13, 1313. Aradia, so the story goes, was sent to Earth by Her divine Mother to empower the weak and oppressed, particularly the Pagans and gypsies who were chained in slavery to church and state. She was a sort of female "Robin Hood" of the Alban Hills of Italy. (3) Aradia's Mother, the Goddess Diana, like Robin Hood's Father, Herne (Cernunnos), blessed the oppressed and down- trodden, the peasant, the heathen, all those noble souls and noble "savages" who society despises. Diana's most notable temple in Rome was situated on the most apparently humble of Rome's Seven Hills, the Aventine. The ritual hairwashing that precedes the trek to Nemi also proceeded a procession that ended up at the Aventine.

It seems Diana had fewer artificial temples built to Her than any other of the main Deities in the Classical pantheon, which no doubt suits Her, since certainly a Goddess of Nature prefers to be worshipped in Her natural groves. Therefore, it's a good idea to visit a wild and natural area during this festival. Choose a tree to decorate. It may, but does not necessarily have to be, an evergreen. Hang from its branches symbols such as silver moons, bows and arrows, tiny animals, as well as ribbons, bells, and whatever else you think Diana might like. If you are suffering from any kind of illness, you might want to make a symbol of that too, and hang it on the branches in supplication for healing. Imagine Her arrows piercing your pain, discomfort, or disability with a powerful potion of wellness.

The Festival of Torches evolved to become one of those sacred times when the hunting or killing of any beast was forbidden all over Italy. It was a Time of Blessing that extended a truce between humankind and the natural world. Likewise, slaves and women were free from their duties during this feria. Men and masters did participate in the festival, but they were required to be on equal terms with women and slaves. One Roman poet, Propertius, apparently did not attend the festival in the 1st century CE, as indicated in these words to his beloved:

Ah, if you would only walk here in your leisure hours.
But we cannot meet today,
When I see you hurrying in excitement with a burning torch
To the grove of Nemi where you
Bear light in honour of the Goddess Diana.
At night the lights of hundreds of torches reflected upon Diana's lake and sparkled magically upon the surface. Lamps not unlike these torches were used by Vestal virgins and have been found with images of the Goddess at Nemi, hence Diana and Vesta are sometimes considered one and the same Goddess.
The nymph Egeria, who resides in a waterfall spilling into Lake Nemi, is also an aspect of Diana. She is intimately connected with Numa, who was the king of Rome after Romulus, and whose kingship's well being was dependent on his relationship with Her, Diana Egeria, Lady of the Lake. Louis Spence, in the 13th century tale, Sir Lance/ot of the Lake, tells us that the Lady of the Lake dwells in the Lake of Diana. There are also similarities between the Rex Nemorensis (King of Nemi) and King Arthur, according to Raven Grimassi, who points out that one draws a branch (which may be the legendary Golden Bough) from an oak tree, the other draws Excalibur from the stone. Just as the oak branch rises from the Sacred Tree near the stream of Egeria, so does Excalibur rise from the Lake. (4) Egeria is Diana, is the Lady of the Lake, is Nimue (a name similar to, and which may be derived from, "Nemi").

There are also parallels to Shakespeare's Midsummer Night's Dream: Titania, Regina elle Fate (Queen of the Fairies), is equated with Diana, Regina delle Streghe (Queen of the Witches). Hippolytus, who died and was resurrected and spirited to Nemi by Diana (as Virbius, the first Rex Nemorensis), was the son of Theseus (some say Oberon) and Hippolyta. And Puck, the goat like prankster, has his own festival in Britain at this same time of the year, the Puck's Fair. Thus the Midsummer Night's Dream continues on through August.


1. All of Italy seems to agree that this is the best time of year to take a holiday. Travel agents warn against going to Italy in mid-August. Almost the whole country shuts down business for the hallowed Feast of the Assumption. This feast day of Mary, Mother of God, seems to the Italian Catholics to be an even more important holy day than Christmas.
2. Nemi is from the Latin nemus, meaning sacred wood, sacred grove. The Sacred Site of Nemi is featured in the Spring 2003 issue of CIRCLE Magazine.
3. Her full story can be found in Raven Grimassi's Ways of the Strega, published by Llewellyn in 1997. The current edition of the book is called Italian Witchcraft.
4. Raven Grimassi, ibid, and Hereditary Witchcraft: Secrets of the Old Religion, published in 1999 by Llewellyn Publications of St. Paul, Minnesota.

Helen Park
Kansas City, Kansas;
CIRCLE Magazine, Summer 2003 (pp. 33-34)
Reproduced with permission from Helen Park

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Stregheria and Vernacular Magic in Italy: A Comparison

Raven Grimassi wrote:
.... first, some background. Last year (2006) Sabina met with my mother and they chatted for several hours. From reading the following, I think two things happened. One is that Sabina now believes that my mother is a native Italian, and the other is that my mother comes from a magical background in Italian Folk Magic. Sabina has also modified her view of me, and now rather than being a charlatan, I am apparenlty a true believer who is just misguided by my interpretation regarding the family lineage. In any case, we're making progress. Perhas after the next meeting, I will go from misguided true believer to an actual witch. What's most promising is Sabina's admonishment that Stregheria "should not be interpreted as inauthentic, fake or contrived"

So here is the article, which appears to be a reworking of some of her earlier articles:

Stregheria and Vernacular Magic in Italy: A Comparison*
Sabina Magliocco
January 10, 2007

The distinction between contemporary Stregheria and traditional Italian magic, healing and spiritual practice has lately been the subject of lively debate on a number of listserves and websites. In this brief essay, I will attempt to summarize some of my academic publications on this theme for a non-scholarly audience, and to encourage further research, questions and discussion on this topic. I should state at the outset that my approach is academic: as an anthropologist and folklorist, I consider both Stregheria and Italian vernacular magic as important facets of culture in their own right. My intention is not to support or deny the authenticity of either, but to help readers understand both in the contexts in which they developed,
and how the former grew from the latter in the context of the Italian American diaspora.

*Stregheria* is an Italian American variety of Neo-Pagan Witchcraft. It owes its origins to Aradia, or the Gospel of the Witches (1889), a collection of spells, rhymes and legends which amateur folklorist Charles G. Leland claimed came from a Florentine fortune-teller named Maddalena. According to Leland, Maddalena belonged to a family of witches who practiced a form of pagan religion centered on the worship of the moon goddess Diana. Leland interpreted the materials he collected according to popular folklore theories of the late 19th century: as survivals of ancient pagan religions, specifically those of the Romans and Etruscans, whose civilizations had once dominated central Italy. He dubbed witchcraft la vecchia religione (the old religion). Right from the start, Leland’s work was controversial. Some of the materials in it – the conjuration of lemons and pins, for instance – have analogues in Italian folklore. Other snippets appear to be versions of popular Italian children’s rhymes, rewritten to suit Leland’s ideology. And the character of Aradia does seem to be based on a figure from medieval Italian folklore: the biblical Herodias (Erodiade in Italian), popularly believed to fly through the air at
night at the head of a ghostly procession. But these bits of folklore do not appear anywhere else in Italian tradition as part of a single text. If The Gospel of the Witches had been an authentic document from a folk tradition, some other version of it would have been collected at some point by Italian folklorists or historians. Yet no other similar text has ever been found by Italian ethnologists. For that reason, Leland’s Aradia has always been suspected to be a fake. More recently, historian Robert Mathiesen has proposed a new explanation: that Aradia be interpreted as a dialogic and intersubjective text – a product of the close interaction between Leland and Maddalena, during which Maddalena selected and re-interpreted bits of folklore in ways that would interest her wealthy patron. The result was a document that incorporated many elements of folklore, but strung them together in unusual ways, giving them a unique and atypical interpretation.

