Monday, January 31, 2011

Labors of Lupercus

1. To carry the sacred ram and set him among the stars.
2. To purify the hide of the sacred white bull.
3. to tame the twin serpents of Teramo.
4. To carry the Great Sea Crab to the Western Horizon.
5. To free the sacred Lion.
6. To fashion a bow for the goddess Diana.
7. To forge the Great Scales of Justice for the Gods.
8. To seal the giant scorpion back within the Earth.
9. To make a golden arrow for the King of the Centaurs.
10. To fashion two golden horns for the Great Goat Fish.
11. To purify the jugs of water which are bore to the Gods.
12. To leash the two Great Fish of the Sea and set them among the stars.

Hereditary Witchcraft, page 97 by Raven Grimassi

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Wolves

Taken from How to Stay Alive in the Woods by Bradford Angier

The Wolf is so cautious that, aided by a high order of intelligence, it will put forth every effort not to be even seen by man. Its correspondingly keen curiosity, however, will sometimes lead to close investigations especially during protective darkness, and this has stimulated some of the tales about wolves trailing individuals with the alleged motive of eventually attacking.

Whenever I hear such accounts I think of the many nights in the Continental Northwest when I've gone to sleep wherever in the wilderness I have happened to be, many times listening as I dozed off to a wolf chorus and often as not hearing the wild music when half-awakening during the night but - except for the thrill it still never ceases to arouse - having no particular emotion except the pleasure of feeling more closely attuned to the unspoiled places; not because of any daring but because I soon realized, both from observation and from what others told me, that no wolf will harm a human being.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

New Streghe on the Block

Interesting exchanges going on.
And we are reminded again, even when there are similarities, of how diverse Italy and its traditions are. Remember even the Romans didn't "unify Italy".

Monday, January 24, 2011

Henbit

P1220021
I know it's just a weed but I think it's lovely.
It grows where it is moist and wild and cool and dies back in the summer heat.
Apparently lots of people take great effort to eradicate it.
I've actually started collecting clumps on my walks in a golf course that has been fallow and
wild since Katrina in the hope of getting it started in my garden.
Henbit Zoom

Friday, January 21, 2011

Interview with Arch Priestess Diana of Strega of Benevento

Friday, January 21, 2011
SCANDAL in San Diego: Interview with Arch Priestess Diana of Strega of Benevento, Puglia & Piemonte by Lupercus del Bosco Sacro


It is my pleasure to be here interviewing Arch Priestess Diana of Strega of Benevento, Piemonte, Puglia & Sicily. For those of you who might not know yet, she arrived here in America on December 8, 2010, together with her husband and Son, to initiate and teach in the wisdom of Stregheria of Benevento. Tonight at 7:00 PM, APS Diana will appear for the first time to teach before Pagans in San Diego. There has been a great deal of gossip and scandal coming out of San Diego this week - in anticipation of this event.

Arch Priestess, the sudden appearance ot Strega of Benevento in America has been causing quite a scandal this week. What do you think of this?

It is normal and to be expected. Nothing at all of our Stregan tradition of Benevento has ever come out before. We have been extremely secretive until now and our tradition has remained virtually unknown.

Actually, I think it is The Great Rite that is causing most of the scandal. What do you make of this?


This is normal too. Most people think that The Great Rite amounts to nothing more than putting an Athame in a cup or sexual relations between a High Priest and High Priestess before, after, or during a ritual. The Great Rite, in reality, is much more than this. The Great Rite is a means, just to give one example, of contacting divinity in the flesh. There is a vast corpus of spiritual sexual technology that has never seen the light of day before we came to America. This information is an incredible blessing for Pagan couples everywhere.

Yes. There has been quite a scandal prior to your arrival in San Diego this week for your first lecture, workshop, and initiations. There are even several Pagan authors beginning to weigh in on the discussion. Would it not have been better for you to hide the teachings of The Great Rite in the higher degrees of Stregheria of Benevento, instead of putting them up front and center like you have?

Well, I am certain that it would have been easier!

This would not have been in line with our mission, however. By putting The Great Rite up front and center, we make an important statement to the Neo-Pagan movement in America. We want people to know right from the beginning that Stregheria of Benevento is not at all like Neo-Pagan traditions. We do not, for example, rely on fairy tails, psychology, or psychodrama. Moreover, in our rites and tools, you will find next to nothing of the theater and complicated implements that you find in other traditions either.

Stregheria of Benevento is a Pre-Pagan shamanic tradition. Our rites are simple and deadly effective, as are our practices. Most importantly, Stregheria of Benevento is a Pagan tradition that is NOT for everyone. Most people are not even close to ready for a tradition as powerful as Stregheria of Benevento.

We are not interested in educating and initiating vast numbers of people. In fact, there are only couple handfulls of Pagans that are completely prepared and truly ready for something like this at this juncture. Putting The Great Rite up front and center is a great way of weeding out 90% of candidates right from the beginning. Pagans who still have not bothered even to begin liberating themselves from the fear and negativity around sex instilled in them by Christianity, should certainly not come to us. They should better instead go deal with their sexual issues in psychotherapy or in one of the many Neo-Pagan traditions first.

I know that this sounds arrogant, but Stregheria of Benevento is, after all, a School of Perfection. We are only interested in the spiritual elite of the elite of the modern Pagan movement. For these few individuals, Stregheria of Benevento has an enormous amount of knowledge and training to perfect your spirituality and your practice.

We simply do not have the time or energy, however, to waste with the idly curious or people who still think that they can simply make up their own Pagan traditions.

Putting The Great Rite front and center in our teachings, thus, in the long run is not at all a bad idea. Sure, we are scandalizing a lot of people by rubbing under their noses the fundamental importance of spiritual sexuality in ancient Paganism. On the other hand, we are frightening off a lot of people who are nowhere near ready for a school of perfection like ours any way. This helps us preserve both our energy and our initiatic resources for candidates who are truly ready for such an extraordinary opportunity like Stregheria of Benevento.

I am not here to waste my time with individuals who are not suited for this work anyway. I could just as well have stayed in Italy. In fact, I certainly would have preferred to have remained in Italy. Our elders, however, are absolutely convinced that NOW is the time for this knowledge finally to come out.

It is not at all normal, that someone leaves their lives and everything behind to go to another country and start over like this. We barely speak English, for goodness sake. Our Son had to leave his school and his friends behind. If I had it my way, I would still be in Italy, dancing with my sisters and brothers beneath the Great Walnut at Benevento.

This is why I could care less about all of the gossip and noise like that coming out of San Diego this week. Those who are ripe for this message will hear the call of the Goddess, Diana Lucina, and will come to hear what we have to say. Those who are not right for this message will listen instead to the fear mongers - and they will stay away. This is the way of things - and it is good that things are are like this.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Chapter 37 – Happy May Day Birthday

It was Friday afternoon. James had called to say he would be off to his play soon. The bugs had been worked out on Thursday's opening night and tonight started the 3 day, 1st weekend run of the show. His head was totally in the play. He would be running on adrenaline until Sunday and then he would crash for Monday. They would see the play next weekend. He wanted his family to be aware of his endeavors. He wanted them to be proud, but Nola and Jamie had figured out a long time ago how to smile, say as little as possible and stay out of his way. Jamie had packed up her overnight bag on Thursday for her today's sleepover. Nola had dropped Jamie off at school in the morning so that James could sleep in. Jamie was going straight from school to the sleepover with another mom. She would drop Jamie’s overnight bag at Elena's house this afternoon before she went to Owen's. She'd be picking Jamie up Saturday morning around 11AM. Both Jamie and James would stay sleeping for most of Saturday. Jamie because no kid slept at a sleepover and James because he'd probably go out for drinks or a snack after the Friday performance to wind down and not get home until after 1AM.

When Jamie packed her overnight bag, Nola realized she probably needed an overnight bag for her sleepover as well. It felt a little strange to be planning the equivalent of a sleepover for sex. Who would understand this? She felt like Owen kept pushing beyond the ritual sex line. They were friends. She liked him. She liked being close to him and kissing him came to damn naturally and sex was a lot of fun and very effective ritually. She knew that some of the Solar Treguenda had sexual aspects and most could be pushed in that direction if the participants agreed. But non-initiates typically did not participate at that level. Owen had been unfazed by the sexual aspects from day one. He had even decided that Full Moon Rituals could and in his mind should have a sexual component and he was right there was always that option, but again typically not for non-initiates. It almost felt sometimes like she was the one being rushed.

