the squirrels called their friends

Honestly, they did.

“My” squirrels are so fat they can hardly get up and down the tree. This, because I bribed them with corn so they wouldn’t steal expensive bird seed. They still steal the bird seed, but now they are gorging on deer corn.

And there’s more of them now. When I come out the back door, there are five or six who flee to the tree line, instead of the usual two or three.

I know when the deer eat the corn, because the ears stay where they are. The deer eat the kernels and leave. The squirrels try to drag the whole thing up the tree.

It’s really pretty funny.

I have to police the empty ears, or my honey will tell me about them, next time he is mowing. So, as I distribute fresh corn, I fling the empty ears out into the woods. When I can’t find them, I look to the nearest tree. Sure enough, there will be one or two ears, emptied of kernels or still being worked on. They’re so close to the bottom of the trunk, I wonder if they don’t get them part way up and then lose them. They especially like the ears with the husks still on…..

Darn, I’d love to have night vision cameras out there. It’s a wild and crazy place in the back yard in winter. Food is at a premium, even in a mild climate like ours. So even the feral cat looks at the corn.

I suppose I could put it up on deer high “tables, ” with squirrel baffles, but that wouldn’t stop raccoons, or possums. I’ve seen several foxes, too. And we’ve heard the bobcat.

And, while I haven’t seen any evidence for a month or so, we often have armadillos. You can make all the armadillo jokes you want, they are disgusting. And toxic. Christian or not, I am not a fan of every animal.

The last time I lived in Florida was 20 years ago, for two years on Hibiscus Island. Iguanas were already becoming a nuisance, but nothing like they are now. And now iguanas have swum to the Keys, as well. If I’d walked out into my Key West yard 35 years ago and seen an iguana on my deck, I wouldn’t have been nearly as fond of the place. Not to mention the new snake invasion in the Everglades. Jeez. You might as well move to Australia, where nearly everything will try to kill you.

So, perhaps I don’t need night vision cameras out into the far yard….

…There’s probably a critter or two I am just as well not knowing about.

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it was a dark and story night

following the light (C) Carol Joy Shannon 2019

“When you walk through the storm, hold your head up high, and don’t be afraid of the dark…walk on, walk on, through the wind and the rain, though your dreams be tossed and blown, walk on, walk on, with [God] in your heart, and you’ll never walk alone…”

That, not including the change in lyrics, was a favorite song of my mom’s. Probably of a lot of people of her era, and it’s stayed around. Because we all need — as the song actually says — hope in our hearts. So we’ll get up and go forward every day. The slightest thread of hope keeps people going in places like gulags, and concentration camps, and sickness and despair.

These are some very odd times around us right now. One of the things humans do is attempt to fix “odd” times and things and people. But we really can’t fix everything. We will never be able to tweak all the right buttons and make the world spin into soft focus and slo-mo happy lalaland.

Because we are not in control.

… ever…

Of course, most people are quite certain that mankind is in charge. We have the World Monetary Fund manipulating science and sociology around us right now, implementing their plan for a New/One World Order. It’s been in the works for a long time, but the world population hasn’t been malleable enough until recently, it seems, for them to start using the test case scenarios they’ve been trying for decades. Bill Gates wants to sow the atmosphere with chemicals to cool the sun. Honest.

I am not a conspiracy theorist. I am a clear-eyed septuagenarian who’s seen it all, from here, from afar, in the diplomatic world, in the money world, and in the world of who really rules it.

Money rules it.

Plain and simple.

But who controls it? WMF? Soros? Gates? Rothschilds? Big Tech? China?

Nope.

God.

God controls it.

That’s what humans always forget. Especially the power-hungry, control mad cabal at work around us right now. They don’t even believe in God. And, since they don’t, God can’t possibly exist.

They are the elite, after all. What they believe is what is.

And what they believe is that we are all too stupid to rule ourselves democratically. We need oneworldorder. Theirworldorder.

Why aren’t you on that page yet? You’re wearing a mask. It’s just a step. They only have your good in mind. Honestly.

Don’t you believe in your leaders?

Orangemanbad.

Your leaders have sold their own souls.

Orangemanbad.

Your leaders set up the opposition to look a certain way, and then spun the media and you bought it. You’ve been buying it. You think you’ll die if you go out without a mask. You think we’ll all die if I have a family BBQ in the back yard. You’ll report me.

You’ve sold your soul.

But it’s okay. Freedom isn’t all that big a deal. Free cable is better. A guaranteed amount of money in your account each month from the government. That’s better than being able to have an opinion. Or go to church. Or read the books you want to read. Or talk trash about your cousin from Boston. Free money. That’s it. Even if it’s not enough to buy bread. Free. Stuff.

Communism good. Orangemanbad.

Nothing to see here. Move along. It’s all for your own good. The public good. The common good. Worldpeaceworldharmonykumbayahnamasteoneloveunity

When all the doublespeak rationale makes you crazy, and you wonder why you are even trying in a newworldorder where you have no voice — look up that song, “You’ll Never Walk Alone.”

In fact, look it up now. Modern singers have covered it fairly recently. I know, it’s a bit sappy, maybe, but not if you hear Mahalia Jackson do it. Sing along. Substitute God, for “hope.”

And remember who’s really in control.

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what is behind door number 2021?

dreamscape – follow the navigator (C) 2020 Carol Joy Shannon

We made it. 2020 is in the rearview.

Of course, it’s simply a number, on a calendar designed to best utilize the cycles of the sun, and moon. And, as we always “joke” about the weather: the real weather doesn’t have to follow the map online, or on TV. So the craziness of 2020 may or may not stop.

In my old heathen days I took a lot of stock in astrology. I even learned how to use a slide rule, so that I could do charts for myself and others. (These were days long, long before computers were common, or handheld calculators.) Astrology is poopoo’d by everyone these days, but we still respect astronomy. Both studies are what brought the Wise Men to Bethlehem. They were astronomers, and very likely — especially in those times — astrologers.

So, with that in mind, I looked into what astrologers had to say about the recent Jupiter/Saturn conjunction. I remembered “conjunctions” being a big deal in the world of astrology. And it was. Is.

It seems that Jupiter and Saturn have a conjunction approximately every 20 years. But a conjunction which appears to put them so close together from our human/earthly perspective is very rare. Also, this particular conjunction signified the end of an astrological “era” for those two, if you will. (Since outer planets move more slowly, their influence is considered to be over eras, rather than individuals.)

“People are saying that this is the same alignment that happened when Jesus was born. I have been hoping for a second coming of Christ to polish off the end of the year, but living in the 21st century, I speculate this can look like an alien invasion,” says Berlin-based astrologer Randon Rosenbohm. “It’s always been an omen in astrology.” *

Also, the fact that the conjunction happened on the winter solstice, always important to those who follow the rhythms of the earth, and sky, made it more noteworthy.