Despite the controversies surrounding it, Leland’s text became quite influential: it equated folk magic to an ancient religion involving the veneration of a goddess, and located this all in Italy. Leland clearly influenced Gerald B. Gardner, who is widely credited with the development of Wicca in its present form, and through Gardner, an entire generation of Witches. Among the first to openly identify as a practitioner of Italian witchcraft was Leo Louis Martello (1933-2001). Martello claimed to have been initiated by a family member as a young man. He described a secret hereditary tradition based on a Sicilian version of the myth of Proserpina (Persephone). Along with priestess Lori Bruno, also a hereditary practitioner, he founded the Trinacrian Rose of New York City, one of the first Italian American covens in North America.

But the real heir of Leland is Raven Grimassi, the architect of Stregheria. Like Martello and Bruno, Grimassi claims to have been initiated into a family tradition of magical practice which he describes as hereditary, domestic, and secret. Grimassi’s mother comes from the region of Campania, outside Naples. She belongs to a family whose members practiced a number of magical traditions, including the removal of the evil eye, the making of medicinal liqueurs and oils, and divination. Like the traditions described by Martello, Bruno and a number of Italian ethnologists, it consisted of a set of secret teachings limited to family members, passed on only to those who were felt to have some innate magical ability and interest. But it is not this tradition that Grimassi writes about in his works The Ways of the Strega (1995), Hereditary Witchcraft (1999), and Italian Witchcraft (2000). Instead, he presents an elaboration of what Leland described: "a religion similar to Wicca in structure and practice, with Italian flavor added through the names of deities, spirits, and sabbats." According to him, Italian Witches divide themselves into three clans: the Fanarra of northern Italy, and the Janarra and Tanarra of central Italy. No mention is made of southern Italy, despite the fact that the majority of Italian immigrants to North America, including Grimassi’s mother, originated there. Each tradition is directed by a leader known as a Grimas. Like the names of the three Strega clans, the word “Grimas” does not occur in Italian or in any of its dialects. Italian American Streghe worship in circles called boschetti (“groves”) led by a High Priestess and Priest. The meet on full and new moons and observe eight sabbats. They venerate a lunar goddess and a horned god based on the Etruscan deities Uni and Tagni, also known as Tana and Tanus, Jana and Janus, Fana and Faunus. Ancestor spirits known as Lasa watch over each family, and various nature spirits such as Fauni, Silvani, Folletti and Linchetti play key roles in Stregheria. The guardians of the four directions are known as Grigori. While Grimassi’s books have been very influential in the United States, individual Stregheria covens that are not descended from his may not necessarily follow his teachings. As in all Neo-Pagan Craft, there is a wide range of variation and adaptation among groups and individuals. The common thread that links all Stregheria covens seems to be their efforts to give their practice an Italian flavor, whether through the types of deities venerated, the food served at rituals, or the adaptation of Italian and Italian American cultural practices to a Pagan context.

Grimassi’s genius is creative, rather than scholarly. He never claims to be reproducing exactly what was practiced in Italy, admitting that Streghe have “adapted a few Wiccan elements into their ways” (1995:xviii). He openly acknowledges that he is expanding on his family tradition, adding elements to it to restore it to what he imagines was its original state. But from his attempts to restore a tradition, a brand new tradition has emerged: one that bears little
resemblance to anything that was practiced in Italy or in Italian American ethnic communities.

While based on Italian folk magic, historical accounts and folklore collections, Stregheria is, like most revival Witchcraft, a modern tradition. Folklorist Robert Klymasz, writing about what happens to folklore as a result of immigration to a new culture, identified three layers of folklore that are present in any ethnic community. These include the traditional, with clear links to Old World forms; the transitional, in which some elements from the Old World crystallize, while others adapt to the new context; and innovational, in which new folklore is developed to make up for older forms that have been lost (Klymasz, 1973). Stregheria belongs to the last category. It has some points in common with Italian vernacular magic, which I will outline below; but there are more differences than similarities. Its true value lies in its ability to provide contemporary Italian Americans with a new context in which to interpret folk magical practices that have remained in their families for many generations, giving these traditions a new life. In the process, it plays a vital role in helping to create and maintain identity for its practitioners.

*Italian vernacular magic*, by contrast, is neither a religion nor a formalized system of practice. It is both a worldview and a set of customs tied to the agro-pastoral cycle which is strongly embedded in the lives of its practitioners, almost never on a self-conscious level. For most of its carriers, it is simply an ordinary way of doing things and behaving. While it may have historical roots in
pre-Christian practices, it is emphatically not a pagan tradition, but firmly embedded within a Roman Catholic cultural matrix. In my more recent work, I have called it “the enchanted worldview,” playing on Max Weber’s trope of the disenchantment of the world.

The enchanted worldview in Italy is rooted in specific pre-market economic and social systems. Because of subsistence activities associated with the land, time is organized according to seasonal cycles; these are reflected in the ritual year, which is dominated by Catholic liturgical forms. These almost always are locally interpreted in ways that connect them to the economic cycle: for example, in
Campania, where wheat and hemp crops have been replaced by tobacco, which has a similar growing season, the ritual year begins at planting time near St. Martin in mid-November, and extends until the end of the harvest season at St. Cosimo and Damiano in October. In pastoral areas such as Sardinia and the Apennine, May and September, the months that frame transhumance, are emphasized in local ritual practices. The exact shape of the ritual year thus differs markedly from one area to
another. The symbols – the Madonnas and saints – are the same, but each township differs in the way it situates these characters within its symbolic and economic system. The enchanted worldview is not only rooted in the ritual year cycle; it is all-pervading in the individual’s life cycle. It begins at birth and penetrates every phase of life and every rite of passage, from the moment of birth, when most
Italian babies who are not born with a caul (la camicia, or “shirt,” in Italian) are given a fine lawn shirt by a relative, often a godparent, to protect them against evil influences, to funerals, where a variety of beliefs about the otherworld are made manifest through practice.

The core of Italian vernacular religion and magic is thus the correlation of its symbolic systems with local economic and social structures. The primary connection is never with the dominant structures of church and state. Hegemonic structures may or may not coincide with indigenous ones, but where there is no match, they are
simply ignored. If a particular element does not make sense in terms of local understandings of time, space, and the nature of the world, people will treat it as though it does not exist, as if it were of no consequence. As a result, the landscape of the enchanted worldview in Italy is everywhere local.

Despite its exquisitely local character, the enchanted worldview exists throughout Italy, in both northern and southern regions, with significantly more commonalities than one might think, given the differences in language, culture and economy that characterize Italy’s twenty regions. Certain concepts are ubiquitous: for example, the evil eye and its diagnosis and cures are found in all regions, and are very
similar throughout. Yet the enchanted worldview defies systematization. Beliefs and practices are nowhere standardized, or even organized into an easily articulated set of principles; they are part of everyday life, part of praxis. German ethnologist Thomas Hauschild, who spent nearly twenty years studying magic in Basilicata,
a region in the south of Italy, wrote: “There is no system, only practice” (Hauschild, 2003:19). The practice is the system. Practices and beliefs exist within a particular cosmology, but its details seldom preoccupy its technologists. Thus, a structure like that described by Grimassi, with orderly branches in various parts of
Italy, each with its own leader and systematic body of lore, is inherently foreign to the enchanted worldview in Italy.

