Saturday, December 31, 2011

Year of the Bat

I know. I know.  Bats are not typical New Year topics. And to be fair the article below was published in the Chicago Tribune October 24, 2011.  A much better seasonal article. But it just showed up in the New Orleans Times Picayune in December. So.... given that the United Nations has the Year of the Bat (2 years actually) campaign and given it's a new calendar year and given bats are associated with witches and so beneficial to our environment, I offer William Hageman's article below. 
Do what you can for Bats in 2012.  Even if it is only educating those around you.

Bats - Garden Allies
William Hageman - Chicago Tribune

Let's get the myths out of the way.  Bats are not blind, rabies-infested vermin that will suck your blood and entangle themselves in your hair. What they are, obviously, is misunderstood. And, sadly, threatened.

Rob Mies got interested in bats while a student at Eastern Michigan University almost 20 years ago.
"Over the years I became fascinated with how important bats are and how much people don't know," he says. "If they learn just a little bit of information about them, people become pro-bat. Or just not hate them."

Mies educates folks as founder and director of the Organization for Bat Conservation at the Cranbrook Institute of Science in Bloomfield Hills, Mich., where he teaches the importance of bats and dispels those old wives' tales. He has also co-written two books: "Beginner's Guide To Bats" (Little, Brown and Co.) and "Understanding Bats" (Bird Watchers Digest).
"We present at schools, museums, nature centers," he says. "We're focused on educating people."
For the record, he says, bats can see, their rate of rabies is less than half a percent, there are vampire bats but they are small and nothing like you see in the movies, and bats don't dive into your hair.
Here's another fact: They're not just a bunch of pretty faces. Mies says some of the bats OBC uses in its presentations — they are older bats or ones that were injured and rescued but can't be returned to the wild — have learned to recognize certain presenters and will call out, asking to be picked up.
"They're as smart, almost, as some primates," he says. "I know them to be pretty intelligent. They have different personalities as well."
Ask Mies about bats, and he's off and running. Unfortunately, a lot of the news he has isn't good.

The big die-off
North America's bat population is being decimated by white-nose syndrome, a fungus found in 2006 in New York that seems to disrupt bats' hibernation. It has been found in 16 states and three Canadian provinces and is spreading.
"It's going to be devastating," Mies says. "It's going through Pennsylvania, Indiana. In places it has been found — Vermont, New York — we're seeing 90, 95 percent mortality. So, unfortunately, we're going to see a huge die-off."
The disease is largely in the eastern U.S. and Canada right now, but it is slowly spreading west and south. Bat Conservation International (, an organization that sponsors research and education programs, says that the bat population across the U.S. is at risk.
"It's been projected that over the next 16 years, they'll be regionally extinct," Mies says. "There was a cave in Vermont that had 16,000 bats. Now, zero."

And what's bad for bats may be bad for people.
"With millions of bats dying — literally, millions — we don't know what the impact will be. A bat eats 2,000 to 6,000 insects a night, and some of them, certain beetles and moths, are agricultural pests."

Bat facts
There are about 40 species of bats in North America, the most common being the little brown bat. There are more than 1,100 species worldwide, according to Phil Richardson in his excellent book "Bats" (Firefly). Some bats can live 30 years or more in captivity. The biggest bat in the world is the giant flying fox, which can have a 6-foot wingspan, and the smallest is the Kitti's hog-nosed bat, about the size of a large bumblebee. Scientists earlier this year announced the discovery of a plant in the Cuban rain forest that has acoustically shaped leaves that work with a bat's sonar, drawing the bat to it and facilitating pollination.

How important are bats?
Plenty. Bats have three main benefits: insect control, pollination and the spreading of seeds.
Bats eat 50 to 100 percent of their weight in insects each night — mostly mosquitoes — and fruit bats can eat 21/2 times their weight. All that fruit includes seeds, which get scattered when the bat does his business. Even their poop, guano, is valuable as a fertilizer because of its high nitrogen content. Bats also help pollinate plants, eat moths that produce caterpillars that feast on gardens, and are part of the food chain — food for hawks, owls, eagles and snakes, while some eat rodents or scorpions.
A study published this year in Science magazine stated that insect-eating bats saved the U.S. agricultural industry at least $3 billion a year, with some estimates of more than $50 billion.

Gardeners, take note
A colony of bats will do wonders if you have an insect problem, Mies says. There are a couple of things gardeners can do to encourage bat populations.
Spray as little pesticide as possible. If you have room on your property and it's safe, leave up dead and dying trees; they're the best habitat for bats. And next season, plant night-blooming flowers, such as the evening primrose (Oenothera macrocarpa), which will attract moths and other insects for your colony's dining pleasure.

Want to be the coolest homeowner in your neighborhood? Or would you like to give your garden a boost? Set up a bat house.
A bat house can be home to a couple hundred bats, females and their offspring usually, from spring through fall. They can be set up on a pole or side of a building — trees generally aren't a good idea — 15 to 20 feet off the ground, in an open location where they get at least 6 hours of sun a day.

"Food, they'll find. But a place for them to live is the key thing," Mies says. "Unfortunately, people often chase them from their house or kill them in the barn, so they need somewhere to go."
Bat houses are readily available, but those sold at home improvement centers often don't meet bats' standards and don't attract the animals. Instead, check out the bat houses sold by the Organization for Bat Conservation, which get up to an 80 percent occupancy rate. Several sizes are available at ($38-$72), or you can buy plans to build your own.

Fear not
Mies says it's adults, not kids, who tend to be spooked by bats.
"There have been a lot of great books, especially children's books, to come out. One, "Stellaluna" (Harcourt Children's Books) by Jannell Cannon, tells a decent story about bats, that they're not bloodthirsty killers. Things like that have really helped kids be less fearful of bats."

Friday, December 23, 2011

8 Decidedly Unromantic Facts About Mistletoe

8 Decidedly Unromantic Facts About Mistletoe from Mental Floss.
The information below is not mine; it is from another blog
But as I've said before so many times I find and link to interesting data on the web only to have it disappear.  At least this way it doesn't get lost.  Think of it a bit like having to copy your own Book of Shadows.  If the links wouldn't disappear I'd be happy to JUST link.  But ... well... you know.

1. Mistletoe, not unlike some you may have smooched beneath it, is a parasite. The plant sucks water and minerals through a sinister-sounding bump called a haustorium that forms on the host tree. It might make you feel better to know that, technically, mistletoe is only partially parasitic: The plant is capable of photosynthesis, unlike true parasites that take all of their nutrients from their hosts. So while mistletoe doesn’t pay rent, it does occasionally do the laundry or whip up a nice soufflé.

2. Candle companies love to peddle holiday scents labeled “Mistletoe” –- you can even buy mistletoe-scented air fresheners for your car—but the plant, says mistletoe expert Jonathan Briggs, has no scent at all. Briggs, who hails from Gloucestershire, England, debunks all manner of mistletoe misinformation in A Little Book About Mistletoe and on his wonderful mistletoe blog.

3. Throughout the ages, mistletoe has been used to treat a battery of ailments, from leprosy, worms and labor pains to high blood pressure. In Europe, injections of mistletoe extract are often prescribed as a complementary treatment for cancer patients.

4. A time-honored southern tradition for fetching mistletoe out of a tall tree is to blast it down with a shotgun. Let’s hope no one’s kissing under it at the time.

5. In medieval times, mistletoe wasn’t just a Christmas decoration, but one perhaps better suited to Halloween: Hung over doors to homes and stables, it was thought to prevent witches and ghosts from entering.

6. According to some accounts, the name mistletoe means “dung branch,” a nod to the seeds’ ability to stick to tree branches when pooped out by birds. The viscous middle layer of the fruit is so sticky that the seeds get glued where they land post-digestion, which starts a new mistletoe plant. Mistletoe goo is so sticky that trappers used to smear it on tree branches to catch birds, which would land and then be unable to fly away.

7. The Roman historian Pliny the Elder told how druids revered mistletoe, recounting a ceremony where they gathered it with a golden sickle, then sacrificed two white bulls. The ceremony still takes place each year, minus the bull-slaying, at the Tenbury Mistletoe Festival in England.

8. In Norse mythology, mistletoe is a god-killer. Balder, the son of Odin and Frigg, was felled by an arrow made of mistletoe, the only material that could hurt him. Oddly, this may have been the origin of the kissing tradition, as some retellings say that Frigg revived Balder and was so happy, she commanded anyone who stood under the plant to kiss as a reminder of how love conquered death

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Winter Soltice.... BEST MESSAGE for a new Solar Year.

Tracy Chapman's Heaven's here on Earth

And again in Italian

You can look to the stars in search of the answers
Look for God and life on distant planets
Have your faith in the ever after
While each of us holds inside the map to the labyrinth
Heaven's here on earth

We are the spirit the collective conscience
We create the pain and the suffering and the beauty in this world
Heaven's here on earth
In our faith in humankind
In our respect for what is earthly
In our unfaltering belief in peace and love and understanding

I've seen and met angels wearing the disguise
Of ordinary people leading ordinary lives
Filled with love, compassion, forgiveness and sacrifice
Heaven's in our hearts
In our faith in humankind
In our respect for what is earthly
In our unfaltering belief in peace and love and understanding

Look around
Believe in what you see
The kingdom is at hand
The promised land is at your feet
We can and will become what we aspire to be
Heaven's here on earth

If we have faith in humankind
And respect for what is earthly
And an unfaltering belief that truth is divinity
Heaven's here on earth

I've seen spirits
I've met angels
Touched creations beautiful and wondrous
I've been places where I question all I think I know
But I believe, I believe, I believe this could be heaven

We are born inside the gates with the power to create life
And to take it away
The world is our temple
The world is our church
Heaven's here on earth

If we have faith in humankind
And respect for what is earthly
And an unfaltering belief
In peace and love and understanding
This could be heaven here on earth

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Why Solstice Matters

Worthwhile thoughts on solstice...

Give it a read....  I happen to know and trust the source for this one. The blog made it through Katrina and I am counting on it being around for quite some time.

"Anyhow, I am happy to remember and the solstice and celebrate it explicitly. It’s about as universal and natural a holiday as one could ask for. It’s available to everyone, people of every religion or no religion, everywhere on the planet."

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Brains, energy, magic

Listen to it all... It has amazing ramifications for how we use our brains and our energy to do magic.
See the transcript here.