According to the link provided below, astrologers are of a mixed mind as to what this means for the future. Evidently this was similar to a conjunction which happened near the start of the Renaissance, so perhaps we will all become more creative.

What I do sense, is just a feeling of sheer relief that a single, frustrating year is behind us. I feel like it was a year where we were forced to step back from our “real lives.”

That was, surprisingly, sometimes a good thing. My niece and stepdaughter, and others on social media, have spoken about how that influenced them in a positive way, by forcing them to become better families. Nothing wrong with that. There was nothing wrong with taking the rat race away for awhile. We were obsessed with our frantic lives. It seemed like you weren’t successful unless you were doing too much.

The down side of the same restrictions were that they actually destroyed businesses. They destroyed people’s livelihoods. They put people out of work. All for a virus with a 99% survival rate that was promoted as a “pandemic” that would kill us all. THAT was wrong. And THAT was promoted by the globalists, to speed up the One World Reset.

Call me a conspiracy theorist. Our grandchildren will know I am right.

So, my hope for 2021 is this – the entire world rediscovers two things: our common sense and our spines.

*https://www.thecut.com/2020/12/what-is-the-great-conjunction-between-jupiter-and-saturn.html

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Thanksgiving & Black Friday — Our Take — 2020

Thanksgiving is a uniquely North American occasion.

A group of Protestants seeking refuge from Catholics in Europe – who were suppressing their freedom to worship as they chose — took the risky option of sailing the unforgiving Atlantic, to attempt to colonize the “new world.”

Sounds like a good movie to me, but the Puritans were exactly that, puritans, so it would be a pretty dour and serious group. Not much color or real drama, except the action itself which was plenty dramatic.

The only people living in this hemisphere were the indigenous tribes we came to call Indians (because Columbus didn’t know where he was.) The Indians were, understandably, reluctant to share their natural paradise with aliens.

Nonetheless, the Indians of what is now Massachusetts shared their knowledge of survival and local agriculture with the newcomers. And since the newcomers were a “dour and serious group,” they did well with that knowledge. Well enough to survive for a year, complete a harvest, and put away stores for the winter. That is a huge accomplishment.

It all seems pretty ho-hum in the elementary school history books, but establishing a home in a new environment with rudimentary tools and a few livestock is no easy thing. Watch a few episodes of “Homestead Rescue” if you want to get an idea. And the homesteaders on TV often have power tools.

So, when the Puritans finished the harvest of the crops they had grown, with the aid of the helpful locals, the Christian settlers shared thanks to God by having a feast of God’s bounty, along with their new friends.

That is the simple story. (Remember: suppression of freedom; thanks to God. There may be a quiz.)

We all know that little of it was idyllic; they didn’t always remain friends, other groups followed, without the same principles, and the larger group eventually had to fight to establish freedom from the King who’d sent many of them here. The European kings were the reason colonists came to North America — either because they were fleeing them (like Protestants from Catholic persecution) or because the kings sent them, giving them commonwealths and land grants, money and blessings of their own.

But, back to the first “thanksgiving.” It was a simple harvest ceremony that included Christian prayer and a feast. Humans have been having similar events since they started growing crops.

In the 20th and 21st centuries, though, the settlers’ “thanksgiving” became, first, an official holiday where everyone went to share a meal with their families and watch football. (In the 50s, we actually went to church on Thanksgiving, but that disappeared entirely.) Then, Thanksgiving became a huge blow-out of a meal, with as many people as you wanted to invite and which your facility could accommodate. Soon, it was the sort of event which demanded replication in military facilities, homeless shelters, ex-pats in exotic countries — in other words, the only holiday comparable to Christmas.

And that ushered in Thanksgiving, Part Two, wherein the retail merchants, ever eager to make their biggest profit season start as early as possible, came up with “Black Friday.” The bean counters had noticed the spike in sales on that Friday following Thanksgiving, and the horses were out of the gate.

Retailers tried to outdo each other with ridiculous “door buster sales” until mobs of people were actually breaking down doors and trampling each other. Only in America could you have a melee, with injuries, over 60″ TVs. There were shootings, and arrests. Lots of crazy videos on social media.

It went on so long that it became a part of Thanksgiving, the day. Stores would open Thursday night at midnight. Or Friday at 3 am. Many people made it a challenge. A game. Many did all their Christmas shopping then, and kept score. It was fun and funny, in that fun and funny way we Americans have with consumerism.

We all love a bargain. I once posted a JC Penney receipt which showed me getting almost $300 of clothing for something like $27. I’d gone in for a shirt on sale for $12, but could get two more free if I bought another $5 item. That item was Buy One/Get One, so it just snowballed. It remains one of the craziest shopping experiences ever. It was the weekend after Thanksgiving, not that long ago. Some of you who get gifts from us may be wearing a pair of slippers, or some pajamas from that craziness. I remember walking to my van thinking, “No wonder JC Penney is in the red!”

That is what we had come to, prior to this Thanksgiving. The 2020 Thanksgiving.

Everything about 2020 has been one for the books. Since March, nothing in our lives has been normal. The littlest things have been disrupted. And big things, too. Thanksgiving is huge. Huge turkeys, huge gatherings, huge eating and drinking and arguing and everything that goes with groups. Huge shopping.

Not this year.

This year, in many states, you were liable to be arrested for having too many people at your house. The number varied from state to state, as did the penalties.

The Washington Post claimed that “the world looks on in horror as Americans gather in groups for Thanksgiving,” or some other foolishness. We are all going to die from cranberry relish, because it is a “super spreader” all by itself. Wear masks at all times. Bring your own food and utensils. (I kid you not — that was some advice I read.) In New England, the site of the original Thanksgiving, you couldn’t travel between Maine and Massachusetts because they “quarantine each other.” DiBlasio threatened anyone who left or came into the city of New York.

Nonetheless, I was pretty sure there were still people going out to shop on Black Friday.

I live in the South. Our state has been open since June. We are required to wear masks in some stores, and social distance. Period. And for those of you who find this alarming, we have had similar spikes and valleys in cases, but our death rate is no higher than your state’s, where you can’t do anything at all.

I needed groceries. I have access to real grocery stories in four directions, and all of them are at least 17 miles away. Two involve I-95. And one involves the tourist destination of Beaufort. I didn’t want to go to Walmart either, because… Black Friday. But I also needed bird seed and corn for the squirrel mafia, so I had to go where there was either a Tractor Supply or an Ace Hardware.

The town with the least possiblity of tourists or interstate travelers had an Ace. So off we went. My husband only went because he needed some actual “hardware.”

We found out that Ace has their own Black Friday. Ace Hardware has Christmas decorations, guns and ammo, fishing supplies, grilling and smoking supplies, and carries clothes by Carrhardt, UnderArmour, and Simply Southern, and some of all of it was nicely marked down.

They were very busy.

We ended up with spray paint, ammo, a fishing rod, and the hardware.