The main characteristic of the enchanted worldview is a belief in the omnipresence of spiritual beings that can influence human lives. These beings include the dead, saints, and the Virgin Mary and Jesus (who are, after all, nothing more than particularly powerful dead). Spirits such as folletti, linchetti and monachelli also appear, echoing some of the spiritual flora and fauna in Grimassi’s works, but they are often troublesome, rather than helpful: they tangle the manes of horses, frighten donkeys and confuse travelers who cross their paths. Some spirits are associated with certain kinds of illnesses, although exact relationships are generally determined by local lore. For instance, in Basilicata, the unquiet dead are said to cause skin diseases such as erysipelas and St. Anthony’s Fire (herpes zoster); in Campania, children who fail to thrive are said to be taken by witches
on their night flights, and worn out with flying and dancing; in Emilia Romagna, Puglia and Sardinia, spiders and/or insects are responsible for a range of illnesses from tarantismo to argismo to arlìa. Some scholars suggest these insects once embodied ancestor spirits who then possessed their victims through the bite or sting (De Martino, 2005 [1961]). Even spirits such as saints and the Madonna, who belong to a greater Catholic pantheon, are everywhere localized: the Madonna is usually worshipped in one or more of her local manifestations, and the devout have their personal favorites based on each Madonna’s attributes and the qualities she “stands over,” or rules, and their own individual needs or interests.

Everywhere in Italy, there are experts who specialize in interfacing with the spirit world. These are the Italian equivalents of British and European cunning folk, and much of their work consists in the diagnosis and cure of spiritual illness. Their names vary according to region; they may be known as guaritori (healers), donne che aiutano (women who help), praticos (knowledgeable or wise people), fattucchiere (fixers), maghi (sorcerers), and by numerous other dialectical terms; but they seldom call themselves streghe (witches). This term is overwhelmingly negative in Italian folklore, and almost always refers to a person who brings harm to others. Italian folklore is rich in legends about witches who fly through the air to their
legendary gatherings around the walnut tree of Benevento, shrink themselves so small they can fit through keyholes, suck breath or blood from victims, and cause all manner of illness and mischief to their neighbors. Clearly, these activities refer to folkloric witches; they have never been practiced by actual human beings. Occasionally, however, healers may be accused of being streghe by those who believe
themselves to be victims of black magic, or by clients who have failed to be healed by the cunning person’s cures.

There are two principal strains of healing in Italian vernacular culture: healing through the use of herbs, and spiritual healing. In some cases, both may be practiced by the same individual. Of the two, healing with herbs is considered less a matter of spiritual ability than of practical knowledge. Spiritual healing, in contrast, is believed to be more connected with personal power. This is variously
called la forza (power), la virtù (virtue; also attribute); or il segno (the sign), and is generally believed to be inborn. But power alone is useless without the prayers, magical formulae and techniques that make up the cunning person’s craft. Knowledge and power are passed on through an initiation, most commonly at midnight on
Christmas Eve mass, during the elevation of the host -- that magical moment of transformation in the Catholic liturgical year at which the world is transformed by the birth of the Savior, and the host is transformed into his body -- and thus, by association, any transformation can take place. The knowledge takes the form of prayers that call upon a saint or the Madonna, and in some cases an accompanying technique, which varies according to the nature of the spiritual cure. These formulas and techniques are secret; they cannot be passed on to others without the healer losing her or his power, and they can only be passed on at the appointed time in the ritual cycle. Often, this is the only initiation and training necessary for the transmission of simple charms. Healing knowledge and power are typically passed down within the family; in some cases, family members – typically a group of siblings or cousins – must work together in order to bring about the cure.

As scholars have documented for other parts of Europe, spirits figure prominently as the helpers of Italian cunning folk. While many ordinary Italians living in traditional communities admit to belief in spirits, and occasionally even to contact with them, cunning folk seem to possess an intensified ability to commune with them above and beyond that of ordinary people. In many areas, healing is essentially
conceptualized as a battle against malevolent spirits – whether those of the unquiet dead, witches, or others. Healers need spiritual allies in these battles, and many healers claim to have them in the form of spirits who guide and help them in their craft. The nature of these spirits, once again, is highly localized as well as idiosyncratic: they may be saints, personal ancestors, or helpful dead. They may
appear to the healer in dreams and visions: trance and ecstatic states are a fundamental part of communicating with the spirits; they are doorways into the spiritual world for healers and magic workers. When cunning folk rely on saints or the Virgin Mary as helpers, they may maintain shrines to them, participate actively in the organization of festivals in their honor, and play active roles in religious
sororities and fraternities that raise money for the feasts. Cures for certain illnesses may take place only on specific feast days or in the context of saints’ festivals. Thus, healing is closely connected to the seasonal and economic cycle of the community, and to the Catholic liturgical calendar.

Italian cunning folk may use a variety of tools in their work which suggest a connection to Stregheria and Neo-Pagan Witchcraft. They commonly keep notebooks in which charms and prayers are recorded – the forerunners of modern-day books of shadows. Some use weapons of various types (daggers, swords, bayonets and even guns) to frighten evil spirits or symbolically cut away certain illnesses, such as
worms. Ropes or cords may be used in binding spells and charms, while other tools may be entirely idiosyncratic.

The Italian cunning tradition has a number of traits that suggest that some aspects of modern Stregheria may derive from it in part, and that many Italian Americans who see themselves as carriers of Stregheria grew up in families that preserved aspects of the rural Italian enchanted worldview. Like modern Neo-Paganism and revival witchcraft, this way of life was organized around a ritual year that followed the
cycle of the seasons; the moon and sun influenced rhythms of work and production. Women were recognized as life-givers and nourishers, and were closely involved in the maintenance of shrines to a feminine divine figure, the Virgin Mary. Their immigrant ancestors may have been carriers of a tradition of healing that involved herbal and magical practices. They may have kept notebooks of charms and prayers
that were precursors of today’s Neo-Pagan books of shadows. Their tools may have included knives, swords and other weapons designed to frighten away malevolent spirits, and their craft involved communication with helpers who took the form of ancestor spirits. Since these traditions could often be conflated with witchcraft in
popular narratives, it is possible that this link persisted into the second, third and fourth generation after immigration, giving contemporary Streghe the impression that their ancestors belonged to an organized, hierarchical but secret society of witches. But Italian cunning craft also differs from modern Neo-Pagan Stregheria in
important ways. It is emphatically not a pagan religion; there is no mention of a goddess and god, nor are deities ever drawn down into the bodies of practitioners. It exists within a largely Catholic worldview, albeit one permeated with ancestor spirits, magical practice and other elements that mark it as vernacular, rather than ecclesiastical, in nature. Absent, too, is the Wiccan ritual framework, and while there may be certain similarities between the Wiccan year cycle and that of rural Italy, that is because the former is based largely on the Irish agro-pastoral cycle, which shares a common heritage with that of other parts of Europe, including Italy.

But could an ancient pre-Christian religion involving the veneration of Diana have survived in Italian peasant tradition, only to be brought to North America by Italian immigrants? The lack of written evidence makes any answer to this question hypothetical at best, but from the historical record, such a scenario would be very unlikely. Three factors make the survival of a pagan religion in Italy into the 20th century, and its transmission through written documents such as Leland’s Aradia, improbable: the strong presence of Christianity throughout the peninsula from fairly early after the fall of the Roman Empire; the lack of a unified Italian culture and language until the late 19th century; and the relative isolation and lack of resources of the peasant classes – the very ones who are said to have preserved the religion, according to the Neo-Pagan mythos.

Stregheria and Italian vernacular magic and healing are, then, quite different but interconnected traditions. Many Italian Americans who today see themselves as carriers of Stregheria grew up in families that preserved aspects of the enchanted worldview in an immigrant context. While Stregheria may be helping contemporary Italian Americans rediscover aspects of their roots and feel pride in their ethnic identity, its form, structure and cultural context are markedly different from those of the enchanted worldview and its associated practices in Italy. Yet Stregheria should not be interpreted as inauthentic, fake or contrived, for innovation and reclamation are part of the process of tradition. The enchanted worldview cannot exist in the context of contemporary urban North America; Italian Americans need new ways to construct and preserve ethnic identity, and for some, Stregheria satisfies those needs.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Chapter 25 - Ground Work

Nola had called to say that she was dropping Jamie at her sleepover for 4PM and that she'd probably be at his house for 4:30PM. Owen had his laptop and some large printouts rolled up on the dining room table. When he heard the driveway gate he walked to the door.