It was after 4PM and Nola could leave from work anytime. Jamie was already at her sleepover and she would be expecting her stuff. There was nothing stopping her from going to Owen's early. But she was dragging her feet. Her office phone rang. She could see from the number it was Owen. She took a deep breath and answered.
"Hello."
"Hello Nola, it's Owen."
"Hello Owen.
"What time should I expect you tonight?"
"I have to drop Jamie's overnight bag at her friend's house before I can come to your house."
"What time are you planning on doing that?"
"Oh right after work."
"What time are you getting off?"
"Well... I.. I can leave at anytime really."
"Great. How long will it take you to drop off Jamie's stuff?"
"An hour at most."
"Ok so you can be here just after 5PM then right?"
"I guess."
"Don't guess. Get here. It's my birthday remember. ....... Nola?"
"Yes?"
"See you just after 5, OK?"
"OK."
"OK, bye. See you soon." So much for dragging my feet.

Nola left work. She stopped to fill up the truck and then chatted for a while with the mom hosting the sleepover. She decided to pick up flowers for the May Day altar at a local store before she finally pulled up in Owen's driveway a little before 6PM. When he heard the gate he was out of the house and into the driveway. He stood there looking slightly irritated so she stopped the truck in the driveway instead of parking it under the grape arbor. As she got out of the truck he smiled. "What took you so long?"
"Oh I stopped for gas and then ended up having talking with the mom who's holding the sleepover. It is also Friday afternoon traffic. I didn't plan for that."
"Ok, since you've promised to stay tonight you're forgiven." And he hooked her arm and took her into the living room, where she did a double take.
"What happened to your beautiful table?"
"Oh I moved it upstairs."
"Upstairs? Upstairs where? How did you get that large table up the stairs?"
"I carried it. Come see." And he started up the stairs. And she didn't know what to do but follow him so that's what she did. He went into his bedroom and she followed slowly. He smiled and waved his arm over the altar which was already set complete with flowers. His bedroom was huge and had more than enough space for a circle.
"Oh... " and she looked down at the flowers she had in her hand and tried not to think about the implications of the altar being in the bedroom."
"I plan on casting a large circle. Good idea right?"
"Yes, I guess so."

He hugged her and said, "You sure are subdued right after work. Let's go downstairs and get you something to drink. You can leave your bag here."
And she looked down at the slightly larger bag in her hand and sighed and said, "Ok I'll drop it in the bathroom." She managed a smile when she came out of the door. Owen had waited for her and took her hand and waited until she went first out of the door and down the stairs. When she stepped into the kitchen she was surprised again. She looked back at him and waved her hand over the counter where there was a tray set with meat, cheese, crackers, grapes, strawberries, sliced kiwis. "Wha..?"
"I knew you were coming early and that we couldn't start the ritual until later. I figured that we needed something to eat but I also figured you wouldn't want much, so it's just a light spread. You forget my family is in the hospitality industry. I know how to make a phone call and have things delivered." He moved to the counter and pulled the wine from the bucket. She saw it was Prosecco and prepared herself. He smiled poured 2 glasses and then moved in for the toast and the kiss.
"To May Day and my birthday and you staying." And he clinked her glass and took a sip and waited for her to take hers. She took a sip and Owen moved in and put his hand behind her waist and pulled her in to a gentle but insistent kiss. And she had to admit that he was very good at that.

Owen was on to the next thing.
"Are you hungry?" and he sat down on the barstool.
"Not really, maybe a little." And since he sat, she sat and took another sip. He grabbed some meat and put it on a cracker and then pushed the tray closer to her. She took a cube of cheese and some grapes.
"I have the Jacuzzi warm for you. I thought we could soak and watch the sun go down before we start the ritual."
And she took another sip and thought out loud, "That's probably a very good idea. I think it would help me transition from work to witch. I'm not usually here so early and I feel like I usually have more transition time."
And he rolled his barstool closer and moved in for another gentle kiss and said, "I know, but I am very glad you are here."

And what could she do but smile at him. Then she thought and said out loud, "You know after today you are only 4 Treguendas from completing the wheel of the year."
"Really? Yes that's right. You know we've known each other for almost 6 months?"
And she said slowly, "6 months."
"I feel like I've known you longer than 6 months. I see you every week sometimes more than once a week. I miss you when you're not here. You've expanded my business and completely changed the way my home sits on its lot. For my birthday last year I went out with Roger and we drank all night. This year he told me that I'd be spending it with you before you told me that you could stay over."
"Really? Well Roger is a seer then."
"Nope, but he is pretty perceptive and my closest friend here in New Orleans, other than you of course."
And he grabbed another cracker and layered it with more meat. He popped a cube of cheese into his mouth and smiled at her. She had to smile back, he seemed so comfortable and happy. Why was she so on edge? She grabbed another small cluster of grapes and ate them slowly trying to figure it out. He could see that she was pensive. But figured, that since they had always started the rituals so soon after she arrived, this was just her way of preparing. She finished her grapes and stood up. He moved expertly and put his arms around her and pulled her so she was standing between his legs as he sat on the barstool. "Where are you going?"
She smiled at him and decided to give him a kiss because he could be so damn adorably charming. "I thought I'd get out of these clothes so I could get into your hot tub." He smiled at that and said. "Ok, I like that idea. You do that and I'll meet you in the hot tub."

As she walked to the downstairs bathroom to get out of her clothes, she thought to herself, this is ridiculous. Your student is more comfortable with this situation than you are. You need to pull yourself together. She closed the door to the bathroom and used the rheostat to lower the lights. She loved that Owen was such a designer that all his lights could be lowered from full beam to candlelight illumination. She breathed deeply and did her best to align her mind and body and spirit. She put the seat on the toilet down and sat on it. It was 2 days until the dark moon. She had always been able to count on Umbrea when she felt out of her league as a female. She had no problem battling it out in the practical work world. She had no problem when she dealt with day to day problem solving and rolling with the punches. But she so very often felt out of her league when being a girl. Her daughter had called it 'pinkness'. Pinkness was about acknowledging and respecting the feminine, about taking care of herself as well as she took care of others, about acknowledging those things that were pleasurable, and she smiled when she thought about how much being around a Taurus had helped her be more 'pink'. Umbrea was the enchantress and not necessarily the goddess you would think about when you thought of pink. But Umbrea had always been the goddess she called on when she needed to feel relaxed and powerful in her female skin. So Umbrea was who she sent a mental plea out to. 'Please Umbrea, settle my mind, relax me into my female skin, bless me with your gifts of enchantment.' Meana and Bellaria smiled. Nola was settling down. She wanted to put her hair up so it would get less wet and thought she might have to go upstairs to get some pins out of her purse, when she remembered that she had started to put her hair up this morning and changed her mind. Yep there they were bobby pins in her pants pocket. Thank you Umbrea. She piled her hair on top of her head. She breathed deeply one last time and then took off her clothes and hung them in the closet. The ritual would be done naked. It was officially the Goddess half of the year. Time to let clothes and all those other worries go. She saw her cord and took it off the hanger and with her, leaving it on the kitchen counter before she went outside.

Owen was already in the Jacuzzi. The wine bucket was within easy reach as were there 2 glasses and some strawberries and a little cheese on small plate. She smiled at him as she walked toward him. Such a Taurus. He watched as she walked and enjoyed the sway of her hips and the curve of her breasts and the fact that she walked so confidently. She slipped into the warm water with an "Ahhhhh."
"I was beginning to worry that you had changed your mind."
"Well actually I think I did. I feel more settled and relaxed now." And she moved closer to him to get her glass and he moved even closer to fill it.
He put his arm around her shoulder and thanks to Umbrea she went with it and slipped next to him he smiled and said, "The sky is getting darker and look at those shades of orange and pink."
"Red sky at night sailor's delight."
"What?"
"Oh just something my grandparents used to say, "Red sky in the morning, sailor take warning. Red sky at night, sailor's delight. It seems to ring true for the weather."
"I'd never heard that before."

They sat quietly and comfortably, nibbling on cheese and feeding each other the strawberries, with bare snippets of unimportant conversation between them until Nola said, "Owen how dark can you make your bedroom?"
He smiled and said, "Cave dark."
She giggled. "I don't think the gods would mind if we started the ritual before 9PM do you?"
"I thought you'd never ask." He got out of the water dried off and wrapped himself in one of the towels that he had on a chair nearby and held the other one out for her to step into.
"Thank you, I completely forgot about towels."
"My pleasure." And he kissed her softly before he picked up the wine bucket and the plate.
She dried off with the towel and then wrapped it around her, then walked ahead to open the door for him. As he went through the door he said, "Why don't you take that tray upstairs to the table on the far side of the bedroom and I'll be right up." And then he put another bottle of Prosecco in the bucket along with a bottle of San Pellegrino and refreshed the ice. He toweled off and used the downstairs bathroom. Then he took the remainder of the Prosecco, and the newly iced and refreshed wine bucket upstairs.