And the seed and corn.

The wild bird seed I needed was two 20lb bags for $10, and 50 lb. bags of corn for $8. Cobs or kernels, your choice. They had two young men with earpieces doing nothing but loading deer corn.* Because that’s what it really is. It’s hunting bait, not squirrel bribes. But it’s all the same to me, and if I can feed my critters for months for $18 – yay! One of the guys had my 50 lb bag on his shoulder as soon as I asked for it to be added, and he carried it out to our vehicle. He told me he’d been doing nothing but that all week.

After we’d been in town for awhile, got the groceries and were headed home, my husband told me every truck he saw, and SUV with a tail rack, were loaded with deer corn. He saw a pickup with Florida plates filled with it.

Why not? This is 2020. None of us knows what is going to happen next. The chance to put a couple deer in the freezer to feed your family? You bet. We weren’t raised to be fragile flowers. We were raised to take care of ourselves, and our families, and our friends.

Hope is not a strategy for a person with common sense. And in spite of all the urban elite, who are stymied by life without virtual assistants, our country has a lot of people with common sense, who know how to farm and fish and hunt.

It seems we may have come back to the first Thanksgiving by default. It’s not a bad thing, either. Self-sufficiency is always going to make a difference in your quality of life.

And if Jeff Foxworthy says, “If you do your Christmas shopping at the hardware store, you might be a redneck” — well, proud of it!

_______________________________________________________________________________________

Carol Joy Shannon grew up on the coast of Maine and moved to the South in 1968. She paints, too.

 

  • Baiting animals and birds for hunting purposes is very specifically regulated and varies by zones, private and public land.
  • “Our” deer know they are safe from hunting. Clearly, so do the squirrels. Nuisance animals like feral hogs, coyotes and armadillos can be hunted whenever you see them. Since they’re all nocturnal, we rarely do. We have all three nearby and an armadillo wreaking havoc on the “lawn” every night.

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…my year long affair with Guido Brunetti

It started out harmlessly. A friend in London knew a man who’d lived in Venice. He told her about Brunetti. Brunetti is a native Venetian. Rare, any more. A really good guy, too.

Don’t worry – my husband knows. He’s a little tired of Brunetti’s opinions, I think. But, then, I don’t care for the opinions of Brunetti’s wife. Or his insufferable daughter. In fact, as the year has gone on — 2020 being insufferable in its own right — I like Brunetti himself a little less than the first time we met. But I still like him enough to follow him around.

Just about a year ago, my old friend in London and I were comparing notes. We’ve both been travelers; it’s how we met, working on cruise ships, “when we were young and cute.” She traveled longer than I did, and to different places. She actually lived in Istanbul. I only traveled there, for example.

But I lived in Italy. And I adored Venice. From the first time I saw it, on a cold, rainy, winter morning in 1974.

When I lived in Tuscany in the 90s, I was an “illegal alien,” and since it was before the open borders of the EU, I had to leave the country periodically over the year and a half, to keep up the appearance of being a “guest.” I was working in Tuscany, milking sheep, making cheese, and catering to real tourists, but this isn’t that story.

I always went to eastern Europe, because it was close, and cheaper than Switzerland. I eventually spent 7 months there, but this isn’t that story, either. I always made it a point to go stay in Venice on at least one leg of the trip to Koper, or Budapest, or Lastavo, getting my in and out stamps in my passport. “Yes, I am a tourist. No. I can’t explain why I smell like hay.”

I’d stop at the tourist kiosk outside the train station, and they’d find me the cheapest room on the islands. Sometimes I even got a little balcony over a canal. All I wanted was to walk the streets of Venice as much as possible. It is one of the few truly timeless places — especially if you can walk those streets at night. It’s a lot like Charleston in that regard. Just a thousand years older.

I’ve even written an unfinished series of supernatural romances which take place in Venice. Who hasn’t?! The saying that something has a certain “je ne sais quoi” quality is La Serenissima in a nutshell.

But it is also a city where real people still live, in the same buildings people lived in a thousand years ago.

Guido Brunetti is a fictional police “commissario” who’s also a native Venetian, married into Venetian aristocracy. The author, Donna Leon, lived in Venice herself for over 30 years. My old friend’s friend evidently knew her casually, so his corner newstand in Venice would alert him whenever she published a new book.

Suffice it to say, it sounded like a good prospect.

Yes, I know, oh boy, do I know, that Venice has changed since my first, and even my 90s visits. When we were there in 2007, it was hard to see any locals at all. I saw no small old ladies in long skirts with their rolling carts. Not a single school child riding the vaporettos, much less groups of them. The service class seemed to be entirely Philippino, and all the pizzerias were owned by Albanians.

But the city itself is still there. And it still has its own aura. And the books are so Venetian, Leon won’t even allow them to be translated into Italian! (They are translated into every other language, though, and the Germans even made a TV series of some of them.)

So when “Death at La Fenice” turned up in paperback at the Habitat Re-Store early last December, I thought it a little providential that it was my “free” book (#10 in a store that often gives you 2 if you buy 1!) and that it turned out to be the first in the series, to boot.

By the middle of December, I had ordered the next one from Amazon.

But by early January, I had found Thriftbooks (I try not to make Jeff Bezos any richer than he already is.)

By the middle of January, I already knew about the Chinese virus from reading the Epoch Times. So escape to Venice every night was becoming more and more appealing, even if it did involve murder and duplicity.

I’ve listened to hundreds and hundreds of books. I listened to them when I painted 40 hours a week, and I listened to them while I drove all over the country to sell those paintings.

But I like to actually read the printed page, on paper. Especially at night. It is the one surefire way to get to sleep. For me. Even if I’m reading about crime and corruption. And Italy is so corrupt. And full of communists, since the time of real Bolsheviks. Still, it was an escape on many levels, and became my dopamine, selenium, whatever.

But I’d think about them, too. The next day. I’d think about the crazy crap going on this year, all over the world, and how inured the Italians are to corruption and lack of consequences, after generations of it. When you can trace the innate secretiveness and duplicity of Venetians back to their seafaring merchant and world-conquering ancestors, it can keep even a year like 2020 in some kind of perspective.

Venice as microcosm, with idiosyncrasies.

So Guido and Paola and their children, Chiara and Raffi, took me into their kitchen and their living room, and we sat on the terrace. Sometimes Paola’s patrician family opened their doors, and we sat looking over the Grand Canal.

More often though, I stood at the cafe bars with Brunetti and Vianelli, reading Il Gazzettino, and drinking coffee. I knew exactly the feeling when Brunetti said he couldn’t drink another one. Or imagined walking into the casino with Griffoni, a commissario herself, dressed to kill. I felt the coolness of the narrow alleys, and the wind off the Adriatic — especially that, having sailed up and down the other side a good bit! Definitely my kind of escape.

la serenissima (C) Carol Joy Shannon 2012

So, when I had read every one of the 27* — I just started again. They are extremely well-written books, much more than the mere mysteries that unfold. And this stupid year wasn’t getting any better, so….