She smiled at him as she got out of truck. "Hello Big Man.”
He hooked her arm as if they were going to walk to the door. She hesitated and said, "I'd really like to walk around out here just to make sure I have the feel of the space."
"Sure." and he waved his hand as if inviting her to do just that and stepped back to watch.
She looked up at the fading light. Noting the sunset and mentally estimating how it would change with the seasons and trying to ensure she understood the full sun, and partial shade areas of the yard. She was also absorbing the energy of the space. She walked from the driveway across the lawn in front of the house toward the far brick wall thinking again that this wall would be a great place for a fountain. She looked up to the 2nd floor balcony and thought that if the fountain were high enough on the wall it would be part of the balcony experience too. Owen just watched. She walked down the side of the house noting that there was less sun here and seeing that it was open all the way past the porch to the backyard. She walked back toward Owen standing in the driveway and felt how wide the yard was and imagining it more intimate and narrow with the addition of gardenias as screening. Owen just watched and wondered exactly what was going on in her head. She smiled at him as she walked by and to the other side of the driveway noting again that this side had less area for planting. She walked down the driveway toward the garage thinking that this side of the house looked like it got more sun and realizing that if he wanted a vegetable garden this was where it belonged. He could come out of the side door of the kitchen and into the drive to harvest. She turned and walked back down the driveway to Owen.

"Well do you have it all figured out now?" He teased.
She hooked her arm in his and teased back with "Mostly."
"Ready to go inside?"
"hmmhumm" she said still looking around and thinking.
He smiled and watched her brain work, and started to walk toward the door and she went with him still thinking about the space by the time they got to the door she was actually conscious that she was walking.

As she went past the dining room table she noticed that this was where Owen intended for them to work. So she dropped her purse on the chair. He said, "Wine first. Working later. Then we can decide what to order for dinner."
He opened the Ruffino Galestro Griffe poured to glasses and smiled and handed the bottle to Nola and waited.
Nola smiled at him, “I know Ruffino for its red wines. But I’ve never had a white Ruffino. Galestro is that a grape? I’ve never heard of a Galestro grape. I saw your laptop in the dining room table. We should google it.
And he said, “First, let’s drink it.” and he handed her a glass.
And she smiled raised her glass, swirled and breathed deeply and then took a sip. “Hmmm clean, light, crisp, simple, is that a hint of apple? It tastes like it comes from dry hard soil. I wonder what grape is used.”
“Dry hard soil? How do you know that?”
“I really don’t.” She said seriously. Then added more playfully, “It’s just that I’ve found, from reading the bottles” and she held the bottle out in one hand, “and then tasting the wine,” she held up the glass, “that there is a certain tendency to sharpness, in wines grown where it is drier and the soil is harder, less rich. When the wines are done well there is a crispness that makes them, I know this sounds silly, but, light and relaxed.” She took another sip, “It’s really quite good. I think that is apple.” And she started walking to the dining room to the dining room with the bottle in one hand and her glass in the other. She turned around and looked at him and smiled, “Coming?”
He just smiled and shook his head at her for a change. “You really can be the strangest woman.”
She grinned back at him and said “Thanks, its taken me long time to foster a sense of eccentricity.”
And he said as he followed, “Foster a sense of eccentricity, indeed.”
She set the wine on the table and turned to him and said, “Thank you very much for the wine tasting Owen. It really is quite fun.” And she kissed his cheek and then sat in the chair at the head of the table so he could sit in next to his laptop.
With a large smile he handed her his wine glass and stared to unroll the plans. As he began to unroll the bundle she saw the layout of the whole property, complete with the original room layout on one, then details on the whole inside, details on the kitchen and what looked like a new one on just the front yard and wait, was that a pool?
She said, “Hold on. Owen, is that a pool in the back yard?”
And he looked up realizing that the pool was no longer a surprise.
“Oh wonderful. That is a wonderful idea. When is it going in?”
“They start in 10 days.”
“Wow.” And she handed him back his glass, set hers on the unused long side of the table and leaned into the plans to study them. “How long have you been planning this?
“Since the day after Lupercus.”
And she did a low whistle, “You don’t play around. Did you do this?”
“Nice, very nice.” And she ran her hands over the plans as she commented, “Looks like it’s a safe distance from that beautiful oak tree. Long enough for swimming laps. Enough room for lounging on the steps. Are these benches along the side?”
“Oh very nice a pool isn’t just for swimming, sometimes you just want to sit with your toes in it. This is marvelously decadent.
What color are you painting it?”
“Dark Blue. I hate those ubiquitous turquoise blue pools.”
She smiled at him “Me too.” And then she leaned back in to study the pool and the area surrounding it some more.
“I wanted it to look more like a natural high lake.”
“This is a Jacuzzi?”
“Hmmm so you can use it in the winter too. I love a warm Jacuzzi in the cool air.”
“And this is a little waterfall into the pool?”
“Very nice touch. What color paving are you using?
“A warm, but not too dark, sandstone with a few reddish touches. I wanted to blend with the old brick work on the walls and patio.”
“And I’m ‘such a Taurus’. Woman you are a closet hedonist.”
And she looked up at him then grabbed her wine glass and lowered her eyelids at him and said “Me? No.”
And he chuckled at her.
“I could be a hedonist, but I’ve had to be practical all my life. You can’t really be a hedonist if you don’t have a roof over your head and or a bed to sleep in. I’m mostly a hedonist in my imagination.” And she took another sip. “This pool is a beautiful addition. We should look at the landscaping for the whole property and make sure that the various areas of your yard flow well.”
“We should, huh?”
“Oh I’m sorry, am I being too pushy?”
He smiled as he said, “No, not at all. You’re doing what I asked you to come here and do. I just didn’t expect you to be so enthusiastic about it.”
“Why not?” She said seriously. “It’s gardening Owen.”
“Oh I forgot. Like candy to kid… or” and he chuckled again, “crack to an addict.”
And she smiled at him as she unrolled his blank layout of the front yard over the layout of the pool. Then she grabbed her glass and sipped and studied the plans. He watched as she moved her hands across the plans and flipped the papers around and could see her imagining what it could look like. He slipped into the kitchen to grab some take out menus and when he came back to the dining room he realized that she hadn’t even noticed he’d gone. He thought to himself, ‘So that’s what I looks like when I have a vision I want to get down on paper.’
“Nola what would you like for dinner.”
“Oh, dinner... What ever you like is fine.”
And he sat down and fanned the menus out like a card deck, “Chinese, Po-boys, Pizza…?”
And she sat back in the chair. “ummmm, not Chinese, not Po-Boys, ooo Italian pie. How about a Greek Salad, no onions and a 4 cheese pizza?”
Owen smiled and said, “Italian Pie it is.” And said to himself, ‘I wish every woman could make up her mind that fast. Shoot I wish I could make up my mind that fast.’