Below is the video that made me look up the one above. Autotune ruins modern music but this is the most appropriate and amazing use of Autotune.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Now we're talking

It took Katrina to get the people of the region to really stand up to the Corps of Engineers
but finally the RIGHT projects are going through.... we need more...
but at least now there is movement.

See recent article in New Orleans Times Picayune in full below

Coastal restoration projects move forward
Saturday, December 10, 2011 - Times Picayune
By Mark Schleifstein

Construction of a half-dozen major coastal restoration projects in Louisiana took a small step forward Friday with federal and state officials signing an agreement outlining how to design the projects. The agreement frees up the first $20 million appropriated by Congress this year to be spent on pre-construction engineering and design work.
whiskey_island.jpgView full sizeThe Terrebonne Basin Barrier Shoreline Restoration project will rebuild marshland, dunes and beaches on Raccoon, Whiskey, Trinity and Timbalier islands in Terrebonne and Lafourche parishes. Whiskey Island was photographed in October 2002, after it had sustained significant damage from Hurricane Lili.
The first six of 15 projects, proposed as part of the Louisiana Coastal Area Ecosystem Restoration program, will require an investment of $1.4 billion. The federal government will pay 65 percent and the state will pay the rest.
Traditionally, such projects are financed by appropriations by Congress, which may be sparse during the next few years.
But some of the projects may get funded through fines or mitigation costs levied against BP and other companies found responsible under the federal Clean Water Act and the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 for the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
The state also hopes to use part of its share of future revenue from federal offshore oil and gas leases, similar revenue from in-state leases, and from past state budget surpluses to pay its share of construction costs.
“These projects will help to reduce the risk from storm surge of a hurricane by supporting the multiple lines of defense system,” said Col. Ed Fleming, commander of the Army Corps of Engineers’ New Orleans District office.
He was referring to a strategy underlying both the federal restoration plan and the state’s coastal restoration master plan that locates land-building projects in areas where they can help protect populated areas from storm surges.
“The LCA 6 projects utilize the three important coastal restoration methods: barrier island restoration, river diversions, and marsh creation and nourishment,” Fleming said.
The first projects will include:
  • Amite River Diversion Canal Modification, which will improve the flow of water into the cypress swamp and wetlands to the west of Lake Maurepas in Livingston and Ascension parishes.
  • Small Diversion at Convent/Blind River, where about 3,000 cubic feet per second of Mississippi River water will be pumped through a canal near Romeville into the cypress swamp and wetlands west of Lake Maurepas in Ascension and St. James parishes.
  • Medium Diversion at White Ditch will allow up to 35,000 cubic feet per second of Mississippi River water and sediment to be diverted near Phoenix into wetlands on the east bank of Plaquemines Parish.
  • Terrebonne Basin Barrier Shoreline Restoration will rebuild marshland, dunes and beaches on Raccoon, Whiskey, Trinity and Timbalier islands in Terrebonne and Lafourche parishes.
  • Convey Atchafalaya River Water to Northern Terrebonne Marshes. This project combines two proposals — routing Atchafalaya water into the Bayou Chene/Gulf Intracoastal Waterway system and designing a gate structure in the Houma Navigation Channel to allow that water to pass into sensitive wetlands.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Federally recognize the United Houma Nation - YOU can help

The United Houma Nation has sought federal recognition for decades. The tribe has been recognized by state and foreign governments as an Indian tribe. In fact, Houma children were forced to attend a segregated Indian school until the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Located along Louisiana's Gulf Coast, the Houma Indian culture and community depend on the wetlands. The BP spill has devastated the Houma. However, BP denied the Houma's claim because they are not federally recognized.

The White House promised to review the United Houma Nation's petition for federal recognition if 25,000 signatures are acquired. Currently the petition is just over 5000 signatures.  December 1, 2011 is the deadline.  We can all play a role in making this happen if we ask our friends and family to sign.

As pagan one of the things that we know is that relationship to the land and our ancestors and our history is critical.  The Houma Nation is part of South Louisiana history and America's History.  Federal designation  will  help preserve the Houma’s culture and the lands that are a part of this culture. 

Please click here to sign as a way to be thankful for what we all have and as a way to ensure that we can be aware of an thankful of a past and a culture that is so closely connected to the land.

Please take the time to Honor the past and Protect the Future by acting on this opportunity.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Moonlight Sonata

On Classical Guitar by Eric Henderson

I know it's originally for piano, but I love the classical guitar.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

All Soul's Day

Taken directly from International House New Orleans

All Souls/All Saints Day
In heavily Catholic New Orleans, All Saints Day (November 1) and All Souls' Day (November 2) have been observed for centuries through rituals celebrating life over death.

During the Yellow Fever epidemics in eighteenth century New Orleans, death always loomed close. It's presence left the lasting impression on this city and its inhabitants that life is a gift, perhaps fleeting, and should be enjoyed to its fullest each day. And so, on All Saints Day and All Souls Day, New Orleanians honor the lives of their dead loved ones by painting tombs with brilliant whitewashes, placing yellow chrysanthemums and red coxcombs on graves and ringing statuary with immortelles (wreaths of black glass beads). On these days, cemeteries throughout the city are alive with the flickering glow from fields of candles, as death is forgotten and lives lived are celebrated.

It is one of the many rich New Orleans' traditions we observe annually at International House, for we can imagine no other city which has turned such tragedy into such a joyous celebration of life.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Tomb with a View

Life next to a cemetery
Tomb with a View
Chris Rose - Gambit

I see dead people. Every day, I am presented with the physical manifestations of eternity. Or maybe faith is the better term. I live amid the remnants and architecture of ritual. I bear witness to the ceremonial and liturgical transference of the departed from this world to, presumably, the next.

  Fancy talk for telling you: I live next to a cemetery.

  In some towns, that might not be a good thing. It might be spooky or depressing. I don't know anything about real estate, but it seems reasonable to postulate that these little cities of granite, marble and stone, with their solicitations of grief and their constant reminder of mortality — hell, why sugarcoat? With their constant reminder of death! — might not be the curb appeal every potential homebuyer is looking for.

  In some towns.

  They are serene, oddly comforting, the small, quiet gatherings that occur here. There are no more than two or three a month in my cemetery, it seems. They never strike me as depressing. Truth is, I hear more laughter in my cemetery than sorrow. Maybe that's part of New Orleans' curious relationship with death; you know, that "we put the 'fun' in funerals" thing.

  I have lived in New Orleans for 25 years, but only this fall did I move across the street from a cemetery. It is such an iconic neighbor, like living, I suppose, next to a vineyard in France, a Roman aqueduct in Italy, pyramids in Egypt or in the shadow of the Great Wall of China; before the senses have fully taken in the surroundings, the story of these places is already revealed to us. They are not natural wonders by any means, but reminders that man, too, is capable of producing wondrous things.

  That's one way to put it. The terms I generally use to describe living next to a cemetery are considerably less didactic: "It's really cool!" is generally how I explain it to my friends.

  Most old cities seem to have at least one cemetery that is a source of civic pride and/or historical significance. But I don't know of any other place where every cemetery invokes a sense of place, a sense of pride; in New Orleans, cemeteries are among the most pervasive and visible reminders of our otherness.

  Drop me into a cemetery anywhere else in the country, and I would be at a loss to tell you where I am. Drop me off in New Orleans, and I can tell you immediately: I am home.

  My kids — 7, 9 and 11 — are just getting over their squeamishness about our new neighbors. For a long time, they exuded a determined disinterest in the cemetery; they knew they weren't supposed to be scared of it — after all, the other kids in the neighborhood seem fine with it — but, still, they were pretty freaked out for a while.

  Now, we walk our dog, scooter and play in our cemetery. In fact, I've often wondered about the propriety of that, wondered, as I once watched my children play hide and seek: What are the boundaries?

  Many years ago, a girlfriend of mine took my mother and my aunt — visiting from Maryland — to lunch while I was at work. She picked up some seafood po-boys and sodas at the St. Roch Market and took them to St. Roch Cemetery where she spread their bounty across a stranger's tomb and they ate and visited with each other.

  Needless to say, my folks thought St. Roch was a marvelous, beautiful place to behold. But the story they brought home with them was about the curious girl who took them to lunch at a cemetery! Now there's a story for the folks back home.

  But that's what we do, no? Is that OK? What are the rules, I have always wondered? (And I've no doubt that before this week is out, someone will dutifully inform me.)

  My cemetery is rundown, overgrown and mostly deserted. Tourists don't come here. But I find I have taken a proprietary interest in my cemetery. To me, it is prettier than all the grand Cities of the Dead that make New Orleans famous.

  Funny, I realize: I love my cemetery. From it, I draw a great deal of reflection, serenity and peace. Odd, but from my cemetery, I draw so much life.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Music for the Equinox or a Full Moon

World Premiere of Samuel Barber's Adagio for Strings conducted by ArturoToscanini
New York on May 11th, 1938

Samuel Barber's Adagio for Strings conducted Leonard Slatlin
(who conducted in New Orleans from 1977-1979)
London September 15 2001

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Perfect Cornucopia Advice

Perfect Cornucopia advice... for your garden.... for your life...
What do you need? What is working? What is not? What will you keep? What will you eliminate?

Thank you Dan Gill.

Take stock of your landscape
Published: Thursday, August 11, 2011, 8:00 PM
By Dan Gill, Times-Picayune garden columnist

It's really too hot to do much of anything strenuous in the garden this time of the year.

I would certainly put off labor-intensive jobs such as creating new beds (or even reworking old beds), building structures like decks and arbors or major landscape plantings.

About all I feel like doing now is slowly strolling around my gardens in the early morning or late evening when the temperatures are somewhat cooler. Oh, I'll stop to take care of some weed issues (that never ends). Still, I try to keep the physical activity to a minimum. But, I'm not wasting time.

I'm doing three important things as I ramble around my landscape.

First, I'm enjoying it. I'm appreciating the beautiful flowers and bright colors of summer bedding plants and tropicals blooming this time of year. I'm sticking my nose into the flowers of butterfly ginger (Hedychium coronarium) and devouring the wonderful fragrance. You work hard to create and maintain your gardens -- don't forget to appreciate and enjoy them.

Second, I'm evaluating. I'm looking carefully at how well new plants are doing in this stressful late-summer weather. I'm also scrutinizing new plantings to see if plant and color combinations look as good in the garden as they did in my mind.