I’m almost at the end again, and I find that I don’t like Brunetti quite as much, as a person, as I did the first time around. He’s still a really good guy, but I missed some of his flaws when I was reading for clues to the crime. I’ve never formed a very good imaginary picture of him either, though I have pictured everyone else.

But I like Signorina Elettra even more. I found her wry sense of humor more appealing, as I realized more layers to her. And Vianelli and Puccheti, and the serious EM, Rizzardi.

The second time, I also skipped a couple books that I didn’t like as much the first time, like the one where Brunetti’s wife throws a brick through the window of a travel agency that sells sexual tourism to Thailand. I understand how she feels about it, but it was just idiotic, and annoying. Childish. But she’s in love with Henry James, so, emotional outbursts…

I highly recommend Commissario Brunetti. I hope that Donna Leon has finished her newest, and that it will take place in Venice during the Great Reset. It must have been very weird back in February and March when Venetians weren’t allowed to stand at the bar to drink their coffees. It’s hard to overstate how important that is to Italians. It is not the same as sitting at a table in a coffee shop, at all.

Plus, their city was empty.

They are probably happy the cruise ships are gone, even if the big shipbuilding yard, Fincantiari, must also be closed down.

I’m sure that money loss is the only reason any of them missed the tourists, too. But, Venice, like Charleston, is inhabited by more people “from away,” now than ever before, so maybe not. When the EU made it easier to own real estate in other countries, the landrush was on. Palazzi were getting bought by rich Germans and Brits, like the Yankees knocking on the doors south of Broad. So they probably don’t need the tourists as much as the native population once did. But people still need to make a living.

Certainly retail does. And that changes. Brunetti watched as the little grocers and flower merchants give way to Chinese gondolas and masks, over the years. Maybe the shopkeepers are gone now for good, and you have to go to the mainland for groceries. It’s been almost 14 years since I saw the old belle of the Adriatic in person.

But Brunetti will always be there, so go have a coffee with him. Ask him about Patta. See what Signorina Elettra is wearing today. And what Paola is cooking for dinner. Ask about the case of wine the Conte sent over. I guarantee that once you visit with them, you’ll keep going back.

Tell them a woman in the Lowcountry sent you. The one following them through the stone streets every night. Listening in, trying to understand Vianelli’s Castello dialect.

  • (The 2020 book isn’t out in paperback yet, and I want to keep my collection consistent, even if the books cost only $2 to $4 each. LOL. I’ve got another series in the wings for 2021. But I kind of hate to leave Venice, right now…)
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the angel’s share

Since there has been a lengthy discussion of near-experiences with “ghosts,” it’s necessary to get to “the angel’s share.” My own angels will have nothing less.

“The angel’s share” is a term used in whiskey making, for the portion of whiskey which evaporates “into heaven” from the wooden barrels during aging. According to whiskeywash.com, the angels share is both a blessing and a curse: the wooden barrels absorb some of the harsher chemicals, and the evaporation of the angel’s share adds further smoothness. But it can also affect the proof and the volume, depending on the outer environment (dry heat, moist heat etc.). The same may be true of us!

During the quarantine my husband has become an expert in several fields, thanks to the History Channel and Discovery. Seven months of Couch Crew information absorption means that we know more than we will ever need to know about moonshining – especially since we both stopped drinking 20 years ago. And my husband now knows a great deal about mining for gold in Alaska, and searching for obscure treasure in Nova Scotia.

There have been other areas of study, but we are talking about the angel’s share. I loved that term the first time I heard it. It conjurs up images of drunken angels if you know its real meaning, but as a general term it just seems like something that should be parceled out every day. After all, angels protect us and encourage us.

For some reason, the modern church does not believe in angels, at least in real time. The church believes angels existed in the Old Testament, and the New Testament, but apparently decided to disappear for the last 2000 years.

That, alone, is one of the reasons I left churches. It’s simply ridiculous to have a “Christian faith” and yet deny the supernatural. We are supposed to believe that angels “ministered” to believers in the 1st Century, and then just stopped. Why?

Or do Christians not believe in angels at all? Perhaps they believe they are a metaphor. Perhaps they believe they were simply useful teaching tools and in the age of “science” we no longer need them.

We are supposed to accept “miraculous healing” and inexplicable escapes from death and destruction, but not embrace angels?

Because God is impossible to prove by empirical methods, angels, too, must simply be myth.

That’s fine, and if that is what you think, just stop here, and pick up the blog another time.

Ghosts, which have no basis whatsoever, except those weird sorts of experiences we talked about the last time, are fully part of our culture. We love the idea of ghosts. They are fun, and, since the majority of people don’t think they are real, they are the basis of much fiction, serious and humorous alike.

Angels, though, seem to unnerve people. Even though angels are usually considered benign and helpful, they make people uncomfortable.

Why do you think that is?

I think it’s because angels are from God, and God makes people uncomfortable. Even Christians.

Christians today like their God to stay in the Bible and to be a pleasant guide for living.

The prosperity doctrine Christians like to think God exists to reward them with wealth. A lot of people who don’t really believe in God at all think of angels as adorable, chubby cherubs who look after their grandchildren. The current “Pope” doesn’t give them a second thought, as he has rejected God for globalism.

Unlike ghosts, with which I have a somewhat humorous lack of experience, angels have been part of my life for as long as I can remember. I just didn’t realize they were angels.

It may only be one angel, or it could be random angels. I have no idea how angels are assigned, but I’ve been fortunate to have angels assigned to save my sorry self. Many times. In fact, the “little girl ghost” in Tuscany could be an angel, for all I know. They are well documented assuming unexpected forms.

What I now also realize are angels, is what I used to call “luck.”

I was “lucky” that the Slovene captain on the Marmara Sea saved our tiny sailboat in the Force 9 gale.

Maybe.

But maybe there was a huge angel standing behind him, helping him hold the wheel. I couldn’t hold the wheel with my then 130 lb. self. And neither of us could see a thing. Once I was able to wrestle the mainsail onto the deck, with one arm and one leg wrapped tightly around the mast to keep from being blown off the boat — all I could do was push the heavy, soaked fabric down the hatch. When I dared to look, the following sea was 12 feet above the deck and spewing off into curlers we could have surfed.

I sat in the top of the hatch opening, and prayed.

I wasn’t a person of faith in those days, but I had been before, and I would be again, and there was no other recourse. I don’t know if God answered my prayers in particular, but we made it to a safe harbor in the Dardanelles Straits, with last minute help from a Ro-Ro which shined its bow light onto the entrance, so we could find it in the huge waves.

I believe a guardian angel was there throughout.

