Friday, October 31, 2014


Photo Courtesy of White Flower Farm

Still working on the details of Act III of my life. I was reading Mary Oliver's poem about peonies and their “eagerness to be wild and perfect for a moment before they are nothing, forever.”

I am not looking for perfection in Act III, way too many kinks to iron out and I am not going to spend the last 3rd of my life ironing! I am, however, eager to be wild in my old age. Not the wild of my twenties, which, when I look back, was not wild at all but more a controlled rebellion of my parents rules and regulations, as well as, societies strict guidelines.

Speaking of guidelines, my wildness was strictly within the guidelines of all the other rebellious twenty-somethings and that doesn't smell of wildness to me.

I want my 60's and 70's and hopefully, my 80's to be filled with laughing that challenges my bladder, sights and music and moments that make the hair on my neck and arms dance.

Tuesday evening several friends and I sat in the audience, swaying to the music of Patty Griffin and John Fullbright and it was incredibly difficult not to jump to my feet and dance. Patty moves with a grace and sensuousness from her soul while she sings. She is truly alive up there on that stage.

That's what I want out of Act III. I want my movements to be sensuous, not in the sexual way, but meaning that all my senses are alive and aware of the moment. I want to smell and taste color, I want to hear the sky, I want to feel the visible and invisible. I want my eyes to see, really see what surrounds me.

Our book club read Cheryl Strayed's Wild this past week, it was a second read for me, but it reminded me of hiking in Lassen Park alone last week. Granted, it was not the Pacific Coast Trail (because, frankly, that sounds a little insane to me) but I was alone in the trees and the mountain air. I was alone in the silence that is not silence but an incredible symphony of nature's living instruments.

Act III is beginning to weave itself into reality. I've decided there should be no script to follow; plans, yes, but nothing carved in stone, flexible for changes of the wind, of spirit or calls of the soul.

I will feel the wildness in acts of daily living, feel the joy of water running over my hands when I do dishes, I will dance while I vacuum, I will feel the blessing of warmth with each log I throw into the woodstove.  I will travel, sometimes with and sometimes solo. I will sing with all my heart (except for the tiny bit of heart that has pity for anyone in hearing distance).

In Act III, I believe, I will be a Peony, for a little while.

Peonies by Mary Oliver

"....the flowers bend their bright bodies,
and tip their fragrance to the air,
and rise,
their red stems holding
all that dampness and recklessness
gladly and lightly,
and there it is again —
beauty the brave, the exemplary,
blazing open.
Do you love this world?
Do you cherish your humble and silky life?
Do you adore the green grass, with its terror beneath?
Do you also hurry, half-dressed and barefoot, into the garden,
and softly,
and exclaiming of their dearness,
fill your arms with the white and pink flowers,
with their honeyed heaviness, their lush trembling,
their eagerness
to be wild and perfect for a moment, before they are
nothing, forever?

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Cut Paper and Maude WhiteHand-cut

Hand cut paper art by Maude White

I was surfing the World Wide Web this morning....(remember when we really called the Internet the WWW?)...

There are several artists blogs that I follow on a regular basis. They will often refer their readers to other interesting sites. Some sites are storytellers, using prose or poetry.  Some spin their stories through other means.

This morning I was introduced to Maude White. Her work is indescribable! All the paper is hand-cut and one piece.  "Exquisite" does not do the work justice.

After reading her Artist's Statement, she sounds like a friend I haven't met yet. She states that she has always been compelled to see what is underneath things or looking through things.

I have an addiction to the same habits, though my predilection includes looking into the shadows. If you go to her site and study the pictures she has mounted, the shadows will astound you...well, at least they astounded me!

Visit her. I think you will enjoy the trip!

Maude White

Monday, October 20, 2014

Mt Lassen Celebrates Autumn

Gold has often lead people to great downfalls. Yesterday, I confess, the promise of gold had me in it's grip most of the day. After dropping my husband off at a trail head just east of Hat Lake parking area, I headed out to capture as much gold as I could.

Returning to wait for Frank to hike back up the trail, I sat on a rock to finish reading my club book selection for Wednesday's discussion on the way to Ashland. 