Nola was coming out of his bathroom dry with her cord on and with her hair down when he walked in. He put the wine bucket next to the tray on the far side of the room and then asked, "Prosecco with the ritual or I have a red under the altar cloth?"
"Hmmm, I think the gods won't mind if we use the Prosecco."

He filled the chalice with the Prosecco. Nola said as she picked up the black binder and check to see that he had the May Day Ritual inside, "It's the goddess months and so I can cast if you'd like or would you like to stick with our tradition and you cast?"
"If we aren't running too foul of tradition then I'd like to cast. It settles me and I know exactly where I want the circle to be." And he smiled. Nola had told him that the circle was really a sphere and this was why when she cast she went around 3 times: to create the bottom of the sphere, to ensure the edges were strong and to close the top of the sphere. She had also told him that the circle, the sphere, was not affected by walls and could be cast beyond physical structures. Tonight Owen was casting the circle around his whole property. Nothing and no one was going to get to them. Tonight Nola belonged to him and the Gods.

After Owen cast the circle. Nola felt the Grigori come and their, what was that ….? anticipation..? Owen had obviously looked over the ritual because although he read his parts it was obvious he felt them as well. When Owen laid his blade at her feet and said. “My Lady, I give my power to You for this is so ordained. And with love I submit to you and I give my reign over to you.” He heard his grandfather say, “Yes you do. Yes you have.”

Nola gave the Charge… “Come all together in a circle, and secrets that are as yet unknown shall be revealed.” And Owen remembered his grandfather's words and wondered what he was missing. “…And your mind must be free and also your spirit, and as a sign that you are truly free, you shall be naked in your rites”… “Let her worship be the ways within your heart, for all acts of love and pleasure are like rituals to the Goddess….”

Nola blessed the Prosecco and they drank it. When the ritual was complete and Owen moved to her and completely enfolded her in a kiss that seared her soul then he picked her up and moved her to his bed. She felt like a goddess being worshiped and thanked Umbrea.

She moved to the center of the bed and smiled at him. "Just how widely did you cast that circle?"
"It encompasses the whole house, the yard and the pool."
"Ambitious."
"You have no idea."
And she smiled at him because he was so damn appealing. He moved to her and she kissed him and moving one hand around his back to cup his buttock and the other to find his sex and she said, "Oh my."
"I've been waiting to have you here all day."
"I feel that." And she moved to kiss his neck and he sat down leaned back and pulled her into a deeper kiss. She moved from the kiss to his nipples and very gently nibbled each one before she moved to his sex. She ran her tongue from his sacks to the tip of his penis as she gently ran her finger between his testicles along the extension of the now raised nerve and blood vessels. She then gently circled the tip of his penis with her tongue paying special attention to the slit before she took him into her mouth. "Oh my god woman how do you do that with your mouth."
She moved from him and said, "Oh my Goddess” she corrected. “And it's a true appreciation of the male form that allows me to do what I do. It also happens to please me." And she did the whole move again and then focused on taking all of him and feeling him get harder and lose himself in the sensations. He wanted her not just her mouth on him he wanted all of her. He managed to get his hand in her hair and pull gently. She looked up at him and he rolled her to her back and pulled her head back to expose her neck and he nuzzled it and then her breasts gently holding her nipple between his fingers. He released her hair and moved that hand to her breast as he moved his mouth and his other hand to her sex and licked and realized that she was not lying when she said pleasing him pleased her. She was wet and her labia were open. And he heard a small sigh escape her. He focused on her engorged sex and gently inserted his finger and there was another sigh and a gentle moan. And he realized that they were a perfect match because she pleased herself by pleasing him and he felt his penis grow harder as he realized how close she was to climaxing. He waited for the shudder and she said, "Oh please I need you." And he knew he needed her and entered her and began to slowly thrust and she moved to met him arching her back and matching his increasing thrusts until he exploded. And Owen thought this, this is what sex should be like every time.

She was happy, truly free and happy. This is what sex should be like. Free and fun and fulfilling. Thank you Old Ones. And Tago smiled. Meana and Bellaria knew this was only their beginning. Papa Eric was waiting for his grandson to wake up to how he really felt. Settrano had his work cut out for him. Tago wanted to make sure that Owen and Nola weren’t rushed.

Owen had rolled off of her but still managed to keep his arm wrapped around her. Nola had finally rolled to her stomach and put her chin on his chest. “Thank you. That was wonderful.”
“You know I don’t think any other woman has ever thanked me for sex.”
“Oh my, why not? That kind of happy sex is a gift. I’ve always said thank you, even before I knew I was pagan.”
“Really?
“Of course…. Did you really cast the circle around the whole house?”
“Yes.” And he smiled.
“Good.” And she started to get up.
“Where are you going?”
“To use your decadent bathroom, if I may?” and she looked down at his hand on her arm and he smiled and let her go.

And he lay there and her grandfather said, “Impressive. She says thank you for sex. You should say thank you too son.”
“Thank you.”
Nola opened the door to the bathroom and turned off the light. Only the quarter candles and altar candles were burning. Owen got up. She asked him. “Shall I take the circle down now?”
He kissed her and said, “No, not yet. I want us inside this sphere of protection for awhile longer. Wait for me in the bed.”
She smiled and he went into the bathroom. She had taken her cord off in the bathroom. Owen took his off and wound the 2 cords together before putting them back down on the counter.

She saw the bottle of San Pellegrino water and poured a glass. Owen was right his bedroom was a cave. She was surprised to see that the clock said it was just before 11PM. It felt like midnight. She turned the clock to face the wall. She didn’t want to know what time it was or think about time passing. She was inside the circle and safe. “Yes,” Meana said, “You are safe here with Owen.” And she sat down in the chair and curled her legs under her and thought about that as she sipped her water. Then she leaned back in the chair and closed her eyes and smiled. Owen came out of the bathroom and didn’t see her on the bed and looked to the bedroom door. She giggled from the chair and said, “I’m here.”

He crossed the room fewer strides than she imagined and she smiled at him and said, “I promised I would stay. A Strega keeps her promises.” And his worry evaporated and he sat down on the ottoman. “Would you like water or more Prosecco.” And she leaned into him and said, “I’ll kiss you without Prosecco.”
He smiled and said, “Flirt.”
“Sometimes….. sometimes. Water or wine?” and grinned and giggled “I’m not up to turning one into the other, so you’ll have to choose.”
“Water, witch.”
And he reached for a strawberry and had one ready for her to eat from his hand when she handed him his water glass.”
“What time is it?”
She put her finger on his lips finished her bite of strawberry and said, “Shhhhh it doesn’t matter. Right now we are timeless.”
He smiled and then she said, “But for the record, it’s not your birthday just yet.”

They nibbled from the platter and finished off their glasses of water and decided to open the other bottle of Prosecco and share a glass. Nola took a glass of water back to the bed and Owen took the glass of wine. Nola piled the pillows up against the head board so they could lean back into them and they settled in under the covers and took turns sipping from each other’s glass. Nola put her glass down and leaned back and sighed a contented sigh. Owen said, “That sounded happy.”
She sat up put her glass on the side board and then turned so she was leaning into him and facing him. “You know I am happy. I feel safe and happy and welcome. Thank you.” And she kissed him.
Owen thought, Why does it sound like that is so special? Then said, “Why wouldn’t you feel like that all the time? When do you not feel welcome?”
“Oh, I didn’t mean that I don’t feel made welcome by you. I do. Every time I’m here. What I meant was I …” and she thought and Meana finished her thought for her “you feel like you belong here and you do.”
…tonight I feel like we belong here.” And she kissed him. And he kissed her back and decided to put his glass down so he could give her his full attention. And they aroused each other again slowly, with touch and play and when they were finished she said, “Thank you and Happy birthday.”

And Owen smiled before he drifted contently off to sleep. I never imagined 44 could feel so good. Nola could hear his even breathing and decided that it was best to take the circle down. So she poured a bit of spirit flame into the bowl and took the circle down and bid Ave Vale and put out all the candles. Owen didn’t even stir when she gently snapped her fingers over the elementals. She used his bathroom again and crawled back into the bed. She was content and tired enough to sleep.