He ordered the pizza and when he came back from the kitchen she looked up at him and said, “Where are your air handling units? I know you have air conditioning but I didn’t see them outside and I don’t see them on the plans.”
“Oh, I put them on a slightly sloped inset into the roof just above the kitchen and insulated for sound as much as possible. I like A/C but hate those noisy units.”
“Ah smart. I too hate the noise they make. I’ll have to remember to look for them the next time I’m outside.” And she took a sip of her wine before she said, “Would you like a quick overview of what I’m thinking? Then we can adjust it or phase it in to fit your budget.”
He smiled and nodded, thinking what budget?, “Show me what you see.”
She started with the flow, moving her hands over the plans as she talked. “Your driveway is what is defining the space right now. What I’d like to do is use plantings, gardenias, along the front fence line to join the 2 sides of the drive way so it feels more like one yard rather than 2. I still like the idea of citrus in front of the gardenias. It looks like you have room for a Satsuma, a Lemon, a Satsuma and a lime on this side of the driveway.” And moving her hand to the other side of the driveway, “Navel Orange and Grapefruit or even a Blood Orange if we can find one.”
She looked at him to see if he wanted to interject but he said, “Keep going I want the whole thing.”
“Here along the front of the house, ferns to give it that old New Orleans look and some sweet kumquats...”
“Wait, what are kumquats?”
“Oh, they’re citrus. They are smaller more compact trees than the satsumas or navels. They make very small orange fruit, about the size of very large grapes, that you eat skin and all. They come in 2 basic varieties, sweet and sour. Sweet you can eat right off the tree. Sour is used for marmalades. I like the sweet. They too are old fashion New Orleans. The fruit ripens around the Winter Solstice. I often use them as God Offerings at that time of year.”
“I’ve never seen or had one.”
“Well would you like something else instead of a kumquat?
“Oh no, old time New Orleans sounds perfect. Aren’t you worried about the citrus in a freeze?”
“Well citrus really are more cold hardy than people think. And here in the city it is always warmer. Urban heat sink effect you know? And you have those high brick walls that help shelter the area and the front of the yard faces south so I think that you’ll be ok. The citrus I’ve planted after the storm are doing well.”
And she looked up at him to make sure he was still ok with the idea.
He was thinking that she was pretty good at site assessment as he nodded and said, "Ok citrus. What else?”

“Well you need your pacing pathway” and she grinned at him and then went on seriously, “and I keep looking at that high red brick wall and thinking fountain, right up against the wall” and she leaned back from the plans and raised her hands to about 6 feet, “3 tiers starting tight along the wall, dripping down it really, then landing in the 2nd tier in a small basin” and she had her hands just above her waist level, “and the last tier bench height ending in pool with some goldfish to manage the mosquitoes. I think the stone should be slate colored because that is common in older New Orleans patio designs” and she hesitated, “… but hey, maybe you could use the same stones you’ll be using around the pool. In my mind I see it as a boxy shape or maybe a series of large shell like basins, but the lowest basin should have an edge wide enough to sit on. Well you’ll have to decide what you really want. But a fountain for you to walk back and forth toward is a part of what I see in the plan.
"A fountain. I like that idea."
"It's very old New Orleans. It will really change the feel of the yard."
"A fountain with goldfish." He grinned "I like it."
And she let that idea just soak in until he said, "What else?"
"The walkway could either wind, “and she moved her hand in a snake like fashion across the paper “from the fountain to the driveway. Or you could do a more boxy design that still would weave across the yard, no long straight lines in your pacing pathway. You should move more slowly through this garden. The curve of the pathway should create bump out areas for the trees to sit in and provide a spot or too for a chair or a bench seat.”

And she shifted and said, “See this area over here between the brick wall and the house and behind the fountain? This area that leads into the back yard? You should probably think about putting up a redbrick fence to match the walls and an iron gate here.” And she looked up at him and said, “To block the view of the Jacuzzi from the street and provide security for the pool.”
“Hmmm, I hadn’t thought of that. Good Idea.”
“This area” and she moved her hand over the area behind the new gate and fence and the Jacuzzi, “gets much less sun. You have windows that open on to the area and I think that some native redbud trees would be perfect here.”
“They are smaller understory trees. In the early spring they have tiny purple flowers all down their branches before their leaves come out. It looks very Japanese garden. After the blossoms are finished the large heart shaped, light green leaves come out. The tree is green all summer and then in the fall the large heart shaped leaves turn a beautiful shade of yellow before the tree goes bear for the winter. It’s a truly seasonally tree and we don’t really have many of those here.”
“Ok Redbuds, I like the idea of having trees with leaves that turn and fall. The fall color is one of the things that I miss about Pennsylvania.”
She still had her hand on the redbud area and said, “There should be some kind open paving stones so that this walkway it’s isn’t mushy when it rains but I think you should keep this part of the yard unpaved to allow a place for water to soak in on your property and not all be funneled into the street drains. You can use a creeping fig or jasmine as ground cover. And some ferns along the edges to create a sense of lushness. It’s really easy maintenance.”

And he nodded and smiled, “Easy maintenance. I like the sound of that.”
She moved her hand to the other side of the driveway. This area here along side the driveway looks like it gets good sun.”
“Oh it does. That’s were I park the truck and the sun can be brutal on that side of the house.”
“hmmmm," and she looked at the driveway a little differently and put that comment on the side for now “Well than if you want the option for a vegetable garden this is where to put it or if you don’t want to fool with a vegetable garden you could use the redbuds again or we could broadcast seed it: red clover, Cosmos, Zinnias…” and she waved her hand to indicate there were lots of flower seed options… “and wait until you decide vegetable garden or no vegetable garden. It’s a really inexpensive easy care solution.”
And she looked up and he smiled. “I know easy care… appeals to you.” And she stopped and took a sip of wine.
“Owen, is there a gate between the driveway and your new pool area?”
“No.” and he thought before he said, “You think I should put one there too?”
“Well you want to make it harder for neighborhood kids to sneak into the pool area. Most of New Orleans kids can’t swim and because of that pools can be tempting but dangerous for them. Plus it improves the security of the house by making the backyard harder to get into. If someone wants to break into your house they have to be out front where more folks are likely to see them and call the cops.”
“Wow, Landscaping and security.”
And she smiled at him, “Getting your money’s worth huh?
And the door bell rang.
“Italian Pie is here.”

Owen paid for the food and took it back into the kitchen. He insisted on plates and not eating out of the Styrofoam. Nola teased, “Is the pizza box allowed?”
“Yes, woman. Why don’t you take it into the dining room. I’ll get the rest.”
She grinned at him lifted the box over her head like a waiter with a tray and said, “Yeass sir.” as she grabbed a towel from the kitchen counter to set the box on.
She pushed the paperwork down to one end of the table and set the pizza box on top of the towel. She found their wine glasses and moved them to the eating end the table and filled them with the rest of the wine and waited for Owen, looking out of the window and still grinning at their playfulness. Owen came in with a waiterly flourish, napkins over one arm, silver ware in his hands and a plate in each hand.
She chuckled as he sat the plate down in front of her with mock seriousness, “Madam”.
Then he sat down with his plate and said, “Let’s eat.”

“I’ve been thinking about your driveway.”
“Just what every man wants to hear over an Italian dinner.”
And she chuckled but continued, “After that window at the base of the staircase your driveway opens up to 2 plus cars wide, from brick wall to your house. You could create an arbor with I think 3 angled parking bays and we could plant muscadine grapes to grow over it and provide some green shade to cool the heat sink effect of the driveway.”
“Now that’s a very interesting idea.”

“I’ve also been thinking that you’ll need to get the bones of the garden in first before we do any detailed planting along the edges. Do you have someone who can do the pathway?”
“No problem. We do walkways all the time. The guys can lay stone or do stamped and stained cement. If we can finish up the design work tonight, I should be able to put an estimate together and get whatever I don’t have already on Monday and they can start Tuesday.”
“Wow, really?” And she sat back looking really dazed.
“What’s wrong?”
“Well I’ve never thought a garden this extravagant and could be designed and implemented all within a week. That’s pretty amazing.”
“Construction is what I do for a living. The guys can do just about anything. And Maurice is really good at forms for working cement or stonework. I have 2 crews fallow next week and it will be great to have then busy. If I don’t keep them busy and paid I could loose them to other contractors and I need them.”
“Oh, I hadn’t thought about it like that. Then we better get busy and finish up the plans.” And she grabbed their plates and stacked the silverware and napkins on them and picked up the wine bottle and started back to the kitchen. Owen grabbed the pizza box and noticed the towel, and grinned at how she had made sure that table didn’t get greasy. There had to be some Taurus in her somewhere. He got the wine bottle and met her in the kitchen. She was scraping the plates and looked like she was going to wash them. He put the left over pizza into the fridge and said, “Leave them.”
She washed her hands and said, “Ok, back to work.”