The scream of a hawk made me look up! No hawk to be seen, but Mt. Lassen was right there, between the trees. How could I have missed taking her portrait the whole day. Now the sun was just about to set, putting the grand lady in a shadow and entirely too much glare.  I took the picture anyway.

They say "a picture is worth a thousand words" and this picture says it all. Gold is still capturing souls. I was so busy looking for the trees, I missed the forest, or in this case, the Queen!

After snapping a couple of photos of her Majesty, I read out loud to her and the hawk, sitting on a large rock. A wonderful end to a wonderful day.

The gold was there to be found, though, and I brought home some nuggets from my day of mining.

The Aspens were dressed in glorious colors, though the wind was blowing and with each picture a hundred leaves would dance around, then fall to the ground.

I found the tree to the left with almost all her branches reaching to the east. An unrequited love for the sun?

The sky to the north was the most brilliant sapphire blue; quite the background for leaves so orange.

Driving around Lassen Park, I would park my car here and there. Then take a short hike to the glimpses of Aspens spied through the green pines.

A devastating fire blasted through the park, destroying so much of the dense forest but thankfully many of the aspens groves survived. There is a large grove just south of Devastation Area; quite a hike in soft lava dust which is extensively undermined my ground squirrels. Not a fun hike for most and certainly not advised for anyone with bad knees or hips.

This is the grove that survived the fire, though right after the fire, the trunks showed signs of being scorched. We worried about them all winter but discovered fresh leaves on the trees last spring.

Here you can some of the trees that didn't survive; a very small part of the horrible loss the park suffered in the fire. The damage follows the road for miles.

For any of you that know me personally, you have to know how scary it was for me to stand this close to the edge of the cliff to get this picture.

Many prayers were said, with great reverence!

Frank hiked up the Hat Lake Trail and photographed another beautiful grove of aspens, then hiked down to this grove from the south side. I wouldn't advise anyone with heart problems to attempt the hike. It's a great hike down but an incredibly challenging hike back up!

When he returned to the car, I told him how easy it was to get to the edge of the cliffs. I found myself back there in minutes as he took the same shots which I will not be sharing with you because they were so much better than mine.  p.s. his camera is much better, his lenses are much better and he is much more knowledgeable about things like ISO, aperture, shutter speed. I just put the little black do-ma-jig to P and aim! 

Isn't it strange how we can be so focused on one idea or goal that we can become blind to so many wondrous things right in front of us?

All day, the goal was to photograph autumn leaves. Late in the day, I realized how beautiful the shadows are as they dance on the white bark. The contrast is lovely, especially surrounded by golden leaves, sapphire blue sky and pine needles.

How many other wondrous and whimsical events had I missed during the day?

I had missed the tiniest inhabitants of Lassen Park.

They were just as beautiful as the Aspens but much more shy, hiding behind the rocks and fallen stumps.

Can you imagine mountain fairies wrapping themselves in these little leaves at night for warmth; maybe using them for frilly skirts to waltz in at the Fairy Octoberfest?

Then, there were the pine cones, probably placed on the rocks by children as I believe they are way too heavy for fairies to lift.

There is a cluster of sisters whispering to each other as the breeze whistles at them.  What secrets do they share with each other? Are they planning their elegant spring gowns? Maybe they are discussing their longing for the coming winter nap when they sleep and dream under their white blankets of snow.

Forest friends. Are the pines promising to keep watch while the solo Aspens slumber?

Have you ever noticed how the aura of one tree will blend with the aura of it's neighbor?

These two trees look as if they are preparing for Christmas.

Can you imagine decorating your Noble Fir only with glistening balls of gold?

Santa would be sure to visit, if not just to admire your sense of style!

All in all, Lassen was beautiful yesterday.

I put the camera aside many times to just be with the trees and the mountains; to listen to the music of the wind. I even made some headway in the book, wondering if the old man ever made it to the mountains.

If we had waited, just one more day, all the leaves would be blanketing the ground. The trees would be bare. There is rain and wind and maybe snow in Lassen Park today. The prefect recipe for stripping the last vestiges of autumn from deciduous plants, rocking them to sleep for the long winter.