Finally, I'm re-evaluating my landscape. I tend to do this fairly constantly to some degree, but this time of the year I like to put a little extra thought into it. This is a good thing for everyone to do.

Why re-evaluate

As landscapes mature, things change. Trees get taller and cast deeper shade, and bushes can become overgrown.

People's lifestyles also change, and that area given over to a sandbox or a swing set may no longer be needed. Or you may have purchased an older home with mature plantings that no longer work well, or at least they don't satisfy you. Maybe the arrival of a new baby limits the amount of time you once had to maintain your gardens.

Whatever the reason, reevaluation is an important part of maintaining a landscape that is attractive and provides for the current needs of a family.

To start re-evaluating a landscape, you have to take a hard, honest look at what you have.

Changes in the garden can happen subtly over years, and you might overlook the obvious, such as an increase in shade or a physical change in your garden, unless you really focus.

Or, there are more sudden changes that haven't been properly integrated into the landscape. Maybe you added a deck, for instance, and traffic patterns have changed, but you haven't reworked the walkways.

Pretend you are the new owner of the house and garden you are surveying, and look at it with as much objectivity as you can.


One of the biggest changes that can creep up silently on a landscape over time is the growth of trees. They not only grow taller and larger, but they can dramatically influence what can or can't grow under or around them.

If your landscape has been planted for a number of years, you may find that some plants don't perform as well as they used to.

You might notice, for instance, that a bed of azaleas that has bloomed well for many years is no longer doing so, and the plants look leggy and thin. It could be that they need more light. Trees that were smaller when the azaleas were planted will grow larger over the years and cast more and deeper shade.

Lawns also often succumb to shade from a tree that has grown large over the years.

When shade makes existing plants grow poorly and look bad, consider removing those plants and replacing them with something more shade-tolerant. Plant areas where grass will not grow with shade-loving ground covers such as monkey grass or Asiatic jasmine.

In a few rare circumstances, you may decide that too many trees were planted in the landscape (easy to do, since trees are small when first planted). Sometimes it's necessary to make the difficult decision to remove a tree.


Overgrown shrubs can be trimmed back, trimmed up or removed entirely if no longer desirable.

It can be visually unattractive for a while, but a severe trimming can rejuvenate some types of old shrubs.

Hard pruning is best done just before shrubs start active growth. February or March is a good time to hard-prune shrubs that bloom in the summer. Prune spring-flowering shrubs in late March or April after they flower.

Once they begin growing again, you can control their size with regular pruning.

In other cases, if height is not an issue, you can trim a shrub up. To do this, selectively remove the lower branches of an overgrown shrub, training it into a small tree-form. This opens up space under and around the plant, making it less dominant.

Do you find yourself constantly pruning back shrubs that are too large for the area where they are planted? This is a fight you will never win. Often, removing and replacing these shrubs is the best idea. If you do decide to do this, make sure that you select new shrubs that will not grow too large for their location.

Planning ahead

The best time for planting hardy trees, shrubs ground covers and perennials in the landscape is November through March, with fall and early winter being best. That's why now is a good time to start doing this type of re-evaluation.

It gives you plenty of time to rethink your landscape and make plans for what needs to be done when the weather turns cooler.

And it's a great way to avoid working hard out in this hot weather, while still doing something important.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Chapter 44 – Worms

Owen picked up Latasha’s grandson, Bryant, and then picked up Nola for 7:30AM. Nola jumped in the back seat of the truck. He took her for coffee at a shop on Jefferson Avenue and smiled to himself as he watched her breathe in the scent and relax the warm of the cup in her hand. Then they made their way to the first uptown house where Joe was waiting.
Nola got out of the truck and said, “Morning Joe. Thank you for coming with us.”
“You’re kidding right? I wouldn’t miss seeing you handle LeBlanc for the world.”
She smiled and said, “WE’re going to handle LeBlanc.” Then “Shall we get started?”
Joe nodded and he and Nola went off to walk around the property. Owen and Bryant took site measurements. It was a typical uptown shotgun double, strip of green space between the side walk and the street big enough for a crepe myrtle, citrus tree or fast growing fringe tree. There was a small front yard with enough room for a tree or small bush. There needed to be space for the incredibly large postKatrina garbage cans that wouldn’t fit down narrow walkways along each side of the house. There was a small, sad, empty back yard.
Joe looked at the back yard and said, “Not much to work with.”
Nola nodded and said, “Well, not much but something. Is this one of the houses you and Owen have worked on already?”
“Yes. How did you know that?”
“The A/C units are on the roof, right?”
“It’s a signature design feature of Owen’s that I personally like because it stops what little yard we have here from being completely taken over by the air handling units.”
Joe nodded, “And I always thought that Owen was a little silly to do it. But lots of people go for it these days so their A/C won’t be messed up by minor flooding. I never realized how it changed what you could do with a yard.”
“Here’s what I think we should do. Put up a privacy fence between the 2 halves. Leave a small bit of open ground on each side of the fencing and plant a flowering vine, jasmine is essentially evergreen. Then in each corner leave a slightly curved triangular area and plant a citrus – Navel Orange, Lemon or Satsuma. We can edge with blue daze or oregano and mulch like crazy.
On each side of the steps we can either go tropical with Elephant Ears or Mediterranean with Rosemary and Roses. Another option is to expand the steps lengthwise so they can be used for "stoop-sitting" and not interfere with traffic in and out of the house. I'll leave that for you and Owen to decide. Maurice can work his magic with a stamped and stained-like-brick concrete courtyard. The vine will make the yard feel green. The tree will be interesting and eventually provide some shade and the courtyard will make the small space useful.”
“I like it. Simple. Functional. Easy to maintain.”
“Ready to go up front?”
Owen and Bryant were making their way down the alleyway. As they squeezed by each other Owen put his hand around her waist and Nola smiled and said, “I'm seeing one of Maurice’s courtyards in the back. Make sure your measurements will satisfy the master.”
He hugged her lightly and said, “Ok, Chief.”
Bryant's eyebrows rose up and Joe nodded as if to say, Yep, they’re an item.
Nola was standing on the front porch looking things over. She finally said, “I think that the garbage cans can go on each side of the porch. They will discourage folks from heading down the side of the houses but can be moved easily enough if needed. We should plant some small trees between the sidewalk and the street. I think given the narrowness of the space crepe myrtles will have to do. Then here in the front area between the 2 sets of steps some simple Knockout roses. Lots of mulch and we’re done.”
“What do you think Joe?”
Owen and Bryant had come up the other side of the house and heard Joe say, “I think that you are too good at this. I think that it will make this house look better than any other on the block. I think it’s going to be crazy easy to maintain. I like it.”
She smiled at him. Why don’t you let Owen know what the options are for the backyards?”
Joe explained the plan to Owen and Bryant. Owen nodded and understood how easy it would be to pull off but also how it would significantly change the look of the property. LeBlanc would probably end up being able to charge enough extra in rent to cover any maintenance costs.
Nola said, “The plans should be too hard to draw up.”
Owen said, “Piece of cake.” And he and Joe went to the backyard to discuss the option of changing steps or just adding a courtyard.

Nola stayed in front with Bryant and explained, “The key to maintenance will be pruning the trees so they grow up, keeping the weeds down with mulch and occasionally some weed killer like Round Up and trimming the roses only if they get too wild and high. The hardest thing in the first few months will be keeping the new plantings it properly watered. We’ll have to make sure that Owen puts that in the proposal he draws up for Mr. LeBlanc’s properties. We'll work hard on the properties initially, the prep work is everything, after that we let nature do most of the work. You’ll have to let me know when the plantings look a little rough and unruly and then I teach you how to prune."
“You are really going to let me have the maintenance work as a regular job?”
“Well if you want to Bryant. I know that’s what Owen thinks will happen. But if this is not what you want then that’s ok. We can find someone else.”
“Oh no. I want to do it. I hated cutting grass, but I like working with plants.”
“Ok then. For this kind of care the hardest part is watching the plantings and getting feel for how much tending, watering, weeding they need. You have to swing by or have Joe swing by to check fairly regularly especially in the beginning. Do you have a car?”
“Yes,” and he was a little embarrassed as he said, “a really old beat up car that my grandma helped me get. She knows how important transportation is to getting work.”
Nola smiled. “There are times when I still miss my very first beat up old pick up truck. I bought it for a dollar from my grandpa and sometimes it was hard to have enough money to pay the insurance and keep it in gas, but it definitely was worth the effort. We’ll make sure that part of the landscaping maintenance fees cover what you need for insurance and gas to get to your jobs.”
“Yes, I think that I can talk to Owen about working something out.”

Owen and Joe returned from the backyard and gave them a thumbs up. Nola said, “Well, fellas, shall we head to the next house? I’m hoping that they are fairly similar in layout and that we can do these quickly.” Nola made her way down the steps to the gate and looked back at them smiling, “Coming?”

Nola rode with Owen and Bryant rode with Joe. This gave Nola a chance to talk to Owen about Bryant and transportation. Owen was amazed at how sometimes she got to where he was going faster than he did. The other uptown houses were essentially the same as the first. Owen had already worked on half of them. Nola insisted that Owen put moving the A/C to the roof into the landscaping plans for the other houses. They finished up early and were able to take a look at the Lakeview house. This was a bit more interesting because the yard was much larger. Nola wondered out loud. “Is this a rental or is he looking to sell this one?”
Owen said, “I don’t know. We’ll have to ask.”
“Well I have ideas but I need to know what he plans to do with the house before I make any significant suggestions.”
“Oh well, then I’m hungry. Let’s eat before we see LeBlanc.”

Owen took the signs off his truck and then they swung by the house where they were supposed to meet LeBlanc at 1PM. There were no cars in the driveway and there was no fence around the yard. There were a significant number of empty lots. While they were at lunch Nola laid out the plans. She wanted to go to LeBlanc’s front door by herself. After all LeBlanc was only expecting her. She wanted Joe to come by a few minutes later and ring the door bell and Owen and Bryant to show up a little later.