Nola settled on one end of the table and Owen on the other. She worked on layout and preliminary plant counts while he laid out the pathway design, leaving room for the fountain. I’m going to have to find someone who does fountains. Then he remembered the work he had done for what was her name, ah Paula. She did fountains. What was the name of her business?… Nature something… I bet she can help me out. I’ll need to give her a call tomorrow. It was easier to do the layout because he already had detailed measurements of the property to work with. These were laid out on a grid. They were each working from a different copy of the basic grid.

Nola thought she had her basic counts for the bones of the garden:
6 Redbuds and paving stones and at least 6 flats of creeping jasmine for ground cover.
20 Boston ferns
16 gardenias for the front fence. A flat of mint for some strategically placed ground cover.
2 Satsumas, a Lime, a Lemon, 2 Navels or one and save room for a Blood Orange which she was pretty sure they’d have to order.
3 kumquats.
10 Climbing White flowering Jasmine and 3 Yellow Jessamine for the wall on the right side of the driveway. 4 White flowering Jasmine on the fountain wall.
7 Sweet Olives, strategically near the fountain, the front door and the driveway and the back porch. She couldn’t believe that she had forgotten about these amazing sweet smelling trees so a part of the New Orleans gardening experience.
35 Knock out roses. She was leaning toward the red, but maybe a mix would be interesting. She had just decided on mixing some yellow in with the red, yes 9 of the 35 would be yellow and was thinking about how much mulch and bags of soil they would need and doing the math for how much this would cost and worrying, when Owen said, “Come take a look at the pathway.”

She walked to the other side of the table and stood behind him with her hands on his shoulders. “I like that Owen. It’s a lot like what I saw in my head. The curve is there, but you went with square edges because it’s easier to form huh.” And he nodded and thought, ‘smart, woman, very smart’. The walkway will still let you stride if you want to. The curves provide nice bays for planting the citrus. I see you have a fountain area. Are you really going to be able to get that in next week?”
“I don’t know but while I was sitting here drawing I remembered doing some work for a lady who owns a fountain business, Nature… Nature Expressions and I think she can help us out. I’m going to call her tomorrow and ask her to take a look.”

“Are you happy with it?”
“Are you?”
And they both said “Yes” together and grinned at each other.
Then Nola said, “If I can borrow this, I can finish up the basic list and counts of plants you’ll need.”
“Go ahead.”

She took his plans to the other side of the table and began to work out the smaller plant counts. He wondered into the kitchen and remembered he had some Italian Ice in the freezer. He got out 2 glasses and put some ice cubes in them and pulled a bottle of San Pellegrino from the fridge. He found a tray he knew he had unpacked but hadn’t used and scooped some Lemon Italian Ice for each of them and set it on the tray and carried it into the dining room.
Nola looked up surprised. “Well, what now?”
“Lemon Italian Ice, Madam?”
She smiled at the madam. “How did you know that’s my favorite?”
“Just lucky I guess.” And he set it down next to her across from his laptop. They had managed to use every inch of the dining room table.
“Let me finish up with these counts.”
25 Blue Daze, 25 Garlic Chives, 25 Greek Oregano, 6 Rosemary. Irises, Daylilies counts to be decided at the nursery, and she handed him the total list as she sat next to him and took her dish of ice.
“Owen, It’s going to take a lot of plants to fill in your front yard. Are you sure you want to do this?”
“Having doubts?”
“No, I like the plan and think it will work for you. But that list alone is going to cost you a chunk of change. And then there is the cost of the pathway and the fountain. I separated the list into bones and infill. The bones should go in first. You could wait on the other stuff and I could make a seed list. I actually have some bags of seed we could use.”
“You’re worrying about me spending my money?”
“No… that’s not…” and she saw him grinning at her. “You’re going to tell me not to worry, you’re a professional.”
“Ok, mister professional. How long will it take to get the pathway in?”
“A day to dig out the grass and to build the form. A day to pour the concrete. I’ve decided to use stained and stamped concrete to match the driveway. I can leave an area open for the fountain and fill in later. While the framing is being worked, the brick wall you recommended can go in. I’ll have to get someone to do the iron work, but that won’t be hard.”
“So you’ll really think you’ll be planting on Thursday?”

They finished their Italian Ice and Nola took the dishes to the kitchen. While Owen ironed out the rest of the plan and was finishing up the list of supplies he needed, Nola put the dishes in the dishwasher and then slipped out the side kitchen door to take another walk around and compare the work they had just done on paper to the vision in her head while walking around outside. When Owen finished up he looked around and there was no Nola. He got up went into the kitchen. Walked around seeing the bathroom door was open so she wasn’t in there. Not in the Library. Where had she gone? As he was turning to leave the Library he saw her in the front yard. There she was. He headed to the front door and as he opened it said, “There you are woman. I thought you’d disappeared on me. What are you doing?”
She smiled at him and motioned for him to join her. When he got to her she took his arm and said, “I’m just making sure that what we’ve got on paper, feels right when I think about it out here.” She squeezed his arm and said, “This has really been a whole lot of fun and there isn’t a plant in the ground yet.”
He grinned and Tago grinned and Papa Eric grinned and Settrano grinned and Bellaria grinned and Meana grinned. Success.

He realized that she had her keys in her hand as she said, "I’m picking Jamie up at 10AM tomorrow morning. Can you meet me at my house say 10:30, for the trip to Banting's?
“Ok, 10:30. Hey, I have no idea where you live.”
“Carrollton, it’s a straight shot out to Banting's on Earhart. Here is the address." and she handed him a piece of paper. And then gave him verbal and fairly simple instructions. "See you tomorrow."

And as she pulled out the driveway, Papa Eric nodded to Tago as Owen wished again that she didn’t have to leave, then smiled to himself when he thought about tomorrow.

Nola got home right around the same time James what pulling into the driveway.
“Well hello there.”
“What did you do all day?”
“Designed a permaculture style garden for Owen’s front yard.”
“Hog heaven, huh?”
“No,” she teased “that’s tomorrow when we go to Banting’s to pick out the plants.”
He laughed and knew that it was true. They spent some time talking about their days and soon James was falling asleep on the sofa so she encouraged him to go to bed. She picked up around the house, unloaded the dishwasher, then moved a load of laundry out of the dryer into the clean clothes hamper, moved the load out of the washer into the dryer and started another load in the washer, then folded the dry load. She had to have all of Jamie’s uniforms ready to go for another week at school. When she finished she realized how tired she was and crawled into bed.

James had to be at work for noon so he was up and making coffee by 8AM. He needed ramp up time. Nola slept in a little bit but was up a little bit later, had a shower and then coffee with James. Their weekends were reversed. James Monday was her Friday and James Friday was her Monday. And she thought about how their lives always seemed out of sync. She was off to get Jamie by 9:30 and had her back home with a few minutes to spare before Owen arrived. Jamie went immediately to bed.

Owen found his way to her house easy enough. He knew which house was hers without checking the address. There were fruit trees and rosemary hedges and gardenias blooming. As he got out of the truck he noticed the front yard smelled really good. Was that mint? And he broke off a piece. Yes it was. What is that red flower? It looks like clover. He made his way up he steps.