Owen stirred about 3AM. It was cave dark. He was rolling over when he realized that Nola wasn’t next to him. He started to feel around in the bed. No Nola. She said she was staying. She promised. Where could she be? He got up and went to the bathroom. The bathroom light illuminated the bed. Was that a foot? He walked back to the bed and sat down on it and then leaned over to the other far side. She was so close to the edge of the bed that he thought she was going to fall off. Her head and the pillows were at least 18 inches from the head board and one foot was draped over the bottom edge of the bed peaking out from the covers. He reached over to her and put his arm around her careful not to startle her and have her fall out of the bed and then said quietly, “Woman, what are you doing so far over there? You’re going to fall out of the bed.” She rolled over and smiled at him and said, “Hmmmm?”
“Why are you so close to the edge of the bed?”
And she answered half asleep, “I… I… I… James… sprawls... No snuggling. I steal the covers.” And she rolled back over to the edge of the bed.
And Owen thought more angrily than he said, “I am not James and I want you next to me.” And he put his arm around her waist and pulled her close to him “Hmmmm?….” and she roused a bit more. “What..??? What’s wrong?” He reached over her and pulled her pillows under her head. Then he turned on his side and draped his arm over her. She turned on her side, her back to him, and put her hand over his hand. He smiled at that and they both went back to sleep.

When he woke in the early dawn he noticed that she had managed to make her way back to the side of the bed but she wasn’t quite so close to the edge. She was on her side facing him, one foot was back hanging over the bottom edge of the bed. The other top leg slightly bent and the top cover, which he rarely used, twisted around her. One arm was under the pillow and her cheek, the other arm along her side. The top of one breast was just barely sticking out from the cover. He smiled. She was right she did steal the covers. She must have felt him looking at her because she stirred, opened her eyes and then smiled at him and curled into a tighter ball before she stretched out and both breasts peaked out from under the cover. She rolled back over to her side curled the covers over her and smiled at him again and said, “Happy Birthday.”
He said, “What are you doing way over there again?
“Sleeping.”
“Get over here woman. I don’t understand how anyone could have something as lush as you in the bed and not want to wrap around it.”
“You are a strange man.” She said sleepily.
“I am not.” And he reached over and pulled her close to him and this time she hung onto the pillows and took them with her. He lay on his back with her still on her side and his hand down her back and she scooted back down so she could get her foot off the edge of the bed and nuzzled next to his chest and went back to sleep. And Owen smiled and lay there happily half asleep and half awake.

About 30 minutes later she stirred and ran her hand through the hair on his chest and nuzzled his neck and then ran her had down to his penis. And whispered in his ear, “Is that just because it’s the morning or would you like a birthday present before I have to leave?”
And he answered her with by kissing her neck and her nipples and enjoying how she used her hand as well as her mouth and he rolled to his back to enjoy her ministrations she decided to use her mouth on him which was actually what he was hoping for. When she felt him grow even further and his breath change she moved up and mounted him and he thought he had died and gone to heaven. He held her at her waist and she carefully controlled the rhythm and depth of penetration knowing that this was when she could take the most of him. When he was deepest, she squeezed her inner muscles and Owen knew this was absolutely the best birthday present he'd ever received. They were both inordinately satisfied and ended up sleeping again, Owen wrapped around her.

It was close to 9AM when Nola woke up again. She started to disentangle herself from Owen, but only got so far before he wrapped her up again. “Come back, you are my birthday present.”
“Well actually no, I just delivered your birthday present. I have to leave. You have to pick up your family from the airport. Remember.”
And he sighed and said, “I remember.” And she managed to slip into the bathroom. She brushed her teeth and her hair but realized that all her clothes were downstairs. He met her at the door. “Wait right here.” And he closed the door behind him.
She sat on the chair at the small desk area and waited. He opened the door back up and took her hand. “Come take a decadent shower with me.” And she smiled at him because that actually sounded fun.

Owen got the water temperature just right and then pulled her in. They enjoyed getting each other soapy and Nola said, “I love this shower and it’s mighty fun having company.” Owen had to agree. He had always liked the shower. He had designed it because he liked it. But he had never really planned on having this much fun getting clean despite the fact that they managed not to have sex again. He wrapped her in a towel and then grabbed one for himself and when she saw him put the towel over his head, she slipped downstairs to get dressed. When he realized she wasn’t in the bathroom any more he pulled on some pants and dashed down the stairs with the towel still in his hand. She was coming out of the bathroom fully dressed. “Where do you think you’re going?”

“I thought I’d make some coffee before I leave.”
He smiled and said “No I’ll do it.” And he set the coffee up and said, “Don’t leave yet.” and didn’t wait for answer before he went back upstairs to finish dressing.

Nola went out into the backyard to check on the trees.

Owen came down and no Nola. Damn that woman always disappearing. He looked out the side door her truck was still there so she was here somewhere. He poured the coffee and saw from the kitchen window that she was in the backyard. Of course, she was checking on the trees. He met her on the back patio. She was squatting down putting her fingers in the ground around the trees.
"What are you doing?”
"Checking the moisture level. The leaves look good but I wanted to make sure that the mulch was ok and that the root balls were not too wet or dry." And she got up and started walking toward him brushing off her hands
"And?" and held the coffee cup out to her
She smiled, "They're all fine. You're doing a great job of taking care of them."
And they sat on the back patio and finished the coffee.

He could see that she was shifting gears and preparing to, he thought leave but it felt more like bolt. "You're thinking about leaving aren't you?"
"I have to get Jamie at 11 and I was wondering what time it was. I've completely lost track of time."
"Unfortunately it is after 10 and I know you have to leave soon. But don't forget you are coming back here for dinner on Thursday 6PM."
And she sighed. "You're sure that's such a good idea? It's bad enough Roger and the guys think I'm your girlfriend."
"Damn, am I such an embarrassment?" He joked.
She smiled and said, "No, of course not."
"Well then what it is?"
"Well.... other than the fact that it's not true and that I am married?"
He managed a smile, "Yeah, other than that?"
"It seems to complicate an already unusual situation. I know that studying a pagan path isn't something that is easily shared with most people. And too bad for that, but this facade.... I don't know. It makes it even more confusing."
"Really? It's not confusing to me. I like you. We have fun together. We work well together. You're a girl. Roger decided you were my girlfriend. My having a girlfriend will make my mom happy. You have a fabulous student. I have a fabulous teacher. We get to do the rituals together. I really don't see a down side."
"Well when you put it like that...." and she laughed but only lightly as she thought, but you're not the one who goes home to another life. The life you have doesn't change much for you once I leave. Mine does. Significantly. She got up and started walking back to the kitchen. He followed. She grabbed her purse and keys and he kissed her and said, "See you Thursday, right?"
"Right. I promised, didn't I?" and she smiled at him.
"Right and I know a Strega keeps her promises."

And he watched as she waved as she left the driveway.
"Well, son, that was some birthday."
Owen smiled. "Yes it was."

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Mother Nature's Dow

I can't believe I've held on to this article for more than a year. When I first read it I thought it was perfectly aligned with The Ways, with the concept of Nature as the Great Teacher.

Op-Ed ColumnistMother Nature’s Dow Twitter
By THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN
Published: March 28, 2009

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Chapter 36 - Nola Permaculture

The Lakefront owners were taking a look at the work and smiling. It had been done ahead of time, with no surprises on costs or construction materials. Since so much of the city was under construction and they had heard so many horror stories from other friends doing renovations and repairs they couldn't be happier.

Joe and Louis were in the yard picking up loose ends and chatting.
"You know, I wonder what Nola would do with the landscaping in this yard. She worked miracles on Owen's. Who would have thought, with as much yard as he had, you could live without a lawnmower?

The owners over heard and looked at each other. The construction had gone so well. They would be moving in this weekend. Their conversation last night was about being overwhelmed with the thought of bare ground and having no idea what to do with it. They had decided to just lay sod and knew that would end up meaning endless hours of grass cutting this summer. They both had the same thought at the same time: A No Lawnmower yard? It wasn't possible.

Joe looked up to see them waving at him. And he went over.
"Hi."
"Hi."
"We heard you talking about landscaping and no lawnmowers and we were wondering how that works. Owen didn't tell us that you all did landscaping too."
"Oh well", and Joe, being quick on the uptake when it came to any new possibility for work said, "Well we just added it. Owen's working with a local landscape specialist. We did his yard. I think he has some before and after pictures. You should talk to him."

And Louis, just as quick, stepped away and called Roger from his cell phone and explained what Joe was doing. Roger not wanting Owen to be caught off guard immediately called Owen. So when Owen go the call the same day about landscaping he had invited them to stop by his home so they could get an idea of the options and they had taken him up on it. He showed them the before and after pictures and the costs for plants and the hours and crew to do the work. He had also explained that they could design a phased approach to putting in the landscaping or the hardscape of pathways. They were interested. He said he have to arrange to get his new landscape specialist to take a look and would get back to them with options. Nola was due that evening and he said he would have something for them Monday and that he might want to have his landscape specialist talk to them. They said since they'd be moving in this weekend to stop by anytime. He said would try to get Nola out to talk to them this weekend. If they ended up doing the job he wanted her to go with him to choose them plants and it would be better if she could do the plant layout as well. Then he thought with all that work on her part he might just end up with her on the payroll. And he smiled at the thought.