I won’t bore you with near-misses and close-calls with death over the years. I was a drinker and did a lot of drugs during some parts of my life. I self-medicated quite seriously for a decade after my husband died unexpectedly. I put myself into precarious situations. But I was also the mother of a precious little boy, and angels kept scooping me out of those situations.

Saving my life.

Luck.

They should have knocked me up the side of the head, is what they should have done. And after awhile, I realized they did that, too.

Not all angel intervention is in the shape of miraculous escapes. Sometimes we get thrown to the ground, because we’re hard-headed, and we need to understand that there are rewards and consequences. Some of us need to have dramatic lessons in order to “get it.”

So, that abusive lover who stole everything you owned and would have destroyed you? He was surely sent by the devil to turn your heart black, but angels didn’t intervene until the message was clear. Unlike the proponents of modern, feel-good faith, I’m old school. I know the devil is real and working hard every day. Again, you can leave the room now, and maybe still like a future blog. No hard feelings. (But caveat emptor: we may discuss the devil, too.)

I used to think “instinct,” that inner voice, was my own. Some form of genetic memory perhaps. I believe we do have instincts, and we should be taught to trust them more than we do. But I also believe those inner voices are a lot like the cartoon angels: sitting on your shoulder, giving you advice you can accept and believe, or reject at your own peril. Not all those inner voices have your best interests in mind, either. There was a reason the cartoon angel was balanced by a little red devil.

At this point, I’d be remiss not to recommend “The Screwtape Letters,” but let’s stick with angels here.

I’ve come to understand that much of what I’ve credited as “instinct” over the years, was my persistent, annoyingly loyal, angel. Trying to steer me in the right direction. I don’t always listen, to my detriment. Humans like to believe we are in control. And we are, we can choose to ignore good advice.

It’s interesting to me how people of faith resist angels, and other supernatural manifestations of God. I understand why non-believers have no interest in them, but how can someone who studies the Bible not believe there are angels among us?

But they don’t. Many believers dismiss the devil, too. And hell. For these people, it is all a “concept,” a way of life they have chosen in order to be better people, with some vague hope of heavenly reward.

The angels and demons are just literary devices.

Things that make you go “hmmm.”

My personal “literary device” has been saving me for 70 years, despite my best efforts to the contrary. I have no idea what God has been saving me for, if anything, but I no longer talk back when my angels advise.

I’m working on a piece of serial fiction, for older kids, and one of the first challenges faced is the adults reacting to angels. The kid gets it. So does the dog. But the adults think it must be a special effect of some kind. A big random hologram.

Or they pass out from fear.

How would you react to a larger-than-life being with wings and a sword, and a certain glow about them?

a prayer for all of us (C) Carol Joy Shannon 2020

Carol Joy Shannon is a painter who writes. Her ongoing series of dinosaurs is available in book form here. She’s received accolades, commissions and fed the family with her art. And, believe it or not, people have paid her to write since 1970.

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Ghosts – they’re not just for Halloween. 2020 is such a screwy year, it seems like IT’S a ghost story!

the porch (C) 2017 Carol Joy Shannon

The Couch Crew – that’s me and my husband, with occasional guests – have been discussing ghosts this week. My son sent me a picture of our grandson, wearing a little 4 yr old sized “Ghostbusters” uniform, watching “Ghostbusters,” the movie.

“Ghostbusters” was my son’s and my favorite movie for a long time, and it’s still high on my list. It came out when he was his own son’s age, happily oblivious to trouble of any kind. By the time he was 7 or 8 and we were watching it once a week or more, I was a widow and he was learning to live without a dad. So “Ghostbusters” was our happy place. It still cracks me up to imagine the “portal” to the other side being a refrigerator!

So fun ghosts.

Then, I was looking up some info on Sammy Hagar. My husband is a musician. The home studio doesn’t get used much these days, but he’s also an amateur historian, and that includes music history. We were watching another program about Van Halen — with Eddie dying recently, they’ve been scouring the vaults — and I came across a bit about Sammy Hagar being on “Celebrity Ghosthunters.” He had dreamed his drunken father had been banging on his door, demanding to see his new grandson. When the banging on the door continued for real, it was a bandmate telling him his dad had been found dead.

Sammy may have slipped some in my husband’s estimation at that moment. He doesn’t believe in ghosts. (Ghosts don’t care whether we “believe in them” or not.)

So I told my husband, once again, about the ghost that saved my life in Tuscany.

I always says I’ve never seen a ghost, just had “close encounters,” but that isn’t entirely true. I did see a ghost once, very clearly, and if I’d realized it wasn’t a real person, I would have paid a lot more attention.

Some friends of my dad, a young couple from Manhattan, had rented a farmhouse on the coast of Maine for a year, for the husband to write. A lot of writers dream of doing that. There’s something about the idea of a big old house, overlooking the rocky coast, with the fog rolling in. It’s atmospheric to start and you figure it will spark creativity, as it did for other writers.

So this couple — we’ll call them Mark and Amy, because they are real people, he’s a little famous, they are no longer married, and I don’t want to have to track them down to tell them they are in my little blog — had met my dad because of books.

My father “collected people,” and had a very interesting group of friends. These two came to dinner shortly after I’d returned from living in Europe and the Middle East. I was living in my parent’s basement apartment while I figured out what to do with the rest of my life. It was 1977. We had a lot of interesting talk around the table. Amy was from Germany, and I had spent some time in Bavaria….yada, yada, yada….and since I was closer in age than my parents with them, and we were all new to Maine, in a way, they invited me to “the farmhouse” for a meal the next week.

While there, I was directed to the bathroom down a long narrow hall, which continued on to connect to a closed-in “breezeway” that led to the barn. This is common in Maine farmhouses, because the weather can get vile, and you don’t want to have to dress for Antarctica just to get eggs.

As I left the bathroom, I looked down the hall and saw a blond woman cross the space at the other end. I noticed her, but didn’t think about it, because I thought it was Amy.

But when I returned to the kitchen, Amy was standing at the big wooden table, tossing a salad. There was no way she could have passed me. She also had her hair down and was wearing slacks. The other woman had her hair up and was in a long dress. (I’d just thought Amy had changed for dinner!)

I have no poker face whatsover, so they asked me what was wrong. I told them what I’d seen, trying not to sound like a crazy person. They were “cool” people, who lived in Greenwich Village, after all.

But they just looked at each other and both started talking at once. They were glad I’d seen something. Neither of them had. But they knew it was there, and it maybe had friends. They’d begun to question their own sanity.

Until I’d seen the “woman,” they just called it “the ghost.”Over dinner, they told me about the numerous instances of “the ghost” exerting its presence.

Lights came on and went off in random ways that the local electrician could not explain (wiring was only a few years old; the whole house had been refurbished for rental.) Doors would be carefully locked and found flung wide open. One night they’d returned home to discover every light in the house on, including rooms they never entered. Things like that. The ghost would hide things, like jewelry and small tools, which would then appear days later in odd places, like on a stump outside, or in the barn.