Owen said, “I don’t like it.”
Joe agreed, “Neither do I.”
Bryant kept his mouth shut and watched. He was just waiting to see what Nola would come up with next.
“Look I know it’s a bit sneaky. But from where I sit LeBlanc is trying to back me into a corner. Turnaround is fair play. We’ve done the site assessment work. We didn’t skimp on the ideas or the plans. I think they are good and will improve his properties. I’m not suggesting you cheat him. I know that if he gives you the jobs you all will do the same excellent work you’ve done every other location you’ve ever touched. But I want him to realize once and for all that I’m not interested and that we don’t play around. NO Lawnmower Landscaping does professional dependable work. He needs to fish for his creepy, controlling fix in another pond.”
“Woman, it’s not LeBlanc I’m worried about it’s you!”
Joe smiled discretely and nudged Bryant. They had talked about how protective Owen was about Nola as they rode in the truck. Joe had shared the LeBlanc Pool Party story with him.
“Owen, I’m a big girl. I know how to handle myself. You all will be right there as my backup. I just need you to come in about 15 minutes after I’ve go into the house. I think that Joe should knock on the front door and you and Bryant should be at the back yard, measuring.”
Owen looked at her and insisted, “I don’t like it.” Then he looked to Joe for support.
Joe looked at Owen and said, “Look man, Nola does the assessments. I trust her. The whole landscaping thing is her show. I say let her do it her way. I think she can handle LeBlanc.”
“Thank you Joe.” Nola smiled.
Owen looked at her and insisted, “I still don’t like it.”
“That’s why Joe will knock on the front door and you and Bryant will be in the back yard.” Owen looked at her and Joe could see that Owen was going to let her have her way and God Help LeBlanc if he did anything Nola didn't like.
Joe said, “Nola, You can ride with me. LeBlanc probably knows Owen’s truck. I doubt he’ll know mine. We’ll go first.” Then he turned to Owen and Bryant, “Give us 10 minutes head start before you leave here. Bryant, check out your watch. Start counting when Nola & I hit that door. OK?”
Bryant looked at his watch and said, “OK.”
Owen said, “Last time I checked I was the boss.”
Joe said, “Sorry boss, but this is Nola’s show.” And he stood up nodded to Nola. Owen stood up to let her out of the booth. She saw his worry and leaned into him and he put his arms around her. She stood up on her toes and hugged him back and whispered in his ear, “I promise to be careful.” then left with Joe while Owen paid the lunch bill.

Nola knocked on the front door. There was a car in the driveway so LeBlanc had to be here now.
LeBlanc opened the door and smiled, “Hello, Nola.” He looked at the truck on the street. Joe was hiding in back seat area.
“Hello Mr. LeBlanc.”
“Jeff. And thanks for coming.”
“I’m happy to, Jeff.”
And LeBlanc thought that perhaps she preferred privacy instead of a party for making the connections he intended. And as he closed the door he put his hand on her back and said, “Let’s go into the living room.”
“Do you live here?”
“But it’s furnished.”
“Well it’s an old family house. I keep it, in case I need it.” He waved at the sofa.
“Oh.” And Nola sat down and put the folder with all the plans on the table. “I’ve had an opportunity to look at your other shotgun double properties in Uptown and MidCity. I assume that those properties are all rentals?”
“Yes. You’ve looked at them already?”
“Yes, Jeff. You gave Owen the list of all the properties so I took a look at them this morning in preparation for this meeting. I think that we can landscape the properties so they will be more appealing than they already are to your renters. The plan is that the changes should essentially pay for themselves by attracting higher quality renters and higher rents. Here take a look at a sample of what we can do.”
And she pulled out a quick sketch Owen had made of her ideas on the first uptown house. LeBlanc moved closer to her and looked at the plans and Nola let him look and get closer to her than she preferred then continued, “Most of your properties have similar layouts. The A/C units on the roof make for a much nicer back yard. I’d encourage you to let OA move A/C units on the rest of the properties as part of the landscaping work. It makes a huge difference in how appealing we can make the landscaping.” She intentionally leaned into him and said, “What do you think?”
LeBlanc was actually impressed and as she leaned into him, a little flattered. This was more like it. She would probably have been willing before she just hadn't wanted an audience. He put his hand on her leg and said, “I like the ideas. Simple. Efficient.”
And Nola laid her hand on his knee and said, “And easy to execute and easier to maintain long term and appealing to your renters. Now what I need to know is what do you want to do with your Lakefront properties?” And she stood up and started to walk toward the back of the house. LeBlanc got up. Nola continued. “Are you looking to do some quick landscaping to help you sell or to make this a place where you can have guests or are you landscaping for yourself?”
And LeBlanc thought, is that code for a quickie or a longer term arrangement?
“Well Nola” and he moved in a little closer, “I hadn’t decided yet.”
“I see. Well then my suggestion would be that you consider landscaping for minimal curb appeal for now and maybe a little strategic shade and then wait until you decide how you are going to handle the properties longer term.”
“Well, that’s very practical of you.” And he put his hand on her back and said. “There’s a great view of the back yard from second floor. Why don’t we go upstairs so you can get a better look at the property and decide how you want to lay it out?”
Nola was pretty sure that a suggestion for more than landscaping services. And thought, Joe should be ringing the bell at any minute. What she said was, “Do you only have one lot or did you buy any of the surrounding property via the lot next door program?”
“As a matter of fact I’ve added half of the lot next door on 3 sides. I’m assuming that larger yards will sell better in the future.”
Where the hell was Joe? “That’s probably very smart. Did you do that on both Lakefront properties?”
With his hand around her waist he started to walk them toward the stairs, “Yes. Let’s go upstairs to the bedroom and take a look.”
She was going have to sound like she was actually willing to go where he was thinking this was headed, “Ok, Jeff. Getting a view from upstairs would probably be very helpful.” And the doorbell rang. Nola looked at LeBlanc.
LeBlanc looked frustrated and said, “I’ll be right back.”
Nola nodded and walked back to the table in front of the sofa to pick up her folder, then walked to the hall she could see the front door. LeBlanc opened the door and there was Joe.
“Hello, Mr. LeBlanc.”
LeBlanc just stood there. From behind him Nola said, “Hello Joe.”
LeBlanc turned and looked at her and she said, “Joe is working with me on the site assessments. He’s the reason I was able to complete the site assessments on all of your other properties today. Come on in Joe. We were just going upstairs to take a look at the back yard.” And she turned and started toward the stairs. Joe smiled and shook LeBlanc’s hand and headed toward Nola. LeBlanc had no choice but to follow them up the stairs. They went through the bedroom past a king size bed to get to the large balcony. They were standing on it when Owen and Bryant showed up. Nola waved and then turned to LeBlanc and said. “Owen and Bryant are here to take measurements so he can draw up the plans. We’re hoping that you will be interested in a NO Lawnmower maintenance plan for your rental properties. Bryant does the maintenance work.” LeBlanc could do nothing but nod. Nola said, “I think I have the layout and some ideas. Shall we go downstairs and discuss them?”
When they got to the backyard Owen did his best not to look pissed. LeBlanc could see he was out numbered. Now that all the troops were here Nola took LeBlanc’s arm and walked around the property with him from the back yard to the front and made some suggestions. Nola handed Joe her folder and he followed pretending like he was taking notes.
“I think that the first thing to do is put up a fence. Then we can set some medium sized trees between the sidewalk and the street. I’d put in a water oak on this south side of the front of the house. It’s a fast grower and will make great shade over the sidewalk and on the side of the house that will get the most sun. It will help with energy efficiency. After you get the fence and a few trees in we can decide how you want to landscape the front of the house. You'll probably want a walkway from the driveway to the front door. Since the front yard here is fairly large I’d suggest a walkway similar to the one in Owen’s yard that looks like it winds but that is actually a straight shot if you don't meander around the curves. This can make the front yard more interesting to look at and will allow us to put in more roses and other easy maintenance bushes. The back and side yards are so large that I’d suggest not spending too much money on landscaping because I think anyone looking at buying a property this large and fabulous is probably going to consider putting in a pool.”
LeBlanc just nodded and said, “I do like the ideas.”
She had walked them to where Owen and Bryant were standing when she asked, “Well Jeff, I think with these suggestions Owen has enough to finish drawing up some plans and estimates. Owen will have to let you know how soon his crews can start.” And she discretely looked at Owen to make sure that he got the message, “I’d suggest doing the rental properties first, more bang for your bucks. While the path work can be done right away at the larger Lakefront houses, it would be better to wait until September to plant these larger areas. They would be too expensive to keep watered and plantings would be a risk. You don’t want to waste your money.” Then she turned to LeBlanc and asked, “What do you think?”
Jeff LeBlanc thought, I’m not getting the bang I thought I would. But the ideas are good. “Sure, Sure. Why not.”
“Excellent Jeff. I look forward to working on your properties. I’ll let you and Owen chat about timing and specifics.” And she turned to Joe and said, “Joe shall we go and take another look at the other Lakefront house? Owen and Bryant can meet us there once they finish up with Mr. LeBlanc,”
Then she held out her hand to LeBlanc and said, “It was a pleasure.”
What could he do but shake it and nod?

Nola and Joe walked to his truck and waved as they drove off. When they were a block away Nola turned to Joe and he busted out laughing. She did too and then said, “Boy I’m glad that’s over. I was beginning to think I was going to have to let him take me upstairs to the bedroom alone. You rang the doorbell just in time.”
“You were so smooth. You should be an actress.”
“Thanks Joe. The trick is to keep thinking about the actual job of landscaping and then to gently layer on the flattery. He’ll thank us eventually.”
Joe said, “It’s a shame Roger couldn’t have seen you in action.”
Nola smiled. “You were pretty good too. Nice touch, looking like you were taking notes on the folder.”
Joe smiled, “I’m a quick learner. You’re a good teacher.” And then added, “I hope Owen will keep it together.”
“Owen will be fine. He knows what he’s doing. He is a natural charmer.”
“Well usually. But he is also protective and a little touchy when it comes to you and making sure you're Ok.”
“He’s a gentleman Joe. He’ll be fine. He needs to stop worrying about me. I've been taking care of myself for a long time."

Owen and Bryant drove up about 15 minutes later. Joe and Nola were sitting in the shade on the front porch steps of LeBlanc’s other lakefront house. Owen was out of the truck first. Bryant followed smiling. Owen had dratted and fumed worrying about Nola on the way to LeBlanc’s and then sputtered in amazement after they finished up with LeBlanc at how smoothly she had handled him. From what Bryant could tell they would start working on LeBlanc’s rentals in less than 3 weeks and a minimally LeBlanc had agreed to let them fence both the Lakefront yards. It had been pretty impressive to watch.