We'll be seeing you when the snow is deep enough for grandchildren to sled down slopes. We will make snowmen and have snowball fights.  Uncle John and Uncle Adam will prepare the perfect slide tracks. Auntie Ashley will race you down the hill. Auntie Becky will pull Nana out of the snow that has trapped her....again.  Uncle Brian, will hopefully enjoy the day and not break or twist any body parts. Auntie Nicole will photograph it all.

Nana will sneak back to the car and sip some peppermint schnapps, peel oranges for the adventurous kids and, perhaps, surprise them all with clean, dry socks!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

October Ritual

"October is my favorite color!"

Have you heard that expression? It's true for me. October is my favorite color and my favorite month.

October is also the time of year that we head to Lithia Park in Ashland to photograph the leaves, check in on the Wood Ducks and stay at our favorite B&B.

We got there a little early this year and beat most of the color, though Lithia Park never disappoints. Even without being surrounded by brilliant trees dressed in yellows, oranges and reds, it is still an incredibly peaceful place to sit with a good book (or a good man).

I found a bench facing the upper pond. Now and then a small gust of wind would blow a little shower of leaves through the air and onto the surface of the water. At least 50 gold fish were swimming close by, darting away from me only when we were disturbed by ducks or turtles.

It was the perfect spot for soul searching. Peacefulness surrounded the space, enough so that an older person, in purple, found a protected bench and snuck a little nap in.  Even the ducks whispered as they passed.

I will be returning this week (depending on rain) or next with women from my book club. We are planning a picnic and discussion of our latest book. It seems to me that to sit on a colorful quilt, chatting away with such wise and loving women while nibbling on breads and cheese and fruit is always, always, a joy. But to enjoy such an event in Lithia Park will certainly grace the occasion, making it even more special.

When I am old I will wear purple and nap on park benches.
We did find some color in a tree, here and there, and captured all we could.

The sun played peek-a-boo from behind clouds all day, making it difficult to get any of the color back-lit, but my husband and I are planning another trip later in the month.

The lower end of the park was closed off to traffic when we first arrived. A concert was in progress and beautiful music floated up to us for several hours. Nice being accompanied with such wonderful energy. Music, trees, water, wind, mountains in the background....does it get any better?

Our annual drive up the canyon, counting the pairs of wood ducks and competing for the best photo of the weekend is always a special time.  Of course, I will never have the best photo but it's fun trying and the smack talk that comes with the competition is some of our all-time best bantering.  I do excel at banter and smack!

I love it when trees get in close and pose for me! 

"Now lean in so I can capture both of you!"
The sun broke out just as we were leaving the park.
Cameras loaded in back seat, tripod in the trunk, we jumped out and clicked a couple of more shots.

Our Motto: Dinner can wait! Photo Op First!

Only two pairs of Wood Ducks had arrived. They wandered all over the pond, chasing the gold fish and diving for other treats. The reflection of one of the bright orange trees made a perfect backdrop for that one-in-a-million duck pic. Do you think any of these guys would swim through it. That would be a "NO!"

One of the elegantly feathered male ducks would head directly to the tinted surface and six inches from the golden backdrop he would swerve left or right, followed by that peculiar wood duck laugh. Don't tell me it isn't a laugh...frustrated photographers know these things.

Surely, as anyone would have wagered, the white duck (not a spot of color in any of her thousand feathers) was in and out of the orange spot.

I believe she was smiling too! She seemed to be the queen of the pack. What does one call a bunch of ducks? Not a herd, not a pack...oh, yeah, a flock! And flocked they were!

All-in-all, it was a good day!
Recommendations for shooting in Lithia Park:
If shooting without a tripod, remember to skip the large blended Dutch Bros Kicker coffee on the drive up!
Watch for deer poop!
Put the camera down now and then and just enjoy!
Don't eat the gold fish!
Don't disturb any nappers, especially the ones in purple; it's their right as senior citizens to nap wherever inspired!

Monday, October 13, 2014


Dear Readers,

I love you all. You fill me with joy every time you send me an email or text sharing your disappointment that I haven't been writing.  In fact, even the lectures have been kind of ego-building!

When I retired Wandering and Wondering there were a little over 21,000 views. Since retirement, the views have grown to 22,377. It tickles me; over 800 visits to old posts.  I loved your comments and  the emails asking me to bring it back to life. I dug in my heels, crossed my arms and, basically, cut my nose off to spite my face.