He hadn’t spoken to Nola since Sunday's Full Moon. He didn’t know what she had meant when she had said ‘Planning’. But it had comforted him and he had been strangely relaxed through most of this week. His anticipation level at her return had made today drag by and had been glad for the diversion his client’s visit had offered. As he waited those last few minutes for her to arrive he began to wonder how today would go or what they would do or talk about. Then it came to him, if she got here early enough he would just put her in the truck and take her to the job site tonight. Do something grounded and practical would be good for them both. Tago smiled in agreement.

He was standing in the driveway when she opened the gate. He motioned her in the spot under the grape arbor like she was a plane coming into terminal. She followed his instructions but got out of the truck a little bit confused. He motioned to his truck and said "Get in."
"Get in? No hello? Just, get in."
And he engulfed her in one of his huge hugs, kissed her lightly and said, "Hello, now get in. I want to get there before it gets too dark." He opened the truck door and with his arm on hers insisted she get in. She got in and he closed the door behind her, got in and started backing the truck out of the driveway.
"Ok, I'm in. Want to tell me where we're going?"
"The Lakefront." And he pushed the button to close the gate.
"Ok, Why?"
"I want you to look at a house, well a yard really."
"Ok, Why?"
"Because Joe and Louis were talking to the owners of a house we're finishing up tomorrow about your no lawnmower landscaping and we could have a job to do their landscaping."
"What? Owen, I'm not a professional."
"No, I am. That's why you're going to look at the yard. We're going to talk about what you would do and I'm going to draw it up and price it and the guys are going to get another couple of days work out of this job. You can't imagine how proud Joe was about drumming up work." And while she sat thinking of something to say in opposition, he added, "It's gardening, right, crack addict? I thought you'd like it."
And what could she say to that? "No pressure, huh?" But she had to admit it did sound fun.
"I saw that smile."
"It's gardening right?" and she let him drive because he was going faster than he probably should.

He took her around the front and rear yard. She asked to be able to walk through the house because she wanted to get a feel for how the yard looked from inside so she could plan views. She looked up at the fading light and estimated the sun's path and where there would be more shade than shadow. She looked up and down the street at the block and the other houses.

"Well?" The sun was fading quickly now.
"Give me a minute, Owen."
"You do this as you drive, right?"
"Yes but other than your house and my own, I've never done this expecting it would actually happen. I drive the same routes most of the time and so over time I see the places repeatedly and get a feel for them and the ideas pop in my head. I've never seen this place before today. Where is their Air Handling Unit?"
And he pointed to the roof on the left side of the house in the back.
"A trademark of yours?"
"Kinda."
"I like it. This way we don't have to work around it. Where are the sewer lines?" And he raised his eyebrows but pointed to where they were.
"Why?"
"Because where ever I can I like to plant big trees and big trees have big roots and big roots and sewer lines are a bad mix."
And he shook his head. She was very good at this.
She took another walk around the property this time paying attention to the surrounding property.
"Now what are you doing?"
"Looking at how this property abuts the adjacent property. I want to be able to use plantings to address any privacy issues."
She took another walk through the house. "Owen, can you get me that chair I saw in the kitchen?"
He did and she sat down in it. So he said, "Finished?"
She laughed, "No, I just wanted to get a view out of the windows from chair height."
"Oh. Are you sure you've never done this before?"
"Yes, I'm just trying to be thorough. And she moved the chair around from room to room. "Have these people seen your yard?"
"Yes. And how did you know that?"
"Lucky, I guess. It’s good too because even if they are not gardeners they have the plants in your yard as a sample."
Then she went out and stood in the middle of the street and walked back and forth in front of the house. Owen was beginning worry that the neighbors would wonder what was going on. But his truck had been at the house so many times no one worried. She walked back to him and said, "Ok, how do you want to do this?"
"What?"
"How do you want to get what I have in my head down on paper? Do you have plans of the property for us to work from?"
"Oh yeah, in the truck." And he dashed to get them off the back seat.

He went back to the porch only to find her in the kitchen.
"There you are."
"I thought we could work here. It's pretty much the only flat surface other than the floor."
He was nodding and unrolling the plans.
"Shall I just point and you sketch in?"
"That could work." And she started to talk and point at the plans and Owen did his best to keep up with the flow and had to work out a way to list the options she was providing.
"Shumard, or Water Oak between the sidewalk and the street but on the left side here, ground cover, monkey grass or creeping jasmine or fig. Or if they are ambitious they can try the self seeding approach like I've done in your yard. Crepe myrtles, I like white ones, on each side of the driveway.
He nodded and made notes rough sketching in where she indicated there should be trees.
“The hedging on the inside of the fenceline can be gardenias here if they want privacy for their porch, shorter azaleas if they don't. Or if they like roses they could go crazy with Knockout roses. They will have to pick the colors."
He nodded and made notes, listing the plant possibilities and rough sketched in a few bushes in front of the house.
"A few understory trees: Redbud, Japanese Magnolias, Sweet Olives or some combination to round off the sharp corner on that end of the yard. When the Oak fills out that corner will be shadier."
More sketching.
"They too could do grapes over their driveway on this side of the yard but you all would need to build an arbor. Or we can plant vines along the fence or over the arbor, clematis - lots of color choices there, white jasmine, yellow jessamine, even honeysuckle. If they want shade without an arbor they can use the smaller understory trees. You could probably get 3 in there. I wouldn't recommend crepe myrtles they are messy on cars."
"Now how am I supposed to capture all of those options?"
"I don't know. You're the professional, right?"
"Sass. Ok, I’ll sketch in the arbor and the trees and then I can do multiple options." He listed the vines, sketched in the arbor and the trees.
"Don’t forget the rose option.” He added roses to the list and she nodded and continued.
“Down this side of the house it's shady. I'm leaning to recommending yews to give them a green privacy wall or if they want a more tropical look they could use bamboo. But if it were my house I'd want something between me and the windows of the house next door. It looks like no one lives there right now but someone could eventually. In front of the privacy screen, smaller understory trees, I like redbuds. As a groundcover here I like ferns. They could do a variety of ferns and Maurice could set up a garden path that wandered through the sunnier front yard to this shadier side yard fern garden and around to the back yard."
She had moved her hand over the plans so he had a good indication of where she wanted the walkway and sketched it in.
"Now where do the understory trees go?"
"Here so they are framed by the windows of the house from inside."
"Ok" and he sketched them in. "What's next?"
"I'd pull the walkway away from the fence here and wind it around to create a bump out for a fruit tree: preferably a tall one like peach or plum, or they could do any citrus they wanted or pick an understory tree. They have this lovely deck. They could either step it down and have more deck in the backyard, or Maurice could work his magic with a large patio or, and this is my favorite, create an oblong walkway with an island in the middle for a vegetable or rose garden. Because of how the sun is going to work with that garage and the house next door, the only place that a vegetable garden will really work is the center of the yard."
And he smiled at her and sketched in the oblong walkway with the vegetable/rose garden island.
“They need a space to keep their garbage cans and recycling bins so I’d recommend leaving the one side of the deck unplanted. It’s easier to recycle when you can literally just throw it over the side. If they want to hide them they can put them on this side. If they want an easier roll to the street, this side. Either way I think I’d either put lantana or gardenia or plumbago on the other side. Something that will be easy to trim so they can keep it deck rail height. Another option is butterfly ginger but that can be hard to find.”
“If it were me I’d want to hide them. We can work the pathway so it’s easy to get them to the street.” More sketching.
"That large oak in the other back yard shades most of their back wall. They could put a fountain, even a little cheap one from Lowe's or Home Depot along the back wall. It's hard to find solar fountains so you all might need to run power from the garage but I think that the pathway will allow for that so it shouldn't be too hard. I'd either, offset the fountain and put a fig in that corner or a swamp maple if they didn’t want a fruit tree. Or for a more structured look, we could put symmetrical planting of smaller understory trees on each side of a winding pathway back to the fountain with citrus closer to the middle of the yard where it will get more sun. If they don't want a fountain then I think I'd put a Japanese Magnolia in its place. They are amazingly showy when they bloom."
He sketched the asymmetrical idea with the fountain and said, "Based on other decisions they've made I think they'll like this better."
"I'd have Maurice wind a path way behind this garage to make a smaller private seating area and surround it and soften it with understory trees or a swamp maple for shade and fall color. The seating area would face the fountain in the other corner. They could put at least one citrus here on the corner of the garage. It will get enough light. We can infill any where with seeds or plant creeping fig or jasmine or money grass but while it looks good faster, it’s more work to plant and can be harder to maintain as a an area ground cover... although it's fine for edges. I Iike to use garlic chives on the edges, it’s magical protection, but not everyone likes the smell."
He finished up the sketching and adjusted the walkways for best flow. And then they stood back and looked at the sketch.