Nola said, “Well, boss?...”
Joe laughed and then looked with mock seriousness at Owen.
Nola finished, “… when do you start?”
Owen shook his head and said, “in 3 weeks landscaping the rentals. We’ll be moving the A/Cs just like you wanted on 2 of the properties that are empty. We’ll eventually move the other one as well. And minimally we’ll be fencing the Lakefront properties now and doing curb plantings in the fall but I think that he also wants to add the walkway. So I'll be putting that in the quote.”
Nola raised her eyebrows, leaned back on her elbows looking satisfied and smiled.
Owen said, “Ok, you were right.”
Nola got up from the steps and she took Owen’s arm and said, “Let’s go, Big Man. Take me home. I’m sure Bryant has more interesting things to do with the rest of his weekend.”
Bryant what thinking, Nope…. I don’t, just homework. This was fun!
As Joe got up from the steps she gave him a hug, “Thank you, Joe. I couldn’t have done it without you. I know you’ll give Roger and Maurice a full report.”

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Scents and listening to subtleties

Cooling scents: the right perfume can lift your spirits and cool you down
Published: Tuesday, August 09, 2011
By Susan Langenhennig, The Times-Picayune

Debra Jones-Scie has an old-fashioned trick for dealing with the sticky heat and humidity of late summer in the city.

She keeps a bottle of Verveine, a bright, lemon verbena cologne, in the refrigerator. Before stepping outside, she spritzes a little on her skin, sending a chilling tingle down her spine.

“When I go on a walk, I pull it out and give a little spray,” said Jones-Scie, the “nose” for Hové, the 80-year-old French Quarter perfume house. "It cools you."

Scents are the escape artists of the beauty world. One whiff of the right perfume, and you can be in another place and time — one preferably about 20 degrees cooler and 50 percent less sweaty than August in New Orleans.

I’ve come to Jones-Scie's door seeking relief from the relentless humidity that’s sapping my energy like a tapeworm. She turns to a shelf in Hové’s 19th-century townhouse and her hand falls on a few options.

There’s Elan d’Orange, a surprisingly bracing scent that features orange blossom, but presented in a way that’s not like the sweet floral we often associate with the heady flowers of the bitter orange tree. Elan d’Orange has a pleasant tang, like iced tea with a slice of lemon.

Plage d’Ete is another option, but it’s a little too suntan-lotion-like for me, with those familiar notes of coconut and lime. It conjures thoughts of a frosty pina colada by the pool or memories of slathering Coppertone on your skin.

Hové’s Vetiver, a pure, green, grassy scent, is refreshingly sharp and has a side benefit. “I use the Vetiver on my legs, and it keeps the mosquitoes away, at least on me,” Jones-Scie said.

Perfume blogger Victoria Frolova has a poetic way of describing the cooling effects of certain perfumes: “The effervescence of citrus — be it the bracing sharpness of lime, the peppery shimmer of bergamot, the intense verdancy of petitgrain or the playful sweetness of mandarin — has a refreshing, exhilarating effect,” she writes. “It instantly cools, evoking the delicious sensation of an ice cube melting on hot skin.”

Frolova has a technical nose that gives an insightful edge to her fragrance observations at There’s a reason, she said, why some colognes are particularly appealing in warm climates.

“Neroli and petitgrain oils share the same pungent component as perspiration and allow it to become masked by the bright, green freshness of orange flower,” she writes in a post highlighting summer scents.

The bitter orange tree — the variety that gives marmalade its bite — is like “the pig of the fragrance world,” Frolova said during a recent chat by phone from her home in New Jersey. “Every part of the plant is used.”

Orange bigarade, an essential oil, comes from cold-pressing the fruit, while sweet neroli oil is derived from the orange blossoms. Petitgrain, another essential oil, comes from distilling the twigs, making for a green, woodsy smell.

“Neroli is less floral and more citrusy,” Frolova said, “while orange blossom absolu is richer and sweeter, more seductive.

“One of my personal favorites is Annick Goutal Neroli, a blend of orange blossom and neroli,” she added. “It has so many facets, but when you put them together, you end up having an accord that’s very fresh.”

Orange blossom fragrances can be boldly feminine, like Serge Lutens’ Fleurs d’Oranger, which leaves a lingering sweetness to the skin.

Or they can be darker and brooding, as in the case of Narcisse Noir, a scent launched in 1911, said Barbara Herman, who blogs about vintage perfumes at
“Narcisse Noir has amazing orange blossom, but the predominate character of that perfume is dark and sexy,” she said. “It’s mixed with incense and in a musk base, which makes it very interesting.”

Herman has been living in New Orleans this summer while writing a book, with the working title “Scent and Subversion: A Century of Provocative Perfume.” She doesn’t subscribe to the idea that hot months call only for simple scents.

“Just as you probably don’t want to eat beef stroganoff in the dead of summer when it’s 96 degrees out, you don’t generally want to wear heavy perfumes in the Oriental family either,” she said. “Lighter and fresher scents in the floral and chypre perfume families act like olfactory air conditioning to lift your spirits and cool you down. They may be light, but they’re not lightweight. Some of these are complex beauties.”

Chypres (pronounced “SHEE-pres”) are that lovely family of fragrances with notes of citrus mixed with oak moss, musk and, often, patchouli. One of Herman’s favorite summer scents is Clarins Eau Dynamisante, a chypre she describes as “citrusy, woody, herbaceous, spicy. Prozac in a perfume bottle.”

Some of her other warm-month favorites include Estee Lauder White Linen — “as elegant and fresh as a starched white shirt; smells like summer to me” — and Hové’s Vetiver — "peppery, dusty, salty, wild. One of the best vetivers out there.”

But Herman has a special affection for Christian Dior Diorella, which she describes as “fresh, funky, fruity, mossy, like citrus perfume spilled inside a suede purse.”

The first time she smelled it, she was on a lunch break from her office job in San Francisco. “I sprayed it on and just got a funny look on my face,” she recalled. “I walked around, sniffing my arm for the next half an hour.

“I think perfumes are really visceral experiences. You feel more connected to yourself and your senses.”

Sitting around a coffee table last Friday in the back of Avery, a new niche fragrance boutique in the Warehouse District, Lauren Lagarde was having a perfume moment.

We were discussing summery scents when Shannon Drake, director of marketing for the company, opened a bottle of Nuda, an intense jasmine fragrance by Nasomatto, a line created by perfumer Alessandro Gualtieri. The fragrance is derived from jasmine blossoms picked at night by gloved workers on a farm on the Cote d’Azur.

Lagarde closed her eyes and shook her head. The scent didn’t bring her to the Cote d’Azur.

“We used to have jasmine growing around our house in Bay St. Louis. This takes me right back there,” Lagarde said. “When I smell this, I’m seven years old again, and it’s summer.”


I found this post on Herman's blog particularly interesting:
"The more you smell and categorize what you're smelling, comparing one scent with the next, etc., the better you get at recognizing aspects of perfume, even being able to conjure it up in your memory."

Which is exactly why ritual and smells and bells are so important to our practice.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Ignored on the Internet

For the past 3 months I have been doing 2 jobs for the company who pays my salary:
- my regular job, in which I wear no less than 4 hats on any given day
- and project lead for an activity, now completed, that has locked in half a million dollars in savings annually.
(I work for a really big company)

Anyone who is a mom, knows that you never stop being a mom, no matter how crazy the rest of your life gets.   Managing a household doesn't go away either unless you are willing to live in squalor; I'm not. As a postKatrina neighborhood leader, there are times when it feels like I'm working at this and the response time and dedication to neighborhood issues needs to be as good as what the people who pay me get. It can't be or I wouldn't have a job.

Why do I post this?   Because posts to this blog, to the neighborhood blog, and responses to email other than those at work have been sporadic at best.  And because I read an article in the newspaper today, over a cup of coffee and my quiche made by my own hands, about how not responding to "the ether" that is eMail is potentially rude.

The article quotes another author saying: "the No. 1 complaint is that 'people feel they’re being ignored.' "

And I can respect that.  I have 4 eMail accounts that I manage: the one a work, my own personal "Nola as mom" email account, the one for the neighborhood organization (and thankfully I have help here), and my email account as a Strega.  Sometimes the last 2 don't get as much attention.  Is that rude? I can see how those who only communicate with one aspect of "me" might think so.  But it's not rude; it's the physical limitations of being human and not virtual or electronic.  There is only so much "resource sharing" a human can do. It's not that I don't love you... it is just that there is only so much of any one person to go around. And the eMail associated with work and the capacity to get a pay check will *always* win.  Is this an excuse? No, as a trained scientist I can say, this is supporting data for the effect noticed.

My beef with the author is that he mixes professional-they are paying you-eMail with personal.  It is so NOT the same.  Like it or not eMail as work is a tool. When responses are required there is no excuse. And if you can't get to the task or need more time then the *only* professional thing to do is reply with *when* you will be able t o accomplish what the email has requested. And for inside the company mail, there is always the "return receipt" option if it is really, really important.

I think the real reason that people don't respond as fast as some would like is that we are overwhelmed with communication: Voice mail messages on office phone, on cell phone, on home phone; Multiple email addresses (by necessity); And then there is texting... and facebook and now Google+. Overload doesn't begin to describe...  It seems the people who are most likely to be annoyed are those individuals who have one life, one job, one, for lack of a better word, "identity".  Those of us who have more facets to our lives have it harder and this can manifest itself as non-responsive. 

The only other option is to constantly have you face in your smartphone and respond to all the electronic communications and tune out face to face communications.  You tell me... which is "more rude"?

You could be Basque?

Bruce Eggler article from New Orleans Times Picayune
Few New Orleanians would identify themselves as of Basque heritage, but according to one of them, that's only because they're unaware of their families' origins a few centuries ago.
Michel-Antoine Goitia-Nicolas was photographed in 2003, with a Basque flag and coat of arms.
From Abadie and Alciatore to Yzaguirre and Zatarain, says Michel-Antoine Goitia-Nicolas, dozens of longtime local families can trace their origins back to the Basque region that straddles the border between France and Spain. Most of them, he says, are aware only that their ancestors emigrated from France or Spain, not of their exact ethnic background. But, he says, whether Barbe or Begue, Chachere or Charbonnet, Gayarre or Goyeneche, Lacombe or Lemoyne, Mandeville or Marigny, Sapir or Soraparu -- all have Basque origins.