Yesterday, I received a very stern sermon! Basically calling me out for letting a mosquito on a bear's back stop the press. The lecture was not all cliches but it did hit it's mark.

Wandering and Wondering is back on line, though I will still keep the merry troupe alive in my other blog, in spite of my lecturing proponent's lack of approval. (Can't win them all, dude!)

Thank you all, for your kind words and encouragement.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014


A dear friend is writing a book.

He is an excellent writer.

He put off penning his book until he finished his Bachelor's Degree.

To feed-the-need to write in the meantime, he has posted regularly on his blog.

To feed-the-need to read intelligent, interesting material, I read his blog.

My friend graduated and received his degree.

Apparently, he is now working on his book (good for him) but, more importantly, WHAT ABOUT ME!!!!

He is not posting to his blog as often and I miss it.

Dear Friend,

Finish the frickin' book already and get back to your blog!

Just Me

Filling My Cup

Shouldn't one have to purchase a ticket, stand in line and willingly board a roller coaster if they want a ride?

Life has a habit now and then of grabbing one by the scruff of the neck (or elsewhere), tossing and buckling you into the back seat of a chute-the-chute; then standing back to watch the show.

The final two weeks of June, 2014 was filled with ups and downs and twists and turns. Not that I can't handle ups and downs and twists and turns. In fact, I think I am pretty good at it but, dang gum; when life shoves six months of living into a two week Big Dipper, a person's nerves get a little raw!

The final twist of the coaster ride was to be a two-day workshop in Lodi. We headed for the workshop on Friday but to be honest, I had lost my zeal for the seminar, even though I had really anxiously been looking forward to it for months. If I had seen an infomercial for

 Instant Zest and Zeal
Free for only $19.99 plus shipping and handling
I would have dialed up and ordered 10!

My eyes were swollen from crying, happy tears and sad tears, angry tears and tears "just because"!
My cup was empty. At one point, my poor husband stopped to grab lunch in a drive-thru. He nonchalantly asked me what I wanted! I burst into tears! Uncontrollable tears rolling down my expertly applied make-up from eyes already the size of golf balls!

He got me a large coke and a burger with extra onions! He knows how to make me happy.

I am usually a cup-runneth-over kind of gal but my cup was empty and raw!

The workshop was great. Aha's and epiphanies going off everywhere. I think it was Socrates that is quoted for saying an unexamined life is not worth living. He would have lifted his toga and danced, danced, danced after this class.

Class was great, learned a lot; still cried and melted down a couple of times.

We climb into car and head for home...or so I thought! Half-way home my husband pulls into a Target parking lot, grabs my hand and pulls me in. He gets a cart, drops two sleeping bags into it, two large waters and a box of granola bars.

"We're going camping!" he announces!  "I've always wanted to photograph Hat Lake at sunrise!"

Off we head to Lassen. No tent, no stove, NO RESERVATIONS on the weekend before the 4th of July and clothing completely inappropriate for mountaineering!  BUT....don't you like how there always seems to be a BUT in life's circumstances! But, mountains fill my cup! Mountains, starry nights in the mountains, the smell of camp fires (even if they are someone else's smoke!).

We pull into Lassen Park, find a site at the third or fourth campground. We put the seats down, crawled into our brand new sleeping bags and fell asleep watching a sky filled with bright shiny stars.

Just before sunrise, I woke Frank up. "Honey, I see a glow on the horizon, we should drive over to Hat Lake." He opened his eyes, smiled at me and was asleep, all in one breath!  I climbed into front seat and drove the two or three miles to Hat Lake.

What a beautiful day. Hat Lake was gorgeous, Lassen, as always, was majestic. We took some back roads once we were out of the park and discovered some meadows and vistas that could only be described as paradise. We also discovered how easily it is to get lost if you wander off of A Line. If you plan on wandering off of A Line, you should let someone know!

Our cups are full again. Thank God for mountains and lakes, for majesty and simplicity and mostly, for perceptive husbands!  Side note: hiking in gold dress-shoes isn't suggested but if that's all you got, what the hell!