I was fascinated, but they were unnerved. They managed a little while longer, but it ramped up its annoyances, and it got so bad they finally went to the landlord — who to their surprise was not shocked. Their experiences wound up in an article in the Portland paper, but it still made them pause, even years later.

Growing up in New England had always included ghost stories. It’s an old place, as America goes, and the Indians were there for thousands of years before us. They don’t have any problems with the validity of ghosts.

Fast forward to the mid-80s. I had been living out west when my husband had died and I taken a job in Key West as an escape from reality. When that contract ran out, I asked my son where he wanted to live — he was 6 — and he told me he wanted to live where there was snow.

So we moved to North Conway NH, and I got a job as a waitress at the Scottish Lion Inn. We lived in a condo with a couple other wait staff, while I figured out what I could really do in a ski resort, besides wait tables.

The Scottish Lion was well established, an historic old farm on the edge of town which served authentic Scottish fare in a picturesque setting overlooking a valley on whose other end was the stunning visage of Mt. Washington, a piece of real estate even the Indians had been wary of. The whole area is a postcard. And the inn had been one of the first buildings built, originally as a farm. In the 1980’s the barn was a tony shop selling jams and Scottish tartans.

We served lunch and then closed from 2 to 5. Often, if we were working the dinner shift too, some of us just stayed. My son would get dropped off by the schoolbus and he was welcome in the staff room in the basement. It was a small town, the inn was a family operation, and it was a simpler time.

One afternoon, one of the waiters, one of our housemates, was hungover from the night before and said he was going up to an empty room to take a nap. It wasn’t allowed, but he took a big tablecloth to cover the bed, vowed he’d smooth it all out so no one would know, and made us promise to wake him up at 4:30.

A couple hours later, my friend Leigh and I were sitting in the staff room talking, when David walked in, with a face as white as the table cloth he was holding.

“Very funny, guys,” he said. Though he didn’t sound like he really thought so. “Where’d you find the old-fashioned dress?”

When we shrugged and shook our heads and swore we had no idea what he was talking about, he sat down and told us.

He was sound asleep, on his back with his hands on his chest, and someone was pulling on his stocking’d toes, telling him to wake up. He resisted and the person pulled harder on his toes. When he opened his eyes, a woman in a Victorian dress was standing at the foot of the bed. He closed his eyes and opened them again and she was gone. He didn’t think much of it, because he thought it was one of us, playing a particularly good prank.

Until he saw both of us in the staff room only moments later.

We’d all heard the place was haunted. The family who’d built the farm had died in an avalanche and were buried in a plot nearby. But you don’t really take stories like that seriously, do you?

The ghost never came downstairs. Some guests had claimed to see it, but we just figured they were drunk. The inn had a dozen rooms and a bar that had a life of its own, so…

The public restrooms, however, were all on the second floor, and my 7 year old son never used them again.

In 1991 we moved to Charleston, SC and rented the bottom floor of an historic carriage house, half a block north of Broad Street in the French Quarter. The French Quarter is one of the oldest neighborhoods on the peninsula, which is itself one of the largest historic districts in the country. In the French Quarter, many of the window sills and frames, as well as the doorsteps are painted deep, dark blue — to keep out the spirits.

In the Gullah culture, in the rest of the Lowcountry, a lighter blue is called “Haint Blue” and is painted on porch ceilings. The Gullah believed haints were unable to cross water and would be confused by the color. Sherwin Willliams has a Haint Blue paint for this purpose, and it’s hard to find an historic house in Charleston without a haint blue porch ceiling.

I didn’t know any of that when I moved into the French Quarter, where we would live for 5 years. But I soon started hearing the stories. In those days, there were still “old Charlestonians,” people whose families had lived in the same house for 300 years.

Unfortunately, for all of us, most of them have given way to Yankees with million-dollar-pockets. I’m sure there’s an eccentric old woman holding on to a sagging single house somewhere south of Broad, but she won’t be much longer. Charleston has become a theme park version of itself. Celebrities live there, doing “resto-mods” on the insides of protected buildings. Daryl Hall, whose hobby is restoration, bless his heart; Bill Murray who owns the Riverdogs, and watches basketball in bars on Broad street. Many others, fleeing the cold and chaos of northeastern cities, for the steamy south…

…but I digress. When I lived there 30 years ago, Charleston was only beginning its recovery from Hurricane Hugo. There were still blocks of unrestored history that reeked of ghosts. There were ghost tours. Walking, riding and carriage. No one who’d lived in Charleston — old, peninsula Charleston, not the sprawling suburbs still, technically, Charleston — anyone who spent any time in old Charleston had a ghost story.

I knew they were all around. I’d seen glimpses of the past in the fog, but I’m an imaginative person. There’s no imagination involved in a pillar of cold air in an alley on a hot night in August, though. That alley didn’t have a duct or a grate in that spot; it wasn’t always cold, but it was often cold. Alleys between streets and between buildings, where the light shifts suddenly, and you feel something brush past you, something that feels like a person. Shadows in windows of empty buildings. Little ephemera, not to put too fine a point on it.

Charleston is younger than Venice and Istanbul, but it has a similar feel. You can almost hear and smell other times. History itself has an aura.

I had had no real encounters, though. My upstairs neighbors were two big people. I knew when they were home. It was a block of 4 rooms on each of the two floors, with an enclosed stairway to the second floor behind my kitchen wall, but opening onto the front step. There is a certain form of intimacy in knowing which rooms your neighbors are in.

So, when they moved out and the landlady did a nice remodel, I knew all the nuances of that, too, and I became very used to the silence while it was empty, waiting for my friend Jackson Brown to claim it. That was a period of several months, for which he gladly paid rent in order to secure the sweet little spot for the future. (He ended up living there for over 20 years.)

During those months there was no sound in the building unless me or my son had made it. There was no office building in front, like there is now. The actual stables were still there, and were rented out as “covered parking,” though the “cover” was dubious protection, over a hundred years old.

So, one morning, when I heard footsteps go up the stairs and walk across the floor and stop above my head – I wondered who was up there. I hadn’t heard the front door open, or seen anyone pass my windows. This is cottage small. Everything is measureable. I knew who walked in the yard. Stone courtyards.

So I called the gallery and asked if there was a workman up there. There wasn’t. Why? Oh, just some noises. Old building. Nothing. Don’t want to be the crazy woman in Apartment A…

I never heard the footsteps leave.

But I heard them again, many times over the next few years. It was always the same: they ran up the stairs walked across to the front room, above my living room, and stopped. Nothing else.

Jackson never ran up the stairs, ever. So, I knew when it wasn’t him.

(These are benevolent spirits, not haints, by the way. Haints are malicious, like the woman in the farmhouse in Maine. That sort of delineation requires its own discussion.)