Owen smiled and looked at his watch before he said, "Genius woman. 30 minutes for site assessment and 30 minutes to get the ideas on paper." Then he hugged her into a generous kiss. When he released her she managed to say, "Jezz, Owen your exuberance is overwhelming sometimes. If you do that with other women it could get you arrested for assault." And she laughed.
“You know that’s interesting.”
“What?”
“I don’t think I’ve ever done that with any other woman." Hmmmm.
And she shook her head at him. Then he said looking back down at the plans again, “Will you come and help us set out the plants?"
"You don't even know if they'll go for it yet."
"Oh I think they will. They fell in love with what you did in my yard. I know that we are a couple thousand under what they thought they would spend."
"Well, we'll see. If they say yes, I'll do what I can to be there for the layout."
"And will you go with me to pick the plants?"
"Jezz, I think you're going to have to put me on the payroll."
"Absolutely. I already figured I would. I'd bet that with this job we've just started NOLA Permaculture."
"You can not be serious?"
"Why not?"
"Why... Well... I don't know."
"Let's just see. Joe will be thrilled. Louis and Maurice too. You know you've worked your witchy wiles on my whole crew." He had packed up the paperwork and had started locking up.
She followed him out of the house. And said slightly under her breath, "Witchy wiles. I do not have witchy wiles." And a bit louder, "What the hell are witchy wiles?"
And he kissed her lightly again before he locked the front door. "Yes you do and they work so well because you don't even know you have them. Come on woman, I'm hungry."

“You’re hungry?”
“Yes, your new clients stopped by the house right before you came and I haven’t had anything to eat since 11:30 and I’m hungry and I’d really like a steak. So we’re going to get something to eat before we go home.” He drove them to Lakeview Harbor on Harrison Avenue where he had apparently been before because they treated him like a good returning customer and he immediately placed his order without having to look at a menu. He looked at her waiting for her to order and since she had grabbed a small bowl of what James had cooked to make him happy, she looked up at the waitress and said, “Just unsweet tea please.”

When the waitress left she said, “Well that was fun: whirlwind drive, quick site assessment before the sun goes down, site design on the kitchen counter and now all this. It makes a girl’s head spin.”
He smiled at her. “You’re a pretty good sport you know.”
“Thanks.”
“I really do think that NOLA Permaculture could take off. Apparently the no lawnmower line is a great hook.”
She just laughed lightly and shrugged her shoulders and said, “Well, we do what we can.”
“I’m serious.”
“I know exuberant and serious. I get it. We’ll see.”
“Aren’t you a little bit excited?
“Yes.”
“That’s excited?”
“Yes.”
“Oooo pinch me.”
And she laughed at him and said, "You know if you're going to name this, I think No Lawnmower Landscaping is a better name. It's what hooked your first client.
"Hmm, No Lawnmower Landscaping. That could work. I'm seeing that on the side of a truck. It’s eye catching and appealing to anyone who's ever pushed a lawnmower or woken up to one on a Saturday morning."
"And what I do isn’t really full blown permaculture, for that we'd minimally have to add chickens.
"Chickens!?"
"Yes permaculture is about integrating the home and its surrounding with the capacity to grow your own food. That's why I like to use as many fruit trees and herbs as possible and try to have room for a vegetable garden."
"Chickens... I don't know if I'm ready for chickens."
And she laughed. And thought again how the basketball court would have been a great place for chickens.
“Will you come to their house with me on Saturday to talk to them about the plans?”
“Yes, I think that’s a good idea. It’s their yard. They have to live with it. They have to understand that even without a lawnmower they have to take care of it. I’d like to talk to them.”
“You really are a good sport.”
“Is there an echo in here?”
He smiled and said, “I’ll pick you up this Saturday at your house at 9:00AM.”
“OK.”
And just for the hell of it he said, “You really are a good sport.”

While they waited she figured that this was just as good a time as any to tell him about next week. “Owen didn’t you say that your family comes in next Saturday?”
“Yep.” And then he thought and said right out loud, “You are not backing out of dinner.”
And she smiled at him and said, “No. I promised. I’ll do it.” And she could see him relax. “What time on Saturday does their plane arrive?”
“4:44PM.”
And she nodded. “On your birthday.”
And he smiled, “Yes.”
And she nodded again and said, “I can’t come to your house for May Day.”

And the waitress walked up with his steak and, “Here you go. Need anything else?”
And Owen didn’t respond so Nola said, “Not right now.”

When the waitress left Nola put her hand on his hand and said, “I can’t come to your house on May Day because I’d like to come on Friday instead. James has opening weekend and his head will be totally in the play. Jamie has a sleepover for Friday night and I was thinking that maybe I could have one too. I have to pick Jamie up the next morning for 11AM so I’ll be out of your hair before your family arrives.”
And what she was really saying finally sunk in and he brightened and said, “You mean, you’ll come on Friday and Stay?”
“Yes, until just before 11 on Saturday.”
And it looked like he grew 6 inches as he sat up straight in the chair again and his steak looked good to him again and then he smiled and said, “Damn it woman. You almost made me loose my appetite. “
“Sorry. I thought you’d be happy.”
“Oh I am happy and if we weren’t in a family restaurant I’d show you how happy. But I’m going to contain my, what did you call it, exuberance until after I finish my steak.” And he dove in.
And she smiled and waved to the waitress who came right over, “Could I get a little more tea? Unsweet.”

As he ate she thought over the conversation that she had with James yesterday.
“Jamie has a sleepover next Friday. She’s going to Elena’s right after school. I can drop her stuff there in the afternoon.”
“Oh good that works.” And she knew he was thinking 'good he wouldn’t have to do it and then go to the theatre'.
“What time do you have to be to the theatre next Friday?’
“6:00PM every performance night.”
“It will be a busy weekend for you.”
“Very.”
“I’m not going to Owen’s next Thursday.”
“Oh, why not?”
“Because it’s hard to do ritual and then come home so late and have to dash off to work the next morning.”
“Oh, well that’s understandable. You do get home late some nights.”
“Yeah, it’s kind of like you after a performance. There’s wind down, soak time. I thought it would be nice to be able to do the ritual on Friday. That way we can go late and I don’t have to worry about work the next day.”
“How does that work? Aren’t there specific dates you have to keep?”
“Yes. But there are windows of opportunity. The moon is full for 3 nights. The other holidays have traditional dates but the dates are actually set based on degrees into the astrological sign so there’s a window there too.”
“I see.”
“I figure with you out all weekend with the play and Jamie out at her sleepover that I might as well stay over at Owen’s. He has spare bedrooms. I will be picking Jamie up from Elena’s at 11 on Saturday.”
“OK.” And she knew he was thinking 'good he could sleep in on Saturday'. She was thinking that staying over for other rituals might just be easier. He had about an hour before he had to be at rehearsal and half of him was already there.

“Woman, what are you thinking about? You are a thousand miles away.”
“I’m thinking that at least one of those spare bedrooms of yours should have a bed in it.”
“You want to have your own bedroom?”
And she laughed, “No, I think that James made some assumptions about what staying over at Owen’s means and I think that you having a bed in one of your spare bedrooms matches up with his assumptions.”
“Ok, I’m finished. We’ll get the check and go get a bed.”
And she laughed out loud again, “No, Let your mom and Stella take care of that while they are here.”

He got the check and gave her a huge hug and a healthy kiss before he put her in the truck and drove home with a grin on his face. It was still early, for them, when he pulled into the driveway and she didn’t fight him to go home and he kept grinning as he unlocked the kitchen door. He flipped on the lights and walked straight to the wine fridge and took out the Prosecco. She smiled at him and excused herself to his bathroom. He handed her a glass when she returned and then offered a toast, “To No Lawnmower Landscaping and sleepovers.” And clinked her glass. She smiled and took a sip and was ready for his kiss.