"That's been one of my mantras - focus and simplicity. Simple can be harder than complex. You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it's worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains."
Steve Jobs

"Great things are done when men meet mountains." William Blake

"My father considered a walk among the mountains as the equivalent of churchgoing." Aldous Huxley

My father was much different than Huxley's. My father taught me that walking in the mountains was God's church. He taught me that we go to church to talk to God
but we go to the mountains to listen to God.

Mountains, wilderness, wild flowers, little streams creating their own songs; all of it talks to my spirit.

My kids once asked me what they should do with my ashes after I'm gone. I told them I couldn't care less. I've changed my mind and would really like my ashes scattered in the mountains amongst the trees and granite; in the arms of God and Mother Nature. That might make being in heaven that much more special!

Where do you go to refill your cup?  What feeds your spirit and your soul?

Monday, June 30, 2014

Do You Have A Map?

I have a drawer that has 50, 60, maybe 80 maps in it. New York City (city streets and subways, Tokyo, Puerto Rico, Yellowstone, Utah, New Mexico, South Carolina, Maine. One map has both Vermont and New Hampshire.  I have, at least, 5 Redding maps! I've been here a long time and things change!

I have Santa Clara County, Ventura County, Tehama County, Jefferson County. I have Yugoslavia, Macedonia, Greece, Bosnia and Mexico.

Funny thing though, I never take a folding map with me. Weird huh?

Before I venture to any place I haven't been, I Google directions. Then I Map Quest the destination. I check out which route seems the straightest shot or path of least resistance. I memorize it.

I visualize the trip in "Home Health" directions! Just a bunch of R's and L's or E, W, S and N Once the route is in my head, it is pretty much there to stay. If you ask me on my death-bed how to get to the tree farm in Yuba City (which I haven't been to in 15 years as of this year) I will answer:

S on I-5 
E @ 20 @ Colusa exit
L @ 99 (Golden State Highway)
L @ Messick
R @ Sierra Gold Driveway ~ Main office is (or, at least, was) a little house in parking lot.

I will not use a GPS because I have found them to be bossy, boring and inaccurate. They don't prepare you for highway construction, new roads or downed trees!

Life is much like that drive to the tree farm. We need to set out our directions. We need to know which directions are going to get us where we ultimately want to go. Life's journey is usually not a physical address but a "place" in your soul and your spirit. 

Growing up, I wanted to be a mother, a doctor; live in the country or mountains, grow my own food and be happy.  My dream was not to live at 10786 Ponderosa Drive, have four sons, one with green eyes, two with brown eyes and one with blue eyes and I would name them Tom, Ray, Bill and Craig and three daughters, two tall brunettes, Zita and Fiona,  and a petite redhead who I would name Molly. I had a "general" vision; home, husband, kids, contentment.

On our journey we do need to set out a path. Our families, our communities, our faith and, ultimately, our nature, help define the path but the path is ours. We need to review our path now and then to make sure we are staying on course. Does that mean we can't turn left or right, or reverse our steps from South to North? 

It is always your choice but examine those choices and the consequences. Going W on 20 @ the Colusa exit isn't going to help you harvest peaches, pears or almonds next year but you might see wonderful wild flowers along the highway, catch sight of rolling vineyards surrounding Clear Lake and you just might end up at the ocean, observing the most beautiful sunset of your life. 

So, what are the directions you have set out for you on your path?  What is your personal map for your journey?

Is accountability part of your personal directions on the path? When you say you will be somewhere at 7:00, do you call at 8:30 with a really good excuse, over and over and over? 

If you want to go straight and people are in your way are you going to bowl them over? Will you be a bully? Will you be a negotiator? Will you introduce yourself and ask if there is anything you can do to clear the congestion?

If there is a wide gap in the trail, will you slump over and turn around or will you study it, check out the other side, back-track a little for a running start and leap over the abyss?

If you want things that aren't yours will you steal them or destroy them or just plant yourself in the middle of them until the true owners throw their hands up and say, "Here, you can have it?"

On this most important journey, our life, we need basic directions. We need gas for our vehicle, I for one, certainly don't want to have to push my car the whole trip! Nor do I want anyone else forced to drag me and my wagon over the hill.

What are your values? What are your moral guides? What are you willing to be flexible in and what is firm and unshakable?

When we get to the end of the journey, will you be able to look into a mirror and like who is looking back at you?