Nola met him at the front door before he rang the bell. She was holding a dachshund. And referring to the dog said,
"Sweet Pea heard you coming. Come in. I need to get my purse and let James know I'm leaving. Do you want the nickel tour?"
"Nickel tour?
"Well you're an architect. This house is relatively young by New Orleans standards, only 1929. But I can show you around, give you the nickel tour."
"Oh sure." He smiled.
Still holding the dog she said, "Center Hall. Living Room, Dining Room on the right." And she waved her hand around the open double parlor like room. "Library on the Left." And she crossed back to the central hall and then opened a set of French Doors to a Library with built in bookshelves and a fish tank. She closed the door and then put her finger to her lips and went passed a closed door toward an open kitchen. She said quietly, "Kitchen" and then opened the etched glass back doors to a raised deck and stepped out. "Backyard."

And she put the dog down and said, "Let her give you a sniff. She's a little high strung but lovable." The dog sniffed and then went down the stairs. The back yard was a bricked area lined with garden beds. There were roses, small fruit trees, orange flowers, herbs and a white flowering tree. He said, "Nice tree."
"It's a Bradford Pear. James picked it out. It's grown on me. White flowers in the spring. Pale green leaves fill out soon after. It only occasionally makes small pea sized inedible fruit. It's dark green all summer and then starts to loose its leaves, brown with interesting stripes, in the fall but doesn't completely loose them until almost January. It's a pretty fast grower."
"What are those orange flowers?"
"Nasturtiums. I planted them after Katrina when everything back here looked dead. They come up from seed now every year. It's great."

She looked around and said, "Let's leave Sweet Pea outside. That was Jamie's room we passed on the hall. To bad you can't see the Miyagi Pink walls. She has a small on-suite bathroom, which she loves. Sometimes she goes in her room and doesn’t come out for hours. The odd thing about this house is that the bathrooms are in bedrooms or downstairs. Shall we finish the tour? We can go out the downstairs back door."
He nodded.
They went inside and she went into a room at the top of the stairs and said, "Bedroom", and then opened the center closet door to an incredibly old mirror on top of a newer built-in dresser. "There's lots of storage. The closets were what the realtor thought was going to win me over. But what did me in were the built-in bookcases in the library."
Then she stepped to another door. And said, "Bathroom. I like the old fashion small black and white tiles." And he smiled and thought Lisa would have hated it.

She flipped the light on at the top of the stairs. "Let's go down the stairs. You can see how close we are to finally finishing. Careful on the stairs, James hasn't put the banisters back up."
She went down the stairs ahead of him and opened the door at the bottom. She flipped the lights on to the downstairs and shut off the light on the stairs before she closed the door at the base of the stairs. "It's mostly finished and mostly painted. James still has work to do on his bathroom, but at least the floor is in now. This is James closet." And she opened the door to an incredibly large closet or a small room. "Don't look too closely, his idea of hanging stuff up is to drape it over something which is why I love the fact that his closet is down here."

Owen just nodded. She waved her hand to the rest of the large room that was 60% of the bottom of the house. "This area is more open now. I actually like it better than PreKatrina. I still have work to do on the floor. I'm going to paint it and stain it and then cover it with a clear acrylic. I will never wet drag carpet to the street again!"
"YOU are going to stain and paint it?"
"Well, yes. I have a vision and James doesn't like dealing with what he calls toxic waste, meaning the paint I need to use to seal this old patchwork floor."

She looked around. "James must be in what passes for our garage." And she opened a door to an area in the front of the house and said, "More storage." And then, "James, Owen is here. I've given him the nickel tour before we leave. Sweet Pea is in the back yard."
And James stepped toward the door as Owen stepped through. The guys looked at each other and then stuck their hands out almost simultaneously,
"Hello Owen."
"Don't let her spend all your money on plants."
Owen smiled. "I don't think she can do that. But thanks for the warning. I'll do my best to keep her in check."
She joined in the fun and said laughing, "OK now, don't you 2 gang up on me. Owen asked for this. Remember?" and she turned and said, "I'm going to flip the last load of laundry and get my purse and then we can leave."

James smiled and said, "She's always doing at least 3 things at one time.
Owen smiled and said, "I've noticed."
James told Owen the story of the household ghost and why this area of the house acted as workshop and garage. Every other house in New Orleans seemed to have a spirit. The guys were walking toward the back door when Nola stepped out of the laundry room.
"This is the last room on the nickel tour. Laundry and more, minimally used, storage."
Owen asked thinking the house was much larger on the inside than it looked from the outside, "How many square feet?"
"Right at 3000. About 1900 upstairs which is our main living floor and about 800 'finished' downstairs; although it's less finished than it was preK and another 300 hundred unfinished in the garage."
And Owen nodded and said, "The house definitely looks smaller than it is."
Nola laughed, "You're not the first person to say that. Friends of mine have commented that the house seems like Dr. Who's phone booth Tardis."
Owen smiled and so did James.
Nola said, "Ready?" and she opened the side door into the driveway.
Owen stepped out and started to his truck. James waited at the door. Nola kissed James goodbye and said, "Happy Tuesday!"
James said, "Happy Saturday! Try and make sure that our daughter doesn't sleep the whole day."
"I put her phone next to her so I can wake her up. I told her if she answers when I call and gets ready right away that I would take her out to Sushi at Mikimoto or Hana this afternoon."
James said, "That will work."

Owen had waited in the driveway and felt confused and conflicted and didn't know why. Nola turned to him and smiled and he opened the door for her and put her in the truck. She waved to James as he pulled out. Owen was quiet as he drove. Nola finally said, "What are you thinking so hard about?"
Owen wasn't sure, but managed to ask, "So how high was the water in your house."
"Not quite hip level, 3 feet. It didn't hit our electrical box. Thank goodness. So we didn't have to do extensive electrical work. But we did have to gut the downstairs. That was fun."
"You did the gutting yourselves?"
"Sure. It's not hard. It was just messy and smelly. 4 days of grueling work, me, James and his best friend, to get the stuff out of the way and the carpet to the curb. 2 days of grueling work with my family, 6 people, to get the walls out. And another 2 days of just me and a wheelbarrow to get the rest to the street."
"By yourself?!"
"Well my mom was with me for those 2 days. She didn’t have a house or a temporary FEMA Trailer yet. She helped clean our fridge and freezer. We didn't have to throw it away because we emptied it out before we left. But even a freshly emptied fridge needs a little cleaning out after sitting for weeks. She also helped spray the fungicide downstairs to make sure we didn't end up with mold. But we're lucky because our downstairs is cement exterior walls and cypress 6" x 6" supporting columns."
"Where was James?"
"With Jamie in Texas."
"Why were you here by yourself?"
"I was working. Jamie's school wasn't open. James' jobs had vanished in the flood waters. So they were in Texas."
"And you were working here by yourself?"
"No, I was working at the refinery during the week and working at the house on weekends. I was lucky to have a job. Lots of people lost theirs. I didn't. But I lived in Baton Rouge for most of September. I moved back in for the middle of October."
"You were living in Baton Rouge and working in St. Bernard Parish."
"Yeah, that was fun. It's a lovely approximately 100 mile drive from Baton Rouge to Chalmette at 4:30AM, with hundreds of other temporarily displaced people."
He shook his head. "I didn't arrive until January 2006."
"I remember that January. Lots of folks returned then. It was so funny to have these newcomers see the place and talk about how terrible it was when those of us who had been here for months would look around and say how much better it was. At least by January the smell was starting to dissipate in most places. Unless you ran across a fresh pile of debris."
He laughed, "I remember those."
"Yes and just when you got used to them, they would get picked up and a new one would develop in not quite the same place."
He laughed again.
She smiled and said, "and the roads had teeth!"
"What you didn't get any flat tires?"
"Oh. Yes I did. More than one.
"Roads with Teeth. There was so much stuff in the street you never knew what you were going to roll over. My tires have plugs in them because it didn't make sense to get new tires. It's probably time to think about new tires."
He smiled "Do you ever just think about one thing?"
She smiled back, "Now how boring would that be?" and then added, "You have to take the first right after we get off the bridge."