Goitia-Nicolas, 46, who was born in Canada and has lived in New Orleans since 1984, founded a nonprofit group, the Louisiana Basque-American Society and Cultural Organization, or LABASCO, in 2003 to promote awareness of the state's Basque heritage. He has ambitious plans for the group, though so far its list of accomplishments is confined mainly to numerous speeches Goitia-Nicolas has given around Louisiana and the Gulf Coast to raise awareness of Basque history and local families' connection to the region.

The group will hold a dinner meeting today from 5 to 8 p.m. at Galvez Restaurant in the French Quarter. Goitia-Nicolas will speak on Basque history in Louisiana and announce a fund to raise a monument to Jean Lafitte and other local Basque worthies.

Lafitte -- or Laffite, as he spelled it -- is remembered by most as a successful pirate or privateer and smuggler who operated out of Barataria Bay and New Orleans and helped Gen. Andrew Jackson defend the city from British invasion in 1814-15. Goitia-Nicolas, however, refers to him as a "man of mark," as in "letter of marque and reprisal," an official government licence authorizing a private vessel to attack and capture enemy vessels.

Why July 23, and why Galvez Restaurant for the dinner? Because, Goitia-Nicolas said this week, this is the birthday of Bernardo de Galvez, the Spanish military leader who served as governor of Louisiana from 1777 to 1785. Himself of Basque descent, Galvez "brought both Cajuns and Islenos to Louisiana," and both groups contained large numbers of people with Basque heritage, according to Goitia-Nicolas.

The easiest way to recognize a family's Basque origins, Goitia-Nicolas said, is by a name that means nothing in French or Spanish but shows origins in the Basque tongue, which is unrelated to any other language. "Garcia," he said, is automatically considered a Spanish name, but it really means "wheatfield" in Basque. "Lafitte," he said, is Basque for "blackberry."

Because his family spoke Basque, Goitia-Nicolas said, he quickly recognized names such as "Soraparu" and "Zatarain" on street signs and grocery shelves when he arrived in New Orleans, and he realized the city had a strong Basque connection he had not suspected. He began studying records of immigration to New Orleans in the 1700s and 1800s. Even before the city was founded in 1718, he said, most of the early Spanish and French explorers and colonizers in Louisiana were Basques.
Goitia-Nicolas' said LABASCO's other goals include publishing a book about Basques' role in Louisiana history, establishing a Basque cultural center and creating an endowment to promote awareness of the state's Basque heritage. He said the center and endowment could appropriately be based at either Loyola or Tulane universities -- both, he said, named for people from Basque families.
Goitia-Nicolas said he had about 30 reservations for tonight's dinner but was hoping for many more.

The price is $50. Reservations can be made at 504.595.3400. The restaurant is at 914 N. Peters St.
Goitia-Nicolas can be reached at

Friday, July 22, 2011

Full Moon Effects

Listen to this article on PRI's The World about how the Moon impacts life on earth.

It's specifically talking about lion attacks and how the waning moon makes for a greater chance of lions being hungry and attacking people as they look for other prey.

The article says that people are safer when the Moon is full.
And most dangerous when the moon is waning.

Now think about how the moon affected our ancestors and therefore our practices.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Don Quixote - Barataria

Re: "Did Don Quixote inspire Barataria name?" Your Opinions, July 8.
Records show that early French colonists named a swampy region south of New Orleans "Barataria'' after an episode in Cervantes' "Don Quixote de la Mancha.'' As Spanish literature teacher Mary Jo Brown explained in her letter, Don Quixote's sidekick, Sancho Panza, received an imaginary island on dry land named Barataria.

As early as 1732, French maps show the "Isle Barataria,'' encircled by Bayous Villars, Barataria, Rigolettes and Perot and Lake Salvador. The colonist Le Page du Pratz stated in his "History of Louisiana'' that the area was named for the fictional Barataria "because it was enclosed by these lakes and their outlets to form almost an island on dry land, as was that island of which Sancho Panza was made governor.''
Claude Joseph Villars Dubreuil, who was the king's contractor of public works, claimed to have named the Isle of Barataria. It was part of his extensive "Barataria Plantation'' that he acquired about 1730, partly for the extraction of timber and shells for construction work. Jean-Baptiste Massy, who received his land grant across the bayou in 1726, also named his plantation "Barataria.''

The labyrinth of bayous that served as a hideout for pirates and smugglers may have been responsible for the sense in which the name was applied to the whole region.

"Barataria'' is a Provencal equivalent to the 15th century French words "baraterie,'' meaning deception, and "barater'' meaning to deceive, to exchange, to barter. The English equivalents of "baraterie'' is barratry, one meaning of which is fraudulence or illegality at sea.

Betsy Swanson

It's so easy to lose the past...Thank Besty for saving some of it for us.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Solstice Magic

Nature is speaking to us. Some are listening.

Thomas Friedman says the Earth is Full.  He bases his NY Times article on the work of Paul Gilding.

As we approach the Summer Solstice, we are charged with doing magic to protect the earth.

But magic must always be *informed* . We must watch...we must listen... before we can know how to act.

Personally... I'm thinking cool, wet thoughts.   We have been in serious drought for at least 2 months.
The weather has been, dry and warm. In the afternoons and early moring the humidity is so, unnaturally, low that it feels like Colorado instead of Louisiana.  I know there has been too much snow & rain in the Mississippi Watershed.  We watched the river gauge hoover at flood stage, while we waited for the Corps to send the water into the floodplains where it would flow naturally if not leveed for our protection.  And we had to water our gardens to stop them from drying up at the same time.

The earth is speaking to us... we need to listen before it's too late.

Sunday, June 19, 2011


I am a mostly silent member of the Traditional Stregheria yahoo group...

One of the members, Myth, does significant research and graciously posts to the site.
She often reposts things she has researched and written in the past.

A resent repost on Benevento was quite interesting.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Stormy Weather - Start of Hurricane Season 2011

Hurricane Season starts June 1st and ends November 30th.

I'd like a 2011 Hurricane Season a lot like 2009 or 2010. Just enough to keep the Gulf cooled off... storms far enough away from New Orleans not to make any of us crazy.

Listen to Lena and hope that we don't have Stormy Weather. I know it's been more than 5 years but we're still sad and mad and we don't want a repeat any time soon. And too many families are still apart.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Chapter 43 – Elemental Summer Solstice Lesson

Owen thought that Nola had been perfect with the clients of the Second Street house. The owners were both there and armed with her questionnaire she had been able to walk the fine line between reading the wife’s mind on what she wanted and the husband mind about how much money he was willing to spend. Owen and Joe had finished taking the final measurements that Owen would use to draw up the plans. As he and Joe had watched Nola talk about the large fruit trees the wife wanted and the husband had balked at cost, it seemed Nola had walked between the worlds or become 2 Nola’s to interact with their clients. Owen recalled the conversation.
“Yes, sir I understand concerns about cost for larger established plants especially the trees. If you don’t want to put all the trees in at one time, we can phase them in. We can also retain or even reuse and move some of your existing plantings. Not all plants will survive a move but I successfully moved and reused azaleas and plumbago. But you have to be willing to water these transplants carefully. If there are plants that you absolutely want to eliminate then let us know and we’ll work with you. But if you really want to change the way the garden feels to you then I think the most important thing is to have the walkways established and the beds laid out with some key plantings, like the larger fruit trees, and then heavily mulched. You can then phase in additions or changes over time.”
And the husband had agreed about the walkways and when he did Joe had discretely nudged Owen because they knew that that was where they made their money. That and maintenance.
And she had looked to the wife and said, “Sometimes it is better to let some of the bones grown in before you add more large plants. As the plants fill in and you live with the space sometimes you change you mind on what you want. If we are able to lay out the beds and we mulch like crazy, then we can use naturally reseeding plants so you can have seasonal change rather than the same bushes all year long. Using seeds is for people who like to see a garden change. It’s for people who don’t mind when a garden looks a little bare because they enjoy watching the seeds sprout and having different flowers at different times of the year. I personally find it fun, but then I like putting my hands in the dirt.”
And then turning to the husband, “Have you seen Owen’s garden?”
And he had indicated they hadn’t. “Well before you decide on the approach you’d like to take, it might be a good idea to take a ride and see it in person. It’s only about 15 minutes away. The before and after, for his yard, was more drastic than yours will be. But it will give you an idea about what your yard will look like when we’re done and help you decide on the size of the plants you want to use.”
The wife was looking forward to a garden tour and the husband felt like he had made his point. Nola had turned to Owen, “Why don’t you talk to Owen about a tour while Joe & I take another look around you yard? It will help us work out the details so that Owen will be able to draw up the suggestions.”
While Owen had given instructions on how to get to his home, Joe and Nola walked to the back of the house and then slowly worked their way forward. Joe was a natural. He understood where the issues would be with laying walkways and he was beginning to understand Nola’s approach to how she decided which plants to use where. By the time they left the clients had decided that Nola was the most practical understanding planner they had ever worked with and were looking forward to a garden tour of Owen’s home on Saturday after Nola looked at the Lakeview house. Joe was sure they were in and that he’d get that Garden District feather for his cap. Owen had been more than a little pleased himself. He had known that Nola would be able to handle herself and the clients. He could also see that Joe liked working landscaping almost as much as Nola did and that eventually Joe would be managing this end of the business just like Roger managed the repair and renovation work. Owen was never happier than when those around him were happy and successful.

As Nola drove to Owen’s for the Thursday lesson she thought about the amount of time she had spent with Owen the past weekend, up to and including his charming her daughter with another sushi dinner. This was getting out of hand. She was felt like she was spending too much time with him. And Settrano popped into her head and said, “Yes, but it’s fun.” And she thought, yes it is. But I’m not sure it’s smart. We have Solstice coming up. The lessons need to get back on track. And she pulled into the driveway and got out of her truck.