“Whew, I’m glad I was ready for that one.”
“Come into my library.”
“Said the spider to the fly.” But she smiled at him and moved to the library. She sat down in what he considered her spot facing the French doors. And he sat next to her and said, “Pretty exciting day.”
She sipped her Prosecco and nodded, “Yes, landscaping clients, totally unexpected.”
“I was thinking about the fact that you’ve agreed to stay over.”
“You really do need more toys.”
“You are not a toy to me, woman. Do we need to go over the May Day Ritual?”
“The May Day Ritual is pretty simple. It’s essentially a Full Moon Ritual without the meditation and the Veglia. The critical thing that happens at this ritual is that the God turns his reign over to the Goddess.”
And he smiled thinking about their last Full Moon.
“Do you have a sword?”
“A sword? You’re kidding right?”
“Well, not really. I don’t have a sword but some people do as ritual items. A sword is used by the God in the May Day Ritual to symbolize the God turning his reign over to the Goddess. It isn’t necessary but it’s very effective symbolically.”
“A sword.”
“It isn’t necessary.”
“I’ll ask around maybe one of the guys has a sword.”
“Oh that should be interesting.” And she held a mock conversation: “Uh any of you guys have a sword?” “What the hell for Owen?” “Well I need it to lie at the feet of a naked woman.” “Oh well sure man, for that no problem. Here use mine.” And she laughed and he laughed too.
“Well you never know. Now that I know a sword could be useful. I’ll be on the look out for one.”
“You should also look for a ritual blade. If you had one then we could use that as the sword.”
“Oh, I have one.”
“You do? Why have you never used it for circle casting?”
“Hmmm, because we’ve always used yours.”
“Oh you should definitely have your own ritual blade. We can use it for the sword. How long have you had it?”
“Oh… years.”
“Years?”
“I’m not a complete novice.”
“Oh far from it.” And she smiled at him knowingly.
And he smiled back and said, “I told you I’d dabbled. I’ve dabbled for years. A blade was one of the things we were told to get when I dabbled once before. You never focused on the trappings and the tools. You focused on the teachings, Aradia's Words and the Rituals. Plus we have everything we need in that Harry Potter box of yours."

"Where are you woman?"
"hmmm?"
"You drifted off. It looked like you were thinking about a million things at once."
"Oh, maybe I was a bit."
"Well?"
"Well what?"
"What were you thinking?'
"I was thinking about how I resisted the trappings and the tools when I first started. I used just the fossils for God & Goddess icons for a long time. I used what I had already had for elementals, most of it picked up from nature. My teacher had to work on me for over a year before I broke down and bought the God & Goddess statues. I didn't have a bell for years and the bell I do use is one that my teacher and I found at the flea market. My ritual blade was purchased for me by a Boschetto mate. He said he knew it was mine when he saw it. Many would find it too light. But I've always thought of a hard blade as too demanding when working with the Old Ones and the elementals. He was right, my blade was right for me. My wand is made from fennel collected by Raven on the coast of California and a fir cone from a tree on the site where I was first initiated. I didn't have a wand for a long time too. I just used my fingers.” And she held up her right hand with her index and middle finger together. “I was also thinking that we've been using the Harry Potter box for a while and I should check supply levels and restock."
"See? I knew it, a million things at once."
"Are you sassin’ your teacher?"
"No, never." He said with mock dismay and smiled at how much she said sassin’ just like Latasha.

They had a light evening talking about where ever the conversation drifted. She checked the box and made a short list before she left. As he watched her leave he smiled thinking, see you Saturday, before he realized that, after this Saturday, it would be one week before she stayed.
And Papa Eric said, “For one night Owen.”
And Owen thought, “For the first night.”
"You'd better take good care of your toys."
"Not you too. Nola is not a toy."
"I know that."
"Hmmmpfff." And he headed inside and up to bed and Papa Eric gave Bellaria and Meana a frustrated 'Kids!’ look and Tago just said, "Patience."

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Chapter 35 - Benevento Full Moon

The Sunday Full Moon was the first ritual they were going to do together since the Spring Equinox. As Nola drove she left the other aspects of her life behind and became teacher and priestess. The last few weeks had teetered between being what felt like Owen's friend and almost business partner to his pagan 3rd degree teacher. She supposed that the teetering meant there was a balance in there somewhere. But she couldn't ever remember having such an intense student who was so committed to doing all the rituals and who read and thought so thoroughly about them. It was a unique combination of practical Taurus Sun and mentally driven Aquarius Moon with that wash of uncontrollable Sagittarius intensity. There was no way that this student could have learned by the methods she had, by necessity, been forced to find. Hands on was pretty much the only way for him and so she was off for another Full Moon Ritual. She looked back on her many years of study and practice and could honestly say she had never been this consistent in her own practice. Teaching always ended up giving something back in return.

It was a minute or 2 after 9PM and the moon had been up for a little more than an hour. Owen had been keyed up all day. He knew that Nola's lesson last week was specifically designed to ensure that he knew the rituals were to align him with the energies of the universe, to connect him to something outside and himself and as worship. And when he separated the components mentally and spiritually he knew that he understood. But the physical was an integral part of his nature. The physical was how he reached what allowed the other aspects to come together. And what Owen knew in his bones was that the Full Moon Ritual could and in his mind should have a sexual component. The Full Moon Ritual meditations took him to a place, the ancient grounds around Lake Nemi. What happened at that place had either been his creation or a vision of what could or should happen. He had every intention of finding out which it was tonight.

He knew that Nola preferred not to have the mundane world blend into the ritual energies. She liked the way they tended to ease almost immediately into the ritual soon after she arrived. He had already set the altar and opened the wine. He was waiting and beginning to pace when, she pulled into the driveway. He came out of the kitchen door and gave her a welcoming hug before they went into the kitchen.
"Good Evening"
"Evening."
He handed her the glass he had been drinking from and she swirled and sipped and said, "hmmmm Brunello, the traditional Veglione wine".
"Is it? You hadn't said that."
"Oh, I meant our traditional Veglione wine. We've had it every time. I thought it was intentional on your part."
"Oh, well not consciously. But I like the idea. Traditional Veglione wine it is." And he took the glass from her and took a sip and handed it back and said, "Shall I meet you poolside for some moonlight before we start?"
She nodded, "Let me change." and went into the downstairs bathroom to change out of her street clothes. Owen went into his office and did the same. When she reached to get her cord, which was the only thing she needed now that the robes had come off at the Equinox, she noticed Owen's robe wasn't in the closet.

Owen was standing outside in the moonlight in his robe. He turned as Nola came out of the door and saw her silhouetted against the light from inside. He saw the curve of her breast and the dip at her waist and the cord swing against the length of her thigh as she walked up to him and smiled and started to untie his cord. "The robes come of and stay off until Autumn Equinox." And she removed his cord and draped it around her neck where it fell between her breasts. Then she reached down and began to lift his robe over his head. He finished the job and was left standing there with the robe in his hand. She then removed his cord from around her neck and retied it around his waist. And he thought that her approach was very professional. And then thought, what a strange way to think about the fact that this naked woman had just removed his clothes and left him naked with a cord tied around his waist.

She smiled and turned to the moon and closed her eyes and soaked up the moonlight. He dropped the robe and did his best to breathe with her as she started the Right of Union. She did it very slowly and seemed focused on pulling the moonlight into her as she completed the hand gestures. When she was finished she closed her eyes and stood there for a few seconds before she wrapped her arm around his and said, "That pool is so beautiful it makes me want to walk right into it so I can bathe in the moonlit water. But I know that the minute I stepped in I would be so cold that I would step right out again, so maybe it's best if we go inside and do the ritual." And he nodded because that was all he was capable of doing. All his ideas about what he thought should happen tonight shifted around as he adjusted to the fact that the evening had not started the way he envisioned.

She picked up the small vase of white flowers and herbs she had brought with her and they went into the living room. She smiled when she saw he had already set the altar. "Will you cast?
And he said "Sure" and as soon as he began the casting process he calmed down into a more relaxed ritual mode. Nola enjoyed the confident way he cast the circle and concentrated on calling to the Old Ones. Please, she asked, let this ritual be solid. I don't want the Spring Equinox to unsettle him or affect the progress we've been making. When he used her blade to lay the circle, she thought he needs his own. When called, the Grigori entered with a strong and immediate presence. Owen rapped the wand on the altar and the circle was cast.

They charged and drank some wine. Then both settled into a comfortable position on pillows on the floor before Nola led them on a meditation. They both knew where they were going.

"It is a beautiful pleasant night.... The moon is high in the sky and stars shine through the wisps of high light clouds.... You make your way slowly over the edge of a bowl shaped valley... following a small, bubbling stream as you walk along the soft path.... You smell the earthly scent of the oaks and the crisp scent of the pines as you walk along the path... you step out of the trees to a smooth lake made silver by the light of the moon... you breathe in the moonlight... and then slowly make your way to through the columns of the round temple.... you enter... and acknowledge the God and Goddess statues...... and then you step into the pool of moon light coming through the center of the roof..... You breathe in and out and align yourself with the energy of the moon........ You then leave the temple and make your way up a path that takes you to a high ledge in the side of the bowl-like valley..... You lay down on the ground under the moon and stars and open yourself up to the universe and all its wonder......"