He pulled up in front of the entrance and Nola sighed, "Gardening heaven."
And opened the door and got out before he could get to it. They had a blast. Nola tried to be conservative with how much they were spending on plants. Owen always wanted the largest plant he could get.
"You're going to break the bank!"
"Not a chance. Besides I can see what you are going for in the design and bigger plants get us there faster, right?"
"Well right, and if you're OK spending the money then the larger sweet olives and citrus and even gardenias are better. But you don't need to get the largest bedding plants." And she explained why she thought this and what she was looking for in the plants and the size of the pots they needed.
"Your yard is so large yard that we may have to look at Home Depot and Lowes to see if we can get enough."
"Ok, no problem."
"How are you going to get everything we've picked out to your house? There is no way that it will all fit in your truck."
"While you were picking out the bedding plants I talked to the guy who moved all the trees for us and arranged to have them delivered next week."
"Oh, wow. I didn't know they did that."
"Well he was confident given the size of the order that they would. If they can't I'll set something up with my crew and we'll do our own hauling. We know how."
She nodded. "So you're not taking anything home from here today?"
"Probably not. Unless you want to."
She was still surprised that they would deliver it all but managed to say, "No, it’s not necessary.”
He smiled. "Do you have the list of what you still need?"
"Well let's see if they can get the rest of this to us when they make the delivery and then what ever they can't guarantee we'll get from other sources."
"Oh… OK."

Owen went inside to pay and worked his charm on the staff and arranged for delivery on Wednesday of the following week. Nola stepped out because she didn't want to hover and mess up the energy that he seemed to have going. She was outside, when one of the staff came up to her, "Ma'am?.... Ma'am?"
Nola turned, curious. "Yes?"
"You husband says that you'll want to pick out the bedding plants. We have more in the back for you to look through."
She chuckled realizing she meant Owen. "Ok, show me where they are. I guess you we need to figure out what you have before he can finalize the order."
"Yes, ma'am."

Owen stepped outside. He had assumed that she wouldn't be far. But he didn't see her. He went back inside. One of the staff asked, "Looking for your wife?"
His eyebrows went up and then he smiled and said, "Yes."
"She's in the back picking out the rest of the bedding plants. They are around the green house on the left" and he pointed.
Owen nodded and started back. Nola was just finishing up and brushing off her hands. "So you can set all these aside for delivery next week?"
"Yes, Ma'am."
"Wow that is great. Thanks!"
"No problem.... Oh look your husband is here. I'll just get this to the front desk and you all can finish checking out."
She laughed again. And Owen smiled as he overheard.
He jokingly said, "Well did you get everything you needed, wife."
"Yes, amazingly I did, husband." And she chuckled again. "How did these folks get the idea that we're married?"
He hooked her arm, "Who knows. But I guess it's a natural enough assumption. Beautiful Saturday, a couple buying plants for a new garden…"
She shrugged and said, "Maybe." And then thought James has never been here with me. I've been here more often with friends. "Well I guess you better go give them all of your money. Are you really sure about the size of this purchase?"
He laughed, "If we were married, wouldn't that be my line? Stop worrying. Come on, I'm getting hungry."

Nola asked if Owen liked sushi, explaining that she was going to use it to get Jamie out of bed. Sushi sounded great to Owen. Nola called Jamie and woke her up teasing her with an offer of sushi. Jamie was waiting on the front porch when they drove up. She locked the front door and came down the steps.

Nola started to get out of the front seat.
"What are you doing, woman. Look she's on her way."
"Oh, Jamie gets nauseous if she sits in the back. So I always let her sit in the front."
Nola held the door open for her daughter and said, "Jamie, this is my friend Owen. You met him at the airport last November."
"Hi. Jamie."
Jamie got in an immediately buckled up.
Nola climbed in the back and smiled at him from the rear view mirror. This should be interesting.

They sat at the sushi bar. The waitress handed them hot towels and took their drink orders and made sure they had what they needed to place their sushi orders. Owen managed to charm Jamie just like he naturally did everyone else. Owen and Jamie talked about which kind of fish or rolls they liked. When they finally settled on what seemed to be way more fish than anyone should eat, Jamie said, "Crab Salad, mom?"
"Yes please and cucumber salad, thanks." and Jamie checked them off on the sushi order and handed the order to the sushi chef.
Owen said, "That's all?"
"Yep. My daughter was eating smelt roe when she was less than a year old. So she is an old hand at sushi. I like my fish cooked."
The waitress took their towels, dropped off their drinks and miso soup.
Owen said to Jamie, "I hear that you and your mom are big Star Trek fans."
Jamie nodded and said, "Yes. Mom says we watch Star Trek the way other people go to church."
"That's my nephew and my brother are really big fans too. What is your favorite series?"
"My nephew Eric's favorite as well. Do you have a favorite character?"
"Seven." And Jamie paused... "And Harry. I tend to like characters that are very different from each other."
"I think it would be very interesting to be a fly on the wall while you and Eric talked about Star Trek."
Nola smiled as she watched her daughter and Owen make small talk.
Nola's 2 salads arrived first and then the sushi began arriving in waves and they dug in.
Owen watched as Jamie ate her sushi sashimi style: raw fish first, rice later. She sure looked like an old hand at this. Nola picked at her salads and said "Owen did I tell you that Jamie is taking Japanese?" Jamie just smiled shyly.
He looked surprised. "No."
Nola nodded, "Jamie insisted that I find her a Japanese teacher in early 2006."
"2006? When the city was still a mess?"
Nola nodded Jamie smiled as her mom told the story she had heard before.
"Yep, there was one working pharmacy in the whole city and my daughter just knew I could find her a Japanese teacher. It turns out she was right. One of the people who live on our street teaches at UNO and knew a native Japanese teacher. Jamie's been taking one on one lessons ever since. Her teacher says she has about a 3rd grade level of speaking and writing and reading."
Owen looked at Jamie and said "Wow." And she smiled at him.
"What made you want to speak Japanese?"
Jamie shrugged, "I just did. My mom says she thinks it is because I am a reincarnated Japanese flute player who died in the Kobe earthquake of 1995."
Owen raised his eyebrows "Really? Do you have memories of Japan?"
Jamie said, "Not really, but I love the culture and sometimes when I learn the language or things about Japan it almost feels like remembering. Dad thinks it's because I've been eating sushi since I was a baby and that I just wanted to know what the sushi chefs were saying."
And they all laughed.
"Interesting. So you are going to be bi-lingual?"
"Well I hope to be at least tri-lingual. I'm taking Spanish and like it a lot. I studied Latin for 2 years and would like to learn more. I'd also like to learn German and Italian and Mandarin."
"Wow. Where does this interest in language come from?"
Jamie shrugged. "I don't know. I just like it."
Nola said, "Don't look at me I speak 2 languages, and bad-English is my first language."
They laughed at her.

They finished up their lunch and Owen paid the bill, refusing to allow Nola to split it, insisting that it was only fair since she had spent the day working on his garden. Then he took them home.
As Jamie got out of the truck she said, "Thanks for the sushi Mr. Owen."
"You're welcome, Jamie. Maybe we can do it again."
Nola poked her head in the front seat and said, "Thank you very much."
Owen smiled at her and said, "My Taurian pleasure. Today I made 2 women happy, you with gardening and your daughter with sushi. The Gods are smiling at me."
All she could do was shake her head at him and smile. "See you Thursday."
"See you Thursday, first thing in the morning."
"Slave driver."
"It's gardening right."
And she smiled and said, "Right!" and went up the stairs and waved at him from the porch as he drove off.