Owen was on the phone and didn’t realize she was there until she rang the front door bell.
“Hey there, sorry I was on the phone. LeBlanc just called and he wants you to do some site assessments this weekend.”
Nola’s stomach flipped. Owen could see that she was already working strategy.
“I did just what you said and told him sure you’d be glad too. I just needed contact you and confirm when you could be there and get back to him. I didn’t tell him that Joe and I will be there with you.”
She sighed and said, “Ok. Where are the houses?”
He handed her the list that he had in his hand. “Come all the way in. I’ll get you some wine. I should let you get all the way in the door before you start working.” And he took her by the arm and ushered her in and they headed to the kitchen.
Nola had glanced at the list. Most were sprinkled in the uptown area with a few in MidCity and Lakeview. As she sat on the bar stool she said, “Could I please have some water instead of wine?”
She was still looking at the list. “Did he say which sites he wants done this weekend?”
“Well…” and Owen put the glass of iced San Pellegrino water in front of her, “he said this one” and he pointed to a Lakefront area house, “should be first.”
Nola shook her head. “Of course.”
“Of course?”
“Yep, this area is still pretty empty. Dare I say, secluded? The man is a worm.”
And Owen realized that LeBlanc was essentially trying to use him to get to Nola in a compromised and even potentially dangerous situation.
Nola could see Owen’s mind starting to spin and said, “Owen, its fine. I knew this was coming. You and Joe will be there. LeBlanc will realize he’s lost. We’ll take a look at his properties…” and she looked down at the list and counted, “… his 10 properties, all in one day. Saturday or Sunday. And then you will take his money.”
“Just like that?”
“Yes. Just like that. Joe will get a crash course on site assessment. You’ll draw up some simple plans and a maintenance contract for all of the properties. He’ll sign and you’ll take his money. After this your landscaping business will be big enough to make Joe head landscape specialist. He’s earned it and he’s a natural.”
Owen’s head was spinning. He had already assumed that Joe would manage the landscaping, but having Nola say it out loud as if it was a foregone conclusion was… was… well…
“Owen? Are you alright?”
And he looked up as she said, “I know Joe wants to do the landscaping. Do you still want to do the landscaping?”
“Yes. Yes woman I do. But I’m usually the one who does the planning.”
She smiled at him, “But this is different. LeBlanc is a worm. Use him like a worm. Let him work the soil for you but don’t think to hard about him.”
“Nature is the Great Teacher. You can’t change who LeBlanc is at his core. He is a worm. Worms can be useful. I can use these properties to train Joe. We’ll make the properties look good for LeBlanc’s tenants and their neighbors. The properties will be low maintenance. Joe can establish a presence in the area as he works maintenance and folks will see the signs you had made for the side of his truck. Joe will probably begin to generate business on his own. He is a natural with clients: friendly, easy going, professional. LeBlanc will simply have worked the soil so this aspect of your business can grow. In the process we will get rid of him as a problem and turn him into an asset.”
“Nature and worms as a business model?”
“Well I wouldn’t have put it quite like that.” And she smiled, “but, yes.”
“Woman, you are amazing.”
She smiled at him, “I don’t know about amazing, but thank you.”
She could see that his mind was still working but wanted to get to the lesson in preparation for next week’s Treguenda. “Do you think that Joe can start working with us around 8AM at” and she pointed to an uptown house, “this house?”
Owen snapped out of it as he looked at the list, “I think so. I’ll have to confirm.”
“Why don’t you call Joe and ask if he’s available? I think we can do all of these uptown houses” and she pointed to 6 houses on the list, “pretty quickly, then move on to these MidCity houses before we meet LeBlanc at the Lakefront house. I’m pretty sure LeBlanc won’t be able to meet us until later in the afternoon. But try to pin him down to as early a time as possible.”
“Ok. Joe early on Saturday. LeBlanc in the afternoon.”
“umm hmmm.” And she took a sip of her water.
Owen looked at her, “You want me to call Joe now.”
“hmm hmmm. Let’s confirm the plan will work so we can stop talking about LeBlanc and start talking about something more interesting and fun.”
He smiled at her. “Ok.”
“I’ll take my water to the library and then I think I’ll visit your fish while you nail down this weekend’s details. Please try for all in one day. I don’t want to spend any more time on LeBlanc then we have to.”
“Ok, Chief.” And he smiled and shook his head at how unusual this woman was and went to his office to make some phone calls.

Nola was sitting on the edge of the fish fountain when Owen returned. She had been trying unsuccessfully to determine why the fates kept pushing her together with Owen. Tago was smiling. Nola had decided that after 10 properties in 1 day that Joe would probably be able to read her mind and do site assessments himself. Once that aspect of Owen’s business settled down into a more established mode she figured she could begin to back out slowly. What she wanted to do tonight was get Owen thinking about Summer Solstice and go home. Well that wasn’t really true. What she wanted was to get Owen thinking about Summer Solstice and then escape from how easy it was to be here with him in his house. She was beginning to prefer being in his space to being in her own and that was ridiculous.

Owen met her at the fish. “Well it’s all set for Saturday. Joe will meet us uptown. I also asked Latasha if her grandson wanted to come along with us. I think that Joe likes the planning and planting more than he likes the maintenance and I think it will make Latasha happy if her grandson has the potential for consistent work. He has actually always been very good at yard work. He, like you, likes looking back on his finished product. I'll pick you up at your house at 7:30AM.”
She smiled at him, “Sounds like a plan. LeBlanc won’t know what hit him.”

Owen smiled and opened the can of fish food. “I thought I’d get in a little fish training. I haven’t fed them today.”
And he moved his hand over the water and the one with the red dot on its head followed him, came to the top and Owen dropped in few pellets. “That one is now breaking the surface but it still won’t open its mouth.”
He moved his hand over the water and the other fish followed and broke the surface with its mouth open and Owen dropped in a few pellets. “I guess you could say that’s fish training perfection.”
Nola smiled, “Could I have a few pellets?”
She waited until it looked like the fish were finished with their first round of pellets and then moved her hand over both fish until they were swimming and together following her hand over the water. She arranged the pellets so that she had some in each hand. She moved her hands closer to the water and then slowly moved her fingers into the water so the pellets could roll down them. The fish hesitated and then moved in and swam up to her hands and began eating as the pellets floated out of her hands and into the water.
Owen watched. Nola looked up and said, “Very gentle, trusting fish. I was hoping that I could get Red Dot to open his mouth near my hand. I think it might be the first step in getting him to open his mouth so you can drop the pellets in.”
“Training fish.”
She brushed off her hands and said, “I think it’s time we got back to training you, student. Summer Solstice is next week. We need to review the ritual. Shall we work in the library?”
“Ok.” He smiled, “I’ll put the fish food away while you wash your hands and I’ll meet you in the library.”

Nola cleaned up and then went to the kitchen for more ice and water and then went to the library expecting Owen to be there. She turned as he came into the library with wine glasses and wine in one hand and the manual in the other.
“The manual was upstairs and I thought that you might want some wine.”
She held up her water glass and said, “Maybe a little later.”
He poured some red wine in each glass and placed hers on the table behind the sofa within her reach. Then he lifted the book and said, “I’m assuming that you’ll want me to read?”
“Maybe. There really isn’t much to read in this ritual. Have you looked over the ritual?”
“Yes, teacher.”
She smiled at him. “Ok then we’ll walk through it and talk about the key elements in a minute but first, I think we should talk about how you cast the circle.”
His brow furrowed, “Is there something wrong with how I cast the circle?”
She laughed, “No, not at all. It’s just that for this ritual I think that we should have the altar downstairs and that you should cast the circle around the entire property.”
He smiled, “Like I did on my birthday.”
“Yes, like you did on May Day but with the altar downstairs” She corrected with a smile.
“Ok, why?”
“Because this ritual is about interacting with and honoring the Gods and Nature. Part of the ritual is providing an offering for the nature spirits. I thought that it would be good if we could do this at the four corners of your property. Plus with the altar downstairs it’s easier for us to move in and out of the house.”
And he thought about that. “Well I don’t see an issue with the North or West, those are in private areas of the yard, but I’m not so sure about the south and east. The landscaping isn’t substantial enough in the front just yet. And the east is open to the street from the drive way. While we can do this when few people are out and about, I’m not sure I want to chance my neighbors seeing me running around in the yard at night with a naked woman.”
And she giggled. “Ok…. I think that the gods will be ok with us slipping on our robes for that activity.” Then she joked, “Maybe you could put a privacy panel on the gate. One that you could put on or take off as you needed to. Then once the gardenias grow in you could run naked in your yard with lots of women and none of your neighbors would see.”
“A privacy panel. You mean like a shade for the gate.”
“Well yes, but I was just joking.”
But his brain was buzzing with how to make that happen. “Grometted canvas that could slide over the top of the fence pikes. I could put it on or take it off whenever I wanted.”
“Owen…. it’s not necessary. We can wear robes.”
“If they see us in matching robes don’t you think that is just as likely to raise eyebrows as being naked? Actually now that I think about it, in New Orleans naked might be less likely to raise an eyebrow than robes.”
And she had to smile at that. “Well I leave you to decide what you want to do. We have robes. Or I could also bring the wrap I use around swim suits. You could slip on shorts. We can make it work.”
He thought about that and said, “I think that we’d be less likely to cause people to wonder what we are in shorts and a wrap.”
“Ok, then I’ll bring a wrap next week and you can cast a large circle around your property.”
He nodded, “Ok.”
“I’ll bring the libation fluid.”
“Is that the honey, wine, milk mixture?” and he made a face that said, yuk.
“Yes, but I am planning on leaving out the milk. I have a pitcher that will work well for pouring libation. My wand is a fennel stalk. I don’t have any sorghum.”
And she could hear the dubiousness in his voice as he said, “For the mock battle between Light and Darkness.”
“Yes, but there is a battle between Light and Darkness, Day and Night, Summer and Winter, Good and Evil. It is real. We each struggle every day to find the balance. We can make good decisions or not so good decisions. I think of this as the opportunity to magically encourage the world and all its entities whether individuals, governments, corporations, or other groups to understand that there is a battle, that there is a choice and to choose a path of balance and understanding. I think, but can’t know for sure or prove, that this piece of the ritual was added at a later date in human history, sometime after we had moved out of our hunter gatherer stage and into fiefdoms, city states, more organized governments. I think that it is important for us moderns to reach out to the greater world, to larger Nature and the unseen energies and to call on them to help us battle the forces that do not seek the same balance and alignment with nature.”
“Wow.” He teased.
She rolled her eyes at him and reached for the manual that was on the sofa between them and turned to the ritual. “Let’s take a look.”
And he chuckled and nodded Ok.
“You'll cast the circle. Then the priest and priestess would enter the circle as God and Goddess. Summer Solstice marks the maturity of the Gods and the wedding of the God and Goddess, the blending of male and female energies in all of us. With only the 2 of us we won’t be able to do this part but we can adjust the ritual to make it work.