The funny thing about the carriage house ghost was that the man who took over our little apartment, when my son went away to school and I moved to Italy – gave ghost tours. He heard “our ghost” often, he said, but he never saw it either. Nor did he ever see any of the ghosts he told tourists about. But he said he “felt them around, especially in the Unitarian cemetery.” Again, worth a few paragraphs on its own.

The best ghost I didn’t see, was the little girl ghost who saved our lives in Tuscany.

My friends had bought a 50 acre farm with a shell of a 600 year old main house that had once been a monastery. It had an old stone barn, built into the side of a very steep mountainside. Everything on that farm was nearly vertical. We picked olives lying down. Gorgeous though. You could look across the valley, across the Tiber River and see more sheep and more history on the other side. As clear as crystal, in that special Tuscan light.

At that time there were a handful of guestrooms in the restored, but still rustic, main house, and the barn still held livestock, which we tended as well, along with the guests, who came for the agritourisma experience. In the winter, there were rarely guests. The driveway was a challenging series of gravel switchbacks, with steep drops on one side and rocky promontories on the other, accomplishing a thousand feet of elevation in less than a mile.

No one could sneak up on you, though.

Brent and I were alone. His husband was working in Milan, and so, wrapped in quilts in the old, cold stone building we had finished another vicious game of multilingual Scrabble in front of the fireplace, and retired for the night.

I was enjoying the temporary luxury of one of the 2nd floor guestooms, while Brent was asleep in the room at the foot of the stairs that doubled as his office. He liked to be close to the ground, where he could hear the animals. I knew what he meant, because sometimes I slept in the cheese kitchen, when the house was full of guests. The barn cat could just walk in the window, and I could hear the chickens cooing across the driveway.

I had vivid dreams in that house. The whole farm was so ancient. The very land. I could sit in the fields in broad daylight and be transported back to the times of the Etruscans, who tended sheep in the same manner I was doing, on the same bits of land. Tuscany does have a magic to it.

So the dream of the little girl sitting on my chest pounding her fists against it, saying “alzati! favore! alzati!” wake up! wasn’t so unusual. I had big story dreams here. I was waiting to see where this would go.

But she didn’t stop.

So, I woke up.

And when I did, I could smell smoke. The room wasn’t smoky because I slept with the window wide open to the wonderful mountain air, yes, even in the winter. We had huge, goose down duvets. But when I opened the door to the hall, it was stronger, and when I went down the stairs, the first floor was filling up.

We opened all the windows and doors and then solved the mystery: a fierce cold front had swept in and blown the flue shut. We would have, could have, died from smoke inhalation.

When things had settled down and we were resting on the sofas, waiting for the rest of the smoke to dissipate through the still open windows, Brent asked me what woke me up.

When I told him, he said, “The little girl! Wow. That’s so amazing.”

When he’d been rebuilding the place, mostly alone, sleeping on the floor in front of the fireplace, she’d made herself known. She’d helped him, then, too. I forget the details. He had been wary of sharing that experience, but then some guests had heard her playing outside their window. When they looked out she’d been “gone” so they’d asked him whose child they’d heard.

(After you’ve shared a ghost story and your listener doesn’t dismiss you as a lunatic, it becomes easier to share them again, when the situation warrants.)

So, the little girl waking me up was like the dream waking up Sammy Hagar. Both started out as dreams that intersected with reality.

My guardian angel may have something to say about some of the “ghost” designations, and pragmatists like my husband will always have a scientific explanation.

Until they see an anomaly in the dark, on a foggy lawn, under the swamp moss……

Carol Joy Shannon is an award-winning artist who thinks about stuff. And reads too much.

Next time we’ll talk about angels.

Why not? It’s 2020. Anything is possible.

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I’m too old to fight

If y’all want to be communists, have at it. That is what it seems has happened in America. The communists won.

I’m very sorry to see that, because I’ve seen first hand the results of 50 years of communism in Eastern Europe. And in Cuba.

And I am looking straight into the eyes of the tyranny that is China.

China is Joe Biden.

Who is quickly sidelined by Kamala Harris.

It’s a slick move.

Good luck, America. You’re going to need it.

Or else you’ll just stay high all the time and watch America become Venezuela.

Good job Maine, NH, VT, CT, NY…wow. And thanks, too, to all the commies who moved out of cacaCA and flipped AZ. We’re lucky Charleston Yankees didn’t flip SC. Raleigh and Charlotte working hard to flip NC. Atlanta tipping GA.

Good job.

Oh, and if you were in the rallies of tens of thousands of Trump supporters all over America…wtf, huh? wtf..g.f?

I’m going to go out and battle the elements. I live in a swamp. I know what happens when you’re lazy. Jungle takes over.

Gonna go out on the back porch, put on my boots go tear down vines.

It’s what I thought America was going to do.

But as Ron White used to say, “I was WROOONNGGG…”

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the hummingbirds left this week

hummingbird in hydrangeas (C) CJS (Courtesy of J.E.Schoppee)

I’ve enjoyed their show all summer. And I will miss them.

It doesn’t seem like much, in a year of extremes, but the hummingbirds are the most exciting avians in our little subtropical microcosm. They are nature’s flying aces. I have cultivated their company. I’d even like to believe a couple of them buzz me on purpose. They eat well in our yard, but they’re worth it.

You would think that we would be warm enough for them for the winter. We’re two hours north of the Florida border, on the coast. We don’t get very cold, and rarely for very long.

But evidently hummingbirds are hardwired to fly to their Central American and Yucatan vacation spots for the winter. More flowers there in January.

The pint-sized buzzing machines who barely land to eat, eat mostly liquid, and can’t weigh more than an ounce or two – fly to Central America.

It’s hard to even imagine.

I knew they were getting ready. There were more of them. And different ones from our usual crew. I upped the ante on the vitamin-enriched food, because the angle of the light told me the time was coming. There are still plenty of red flowers in our yard. And the days are still in the low to mid 80s. But the angle of the light says “fall.”

Evidently, the little dynamos need 25% to 40% extra body weight to make their 500 mile trip across the Gulf of Mexico…..think about that. 500 miles. That’s a long day’s drive, in a car….they are flying, with those little wings beating so fast you can’t see them, the whole time.

It seems they do occasionally stop to rest on the oil platforms in the Gulf. Take that tree huggers! Oil platforms are saving hummingbirds! Oh, and according to the experts, they do not fly in flocks. They are loners. Imagine. Just a single bird flying 500 miles for the flowers. Even when I crisscrossed the country in my Econoline, I was sitting down and listening to books. Alone and flapping your wings….500 miles…hummingbirds.

22 million years ago, they made it to South America from Asia, and have been working their way north ever since. But the winters (except for some really robust birds on the Outer Banks) are generally too cold for them to find natural food sources. So, the migration.

Twice a year. One article I read said they pretty much eat all winter, getting fat enough to return in the spring.