By this time they were practiced at the meditation. They had both reached a place where they could be still and listen. And what they each heard was:
"The gods are attracted to our rituals... because of our worship which is vitality. They are attracted by the ritual fires and incense and by the purity of our naked bodies. They give and take the vital essences that we both need, through the power that we raise."

"All acts of reverence toward Nature and toward life are acts of worship. So it is too with love and pleasure."

And Owen asked for the confirmation he wanted, "Lovemaking and pleasure are a part of how we worship?" And he smiled and relaxed as the Grigori answered him "Yes, Owen your instincts are good. Love making and pleasure a part of how you connect to the greater universe and learn and grow." And he thought again that this is exactly why Nola could take pleasure in the small things. She knew this was an act of worship.

Meana brushed Nola mind, "You are safe. The rituals are pleasing and appropriate and will allow you to learn and grow and be happy. Do not doubt yourself." And Nola thanked the Old Ones and her teacher and her initiator and her Grimas for opening her up to these possibilities.

After what seemed like a long while....Nola's voice broke in as she said... "in the distance you hear the howl of one wolf..... and then the answering calls of others..... you pick yourself up and slowly make your way back..... past the temple.... past the silver lake.... through the oaks and pines .... following the small stream .....up to the top of the rigdeline...... where you return to the world.....

Owen slowly opened his eyes as he came back to himself. Nola did the Veglia and blessed the cakes and wine. She offered the plate with the cookies on it to Owen and took one herself allowing the process to ground them. She took a sip of wine and then handed it to Owen. She refilled the spirit bowl and relit the flame. Then the both sat quietly and watched the flame.

They finished the chalice of blessed wine and then Nola gave the Charge and Closing Prayer. She relit the spirit bowl and then took the spirit blade from the altar. Owen stood up and faced her with his arms open. She stepped into his arms and put the blade to her chest. He pulled her close until the blade was wedged between them, more careful with the point now that there were no robes between them. Then they hugged gently moving their hands up and down each other's back. Nola then removed the blade from their embrace and put it back on the altar.

Owen was still standing very close and when she stood back up he enfolded her in his arms and kissed her softly. And with Meana's words still echoing on her mind Nola returned his kiss. And Owen kissed her more urgently and she wrapped her hands around his neck and they embraced fully. Owen moved them kneeling to the pillows. Nola closed her eyes and gave herself over to the experience as Owen held her around her waist. He kissed her neck and then watched as her nipples hardened. He caressed her breasts, holding the full globes in his hands. She sighed as he sucked on her nipples. She moved so she could reach for him and she found his hard sex and held it gently in her hand. Then she moved down to him and held his sacks gently in her hand, running her finger along the raised blood vessels and nerves between his testicles. She then held him and moved her mouth to cover just the end of his penis and circled it slowly with her tongue, once, twice, three times before she moved her tongue down the raised blood vessels and nerves on the underside of his penis before returning to try to take all of him in her mouth. And in her own way she worshiped the God. Owen was lost to the experience. This was a woman who truly loved making love. She had a choice to make. Finish him, he was so close, and it made her wet thinking about his pleasure or move to change and extend the experience. She chose the later and Owen complied. She moved her mouth from him and replaced it with her hand and she held him and then ran her palm over the tip of his penis and Owen pushed her down and kissed and caressed her breasts before moving the tassels of her cord as he kissed the top of her mound and found her sex with his tongue. She too was hard and wet and she moaned with pleasure and desire for more. When he saw her arch her back slightly and shiver he moved to enter her. To be entered so soon after she had climaxed was exquisite. She wanted all of him and she rose to meet him. She moved her leg up onto his shoulder to allow him to drive deeper and she moved again with him still in her turning her back to him like a mare to a stallion and pushed against the floor with her hands to drive him deeper. He put his hands on her waist and pulled her to him as he drove into her and she squeezed and pulsed to caress him from inside. After Owen exploded with one last final push she raised herself from the floor her back against his chest and he caressed her breasts before she leaned forward and allowed them both to collapse on the pillows. They didn't want to separate so they stayed connected in an intimate spoon for a very long time.

He finally moved and slid from her and she turned to him and smiled, running her hand in his chest hair. "You know traditionally the circle comes down before that happens."
And he smiled back at her and said "Well we'll have to work on following tradition a bit better next time." and he kissed her and nuzzled her neck and noticed again how that made her nipples harden, so he caressed them. She moved closer to him and put her leg left leg over his thigh so she could get as much of her body against him as possible and kissed him again. And then she got up leaving him on the pillows splayed out in mock exasperation. She straightened her cord and added just enough spirit flame to the bowl to take the circle down. She looked back at him to make sure he was standing before she said Ave Vale to the Grigori and snapped over the elements and extinguished the candles. And he came up from behind her and said, "Who are we to thwart tradition." and picked her up and began to carry her to the stairs.
"What are you doing?!"
"As I understand it, what is traditionally done."
He had reached the stairs. "You are not going to carry me up the stairs."
"Yes I am."
"No, it is not necessary. I'll walk."
And he smiled and put her down and kissed her hard and took her hand and they went upstairs and did as is traditionally done.

It was after 1AM and Owen was alive and amazed at how alive he felt. Nola had fallen asleep in his arms after their second round of lovemaking. She had been curled up on her side on the pillow next to him for 20 or so minutes when she stirred. He turned to her and ran his hand up her side from her hip to her breast and leaned in and gently kissed and tugged her nipple. And she sighed and said. "Oh please don't tempt me again. I have to leave."
"Stay."
"I have to go." But she didn't say it with much enthusiasm.
"Stay."
"I have to go." And she was sitting up and he said,
"Stay."
And she said, "I have to go and use your facilities." And he smiled as she got up off the bed and walked to his bathroom.

From behind the closed door he heard her gasp. "Oh my god."
He sat up and said, "Nola? Are you OK?"
"Oh my god that is the most decadent shower I have ever seen."
And he got up and went to the door and knocked. "I'm coming in. OK?"
"OK."
And he found her standing in the doorway of the shower looking at it with amazement. So he moved her in and shut the door behind them and began to turn on the many shower heads and jets, careful to make sure that the water was warm before he moved her into it. She let the warm water wash over her and then she let Owen run his hands over her water slick body before she ran her hands over his. She found the soap and they soaped each other up and they enjoyed a warm and slippery embrace and kiss before they rinsed off. He was able to magically shut all the water off at one time and they stepped out of the steamy shower and he wrapped her in a huge oversized towel before getting one for himself.
She said to him "I think that we've had our fair share of love and pleasure this evening. I'm going downstairs to get dressed."
And he said again, "Please Nola....."
And she hugged him and said, "I have to leave. Please let me leave. I can not stay."

And he heard Papa Eric say, "You have to let her go tonight, son." And when he did not push her again she moved quickly down the stairs and was dressed in a flash and had her purse in her hand to leave and was at the back kitchen door attempting to do just that when he hit the bottom of the stairs.
"Nola, wait." And he put his hand on her arm and asked, "What will it take for you to stay?"
And she hesitated before answered his specific question with, "Planning."
And that made him hopeful and he assumed there was more but she opened the door walked deliberately down the driveway to her truck and was very grateful for the device that allowed her to control the opening and closing of the gate.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Gumbo - explained with a picture

Amanda Buck provided this is an excellent explanation of what Gumbo is and can be.
I take only one exception. I put file' on my Okra gumbo.

Gumbo
Remember despite the visual in the chart Cajun Roux is darker! It's darker because it is "cooked", toasted longer.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Atchafalya Houseboat

Atchafalaya Houseboat is a short memoir that takes you to another place outside of time as we moderns know it. It's a worthwhile trip. Into nature and around the wheel of the year.

Anyone who tries to listen to nature and breath with the seasons should read this book. I do my best to live *in* the world that we have today. I have a job. I provide a roof and healthcare and schooling for my family. I do my best to contribute to my community for both the short and long term, but there are times I yearn to be far, far away from this modern world. Atchafalya Houseboat let me have a few hours of that. I fell asleep last night after read many chapters and dreamt of my own houseboat with solar panels and a wi-fi hotspot. But no phones. One day I'll have chickens. I can already pick blackberries and make apple pie from scratch.

I have a new list of books to read.
Brad Angier - How to Build Your Home in the Woods and realize that I already have one Angier's books: How to Stay Alive in the Woods.

Or poetry and literature,
Sandburg's Fire Dreams
Mark Twain's Hunting the Deceitful Turkey
Robert Frost's My November Guest
and as I look these up to provide the links, my thoughts of solar panels and wi-fi seem less obnoxious.





Click here to see more pictures taken by CC Lockwood.

Or here for youtube videos.

Or here if you're interested in the PBS documentary.