She handed him the book and said. “Here why don’t you read the address.”
He took it and read:
“We gather now on this sacred night of Summer’s Eve and join ourselves to the powers and forces of this mystical season. On this night the Foletti gather, as do all those spirits of Nature to which we are kindred. For the witch and the fata are of a similar race. So it was in the time of the beginning, so it is now, so it shall be.”
And then he said, “Nature Spirits. Fairies?”
“Well yes and no. The Folleti and most other Italian representations of spirits aren’t simple, sweet fairies from childhood stories. They have power. But they are representational, a way of looking at powers and forces in nature.”
He still had a questioning look on his face. She smiled as she realized that fairies weren’t working on this practical, heterosexual man. Then she said,
“Think about being who you are as an individual and as a follower of the Ways. Think about how you blend the 2 together. Think about how the Ways can influence your life. Think about being a part of the wider world and universe and all its energies and quantum possibilities. As you open yourself up the rest will come naturally. Trust me.”
“I do trust you. I’m just not so sure about me and fairies.”
She chuckled, “You’ll be fine. It’s not about fairies. You’ll probably have to spend some time thinking about it but then I need you to let your worry go and it will be just fine.”
“You’re sure?”
“Yes, I am.”
“Ok, Yoda.”

“You know I don’t remember us going over Aradia’s Words on the Elements. I think that this is as good time as any to do just that. And she flipped the pages in the book, and handed it to him so he could read.
He looked at her not sure how all this fit together. But read,
“There is a vaporous, subtle and invisible quality to each of these things which are called the physical elements. The ancients have told us that all of creation was brought into being when Spirit drew the four elements unto itself. These elements are called Earth, Air, Fire and Water. And they are controlled by Spirit.
Each of these elements possess an etheric double. It is this essence which gives vitality or fertility to the physical object.
Just as the physical realms or matter contain their own forms of life, so too do the etheric realms. These entities have been personified as the many spirits and creatures of myth and legend. It is their activity which creates and maintains the vital essence within all matter.
The etheric powers of the elements also give potency to spells and works of Magick. It is within their realms that the Magickal powers ebb and flow. Thus are the spirits of the elements summoned to assist us.
She said, “This is essentially the as above so below concept. Elementals link us from the physical below to the etheric above. The elementals are placed at the 4 cardinal directions on the altar. But we’re going to give offering to the nature spirits at the 4 quarters of your property. What we do in ritual is align ourselves with energy that is invisible, subtle. We are going to call on this vaporous, subtle, invisible force of creation and we are going to channel it back to the universe for the benefit of nature, as a gift back to that which provides for us. Think of it like this and not fairies and you'll be fine.”
He nodded. He felt he understood the elementals through the process of casting the circle. They were called and resided in the substance provided. When he cast it felt like putting the pieces together, naturally. He understood the power of nature and the earth. This was why he felt aligned with a nature religion. He smiled at how Nola commented on his earth sign tendencies. She was right he was grounded and practical. What he said was, “I think I get it. I’ve felt the power of nature. It’s what drew me to paganism in the first place. I understand the elementals through circle casting. In this ritual we’re aligning ourselves with both.”
She nodded. “Right.” And smiled at him and took a sip from the glass of wine he had poured for her and let it all soak in for him.

When it looked like he was ready she went on and said, “You’ll need an offering for the Gods.”
“What should that be?”
“I can’t tell you. You’ll have to figure it out for yourself. Think about the season. Think about the battle between Light and Dark, growth and decay. Think about how these play out in your life today. Something will come to you. Remember an important part of an offering is the thing that comes from your heart. The thing that you place in the cauldron is a symbol.”
“What will you give as offering?”
“I haven’t decided yet.”
“Well that’s helpful.”

She chuckled, “You’ll figure it out. You’re an initiate now. The offerings to the God and Goddess come right after we do the Rite of Union. I think the Rite will help make sure that you’re in exactly the right state of mind.
After this we’ll have to get marginally dressed and take the libations and offerings to the nature spirits at the four quarters. We do this to align with and ask for their assistance before we do mock battle and then send draw on these and our own energies and send it into the universe.”
“This ritual seems different than the other rituals.”
And she thought about the fact that she thought so too. “Well, yes. In the other rituals we recreate what the Gods have done and in the process we align with the Gods. In those rituals we are asking them to come to us or hear our pleas. In this ritual we are actively doing magic for more than ourselves. We are acting and interacting with the larger forces of the universe. We are actively charged to give back. You’re right it is different.”
“I think I understand. But the mock battle seems a little strange. Am I really going to be chasing you around with a stick?”
“Well yes. But it is symbolic. I think that in some ways this mock battle is to remind us that we have to do things on the physical plane in order for our magic to work. That’s why we do battle before we send the healing energy into the universe with the Cone of Power. No magic works unless energy is expended on the physical plane as well as in the Astral.”
“You really believe this? You’re trained as a scientist and you really believe this?’
“Yes. I do. As a scientist I know that we see and measure what we know but history shows us there is more there than we can see and measure at any given moment. We humans didn’t understand oxygen until the late 1700s. We didn’t know about it or name it or understand how it worked or how important it is to us. But it was there all along and without it we die.
Genes and DNA are a part of us and all life but Mendel didn’t name them until the late 1800’s and we didn’t have the model and concept of DNA until almost a century later. Yet we as humans have been working with genes and DNA in breeding experiments for thousands of years.
We have the model of an atom. But quantum physics tells us that the pretty simple picture of a nucleus of protons & neutrons with electrons floating around is only a shadow of what is really going on. And we are only now beginning to see what is possible.
As a scientist I have to acknowledge that there are many things that I do not, now, know for certain and that I can not, now, measure. As a strega, I know that even without names and measurements that my ancestors interacted with the forces of the universe and I can too. One day we may have scientific names and processes for it all. But for now I have to trust the mystery of things that I feel intuitively and wait for science to catch up.”
Owen was amazed at how practical and yet how willing to acknowledge the unknown and mystical this woman was. What he said was, “How do you hold all that in your head at one time?”
She sighed and smiled. “I really don’t know. It’s just there. I don’t get to say it out loud to many people. Sorry if I was a little… energetic in my delivery.”
“Energetic. Woman you were passionate and I love that about you.”
“Well thanks. It is this energy, this passion, that we have to create in the cone of power. Have you ever created a Cone of Power before?”

He shook his head and said, “No.”
She nodded. “Do you know about the chakra concept from Eastern philosophy?”
“Yes, but what does that have to do with creating a Strega cone of power?”
“Reasonable question. Let me explain. I have found that the symbols and colors of the chakra system can be helpful in creating a cone of power. What we are attempting to do is to raise energy, from within ourselves and to draw energy from the physical plane and the elementals and the unseen and send it to the Astral to help balance and heal the earth. I’ve done this with a larger group but, it’s just the 2 of us so we will sit across from each other on the floor and hold hands. We will raise energy in ourselves by centering and then we will begin to draw energy to us. We’ll start at the base chakra and push the energy from our right hands into the left hand of the other as we move the energy and draw the energy up from chakra to chakra. I’ve found that spiraling the energy up and using a color change as we move the energy from chakra to chakra help contain and channel the energies.
And she moved to the ottoman and held out her hands right hand palm down, left hand palm up and said, “Here place your hands in mine.” And he moved toward her and put his left hand under her right palm and his right hand over her left palm. She looked down at their hands and touched palms as she said, “For right handed folks like us and even in many lefties, our right hands send energies, our left hands receive. We’ll center and then I’ll start by sending energy to you and you will send it back to me and we’ll work our way up the chakras and then send the blended energy into the universe. When we do this we will lift our joined hands together toward the sky and she raised their hands into above her head to a point.”
He looked at her through their raised hands and said, “Ok, I think I understand.”
She moved her hands away from his and said, “I’ll talk us through it just like I do the meditations.”
“I’m beginning to understand why you started working on me and my resistance to magic.”
She smiled. “You are so practical and grounded in the physical. But I know that you have the capacity and this ritual calls for you to try.”
“Ok, Yoda.”
She smiled at him and said, “Mr. Practical, I’m counting on you to get us a piece of balsa wood or cane about as big around as my fennel wand. You’ve used it in circle casting and know it’s light weight. So the sorghum stalk will have to be light weight too. If you can get the balsa wood, I will collect the stand in for sorghum from along the roadways so that we can attach it to the balsa wood and have our mock battle. Remember we’ll have to break the sorghum so you’ll want to make sure that you can actually break it, snap it in half.”
And she joked and felt his bicep and said, “I think you’ll be able to do it, but practice on what you get to be sure.”
“Is that a compliment or an insult?”
She laughed, “Well I can see that it might be construed as a backhanded compliment. But I just want to make sure that the ritual is successful.”
“Woman, I can break a stick of light wood.”
“Ok,” she laughed and put up her hands, “I believe you.”
“You’ll be using my fennel wand and I’ll be using the balsa stick. When good defeats evil you will break the balsa stick. Remember it’s a mock battle but it is supposed to be a battle. There should be some ferocity in the battle if not in the blows.”
“I think I can manage.” And he understood why she was asking for such light wood. It was as much to protect her wand as it was so he could break it. “And I promise we won’t break your wand.”

She smiled at him and said, “Well, I think that about covers what we need to do for the ritual. Any questions?”
He looked at her and said, “I’m sure I’ll have plenty, but none that I can think of right now.”
“Just spend some time with the ritual and think what we talked about and it will be fine.”
“Yes, Yoda.”
She smiled, “I’ll see you on Saturday."
“You are not leaving?”, and the disappointed face started to form.
She shook her head, “Yes, student, I’m leaving. I’ll see you Saturday at 7:30AM and then again on next Wednesday for Full Moon and the following Saturday for Solstice.”
As thought about the list of days he managed to smile.
And she laughed as she saw the change.
“You’re sure it’s not too hard to move the altar downstairs. It’s pretty big. You don’t have to move it by yourself. I can help.”
“Really, you think I need help to move the table?” He was kidding.
She was serious, “Well it’s big and awkward and you’re coming down the stairs and…”
“It was his turn to laugh. “I can handle it.” And he thought silently to himself, my stairs are way easier to manage than the stairs at the antique store.
“Well just be careful and don’t hesitate to wait for me if you change your mind about needing help.”
“Oh that’s sweet, you don’t want anything to happen to me.”
She smiled at him, took the teasing and said, “Walk me out Big Man.”

She had pulled the truck out of the driveway and he was still standing outside. She slips so easily into my life. But then she manages to slip right out again. How does she do that?