On my end, it’s a little sad to see them gone. They’re amazing to watch, exciting to see up close, astonishing in their level of activity. (Though my husband and I both like to see them in the live oak, at rest – you get extra points if you can spot one without seeing it fly to the branch.

Last week I stepped out the door in my red hoodie and one of them inspected me at close range. He hovered off my left shoulder for a few long seconds — and I still couldn’t see his wings. Just a blur.

But, no more exciting hummingbird encounters for a few months. If they think red hoodies are food, it’s time for them to fly south. They know the pattern of their lives in their genetic memory.

But, it means that winter is up ahead.

With a year like this one has been, we’ll probably have a roaring blizzard in the Lowcountry. Nothing would surprise me. An El Nino is in play,though, so the blizzard, at least, is unlikely. El Nino is a wind and wave pattern. There is a La Nina too. Many weather patterns were only identified in the 20th century, when we could look at the earth “from away.” But the patterns existed before we saw them, or named them. For millenia. Though, patterns can be changed by weather, too.

We were talking about hurricane cycles this week, because it seems like the Gulf states are getting more than they deserve this year. But other years, all the storms run up the east coast of Florida into the Carolinas. Sometimes all the storms swing in off Cuba and go up the west coast of Florida. This year was Alabama, Texas, Mississippi, Louisiana and the FL panhandle’s turn.

Patterns.

Nature always has patterns. The angle of the earth as it turns throughout the year is a pattern. The resulting cool or heat. We respond to patterns instinctively, too. And we’re no more aware of it than the birds. We turn towards the light.

The sun is the source of most natural earth patterns. It’s no wonder it was considered “god.” Everything revolves around it. Imagine what would it would have felt like to live in the year of the Tambora volcanic eruption, and imagine there was no internet to find out what was happening. There wasn’t. 1816 became “the year with no summer,” and many people at the time never knew why.

Tambora, we now know, threw ash up into the stratosphere. You can read a fascinating article about it here.

That year, it was too cold to grow crops in northern hemispheres in the summer. John Irving wrote about it in “Cider House Rules.” It also affected the climate. Scientists believe it raised the global temperature a degree or two for the next several years.

how sunshine works (C) Carol Joy Shannon 2019 http://www.squareup.com/store/cjsgeometrix

Then, a little later in the 19th century, another Indonesian volcano erupted which affected the global weather. Though not as large as Tambora, Krakatoa changed the light in London.

According to an article on the History Channel, “Writing from England, poet Gerard Manley Hopkins described skies of green, blue, gold and purple, “… more like inflamed flesh than the lucid reds of ordinary sunsets … the glow is intense; that is what strikes everyone; it has prolonged the daylight, and optically changed the season; it bathes the whole sky, it is mistaken for the reflection of a great fire.” That was written in November, when the ash from the eruption in August made it to the northern climes.

An interesting sidebar to Krakatoa is that evidently it affected the writings of the poets Shelley and Mary Shelley, and Lord Byron, all of whom were forced inside by the relentless rain in Italy — and so gave us Frankenstein, and other dark musings. So Krakatoa is still affecting us.

Patterns are much more evident the longer you live. In fact, the repetitive aspect of life on earth is probably the source of “mid-life crises.” LOL. At mid-life, you realize how little weight you bear in those patterns. But you can also more easily understand how they work, and use them to your benefit. Like the birds. See the angle, make the move.

Birds and plants all recognize the pattern in the angle of the sun. One year in Tuscany we planted part of an acre of sunflowers very late. They didn’t bother to grow as tall as the others. They put out the same size flower on a half size stem. Heliotrops. Sunflowers actually turn toward the sun, but in that case the plant sensed the angle of the sun and did the short version. Vegetables in Alaska grow huge in a short span of time containing very long days. Same thing.

Over the last 22 million years, hummingbirds have been developing their patterns. I am delighted to be their neighborhood food source during the summer, and equally delighted to be on the flight pattern south. I’ll take their departure as the notice to begin for the winter pattern. I’ll move the tropicals under the porch roof soon. Then inside. We’ll have 4 months of the sun giving us the side-eye, and then the reverse pattern will begin.

In 2020, the hummingbirds returned to my yard on March 28. I’ll keep you posted.

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Are you smarter than a squirrel, part deux

I’m certain that some humans are much smarter than squirrels.

The friendly ladies at the Wild Bird Shop in Beaufort showed me all the baffles and gadgets you can acquire to stymie the little problem solvers. They also sent me home with a small bag of the “no waste” bird food, which is supposed to keep the ground cleaner, therefore no little critters, etc. etc.

I went with the bag of ears of corn from Tractor Supply.

I rolled the kernels off by hand, in a couple places away from the bird feeders. It was pleasant enough, early morning in the yard, and — it seemed to work.

Fewer squirrel gymastics and emptied feeders.

I was happy. The squirrels seemed happy.

Rapprochement.

Then one day I walked onto the porch to the sight of a lovely deer, standing under the bird feeder. In broad daylight. She was quietly eating the corn under the “bird tree.”

I stopped in my tracks on the screened porch, and quietly closed the inside door. According to my husband, deer have poor eyesight – but those ears hear everything. So I stood there, and just marveled at how close she was. I studied her fur — the painter and lifelong lover of all things wild having a moment. And then another. She knew something was there, but she couldn’t really see me through the screen.

I stood watching her for a very long time, and then I registered this scolding noise off to the right, from the side lawn.

One of the squirrels was trying to scare the deer away from their corn. He even made a little run at the deer, but not too close. The deer stepped back and just looked at the squirrel.

The squirrel stood his ground – and then the squirrel looked at me.

If that squirrel could have stood up and put hands on hips, that was the look I got.

I almost laughed out loud.

But I didn’t want to scare the deer.

Since that morning, I’ve started spreading the corn 🌽 more widely. It’s still a pleasant endeavor. I stroll the back yard and put the corn down in a couple places. I know where the deer path is, and I put it just along the edge, in the corner of the yard I can see, but where they are still hidden from the road.

There’s hundreds of square miles of A.C.E. Basin starting less than a mile away but they seem to like our little village on the edge of the swamp.

One lovely evening at dusk, I was sitting on the porch with the cat in my lap and we watched them. There are two adults, two yearlings, and three “bambis.” They’re just losing their spots in time for winter. I’ve surprised various members of the group, pulling into the yard late at night after a long haul home from an art event. Until then, I might have figured it was random deer but now I’ve seen the “teenagers” from last summer. And mom and dad, and the three little ones.

It’s something I didn’t realize deer did, family. I mean, not beyond the obvious. I had no idea they would stick together year after year.

But now, I recognize “our” deer family. And every once in awhile, at dusk, or early in the morning, I might see them, which is always a delight. If they see me, they step inside the young pines at the edge of the woods, and we all stand very still.

It never gets old.

So I’m glad I bought off the squirrel mafia with corn.

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