Friday, June 27, 2014


Do you know how important Aunties are?

I can't imagine having grown up without Aunties and, even, at 63, I have an Auntie that still inspires me, calms me, teaches me, makes me laugh and shares her wisdom (which, by the way, have no strings attached and that's the best!)

Aunties teach you that you can fly if you want but to wear knee pads in case you loose your train of thought.

Aunties teach you that it really is okay to fill the dirty pans with soapy water and hide them in the oven until morning!

Aunties teach you to dance.

Aunties teach you to toilet paper houses and about "see food"  (don't ask!).

Aunties teach you to steal signs (again, better if you don't ask).

Aunties teach you that to dream big is your right and duty and that people who want to pop your dreams are pinheads.

Aunties teach you that sometimes love doesn't make sense but do it anyway and other times they teach you that love makes sense but "this ain't love" so RUN AWAY!

Some Aunties sneak you tampons when your mom says, "No, wear this twin size mattress so everyone knows you're on your period!"

Aunties take you to the Mall, your first concert, sneak you cookie dough and teach you how to make friendship bracelets.

Aunties teach you about Little Bunny FooFoo, how to cross the street in heavy traffic and about flexibility.

Aunties teach you that many things are flexible including some rules!

Most importantly (except for the tampon part) Aunties teach you about unconditional love.

I saw two potentially awesome Aunties get their first feel of the position last night. There was no hesitation, both are totally ready to step up to the plate. But one of them fell in love with her neice in such a big way. You could see it in her eyes, her demeanor, her spirit. Even the baby felt it. She snuggled right into Auntie Haley's arms for the first of many cuddles.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Red Letter Day

 June 25, 2014 ~ What a day!

After 3 days of labor our great-granddaughter was born today.

She is beautiful.

She is loved.

Life is Good.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Revisiting An Old Friend ~ Trees

Trees are the longest living of all of God's creations on this earth.

What can they teach us?

Not only does the tree live by the adage "Do No Harm" but every moment of its being, a tree is conducting life in a productive, nurturing and creative manner.

The tree absorbs poisonous carbon dioxide into its leaves, changes the chemical make-up, producing oxygen which benefits us all; fresh air for all breathing creatures.

Miles and miles of tree roots disperse through the earth, aerating the soil, preventing the ground from compacting. Have you ever tried to dig a hole in compacted earth?  Imagine a delicate seedling trying to break through, or a little earthworm bumping its little noggan on the hard mass of compacted earth.

If there is an isolated tree in a forest or garden that is floundering due to lack of water the surrounding trees transfer moisture to it through their root system!  Now that is nurturing!

The profusion of branches and leaves across the sky provides shade, a little haven of respite on a hot day. Those branches are also nooks and crannies for birds to nest, squirrels to hide their stash of winter stores.

Falling leaves cover the ground, providing a winter blanket  As the leaves decay, the process warms the soil and protect the bulbs and corms and sleeping plants. Nitrogen is produced, feeding the roots and plants.

There is never a time, in its natural state, when a tree is not being creative. It is constantly growing, bud, leaves, branches, expanding it's horizons.  Even in the state of dormancy the tree is creating miles and miles of roots underground.

A tree does not protect itself by attacking its enemies, yet it does not stand idly by, and letting it's enemies attack. Tree's produce bark to protect it's tender wood from infestation, from scorching in the sun's heat and from exposure to the elements. Some trees create their own chemicals, oils or gas that thwarts intruders.

Is it any wonder the God uses a "tree" to hold the forbidden fruit even though fruit grows on so many other plant types.

Is Winter the Sabbath for trees?
Is winter a tree's sabbath?  Does it "keep holy the sabbath" by its resting?  What does a tree "DO" in the resting?

Every part of the tree above the ground is idle, it grows no leaves, no branches during dormancy. But underground, ah, underground the root system is expanding, big roots, tiny capillary roots, all are growing, preparing the foundation for the next season's growth.  Is there a message in the tree for us.  Is our day of rest merely a day to attend religious services or a period for a tranquil, openness of soul?  A day to while-away or the opportunity to really be in a state of attention, to listen, to prepare the foundation for...?

Creativity is vital to the longevity of the tree.  I believe it is also vital to our health and longevity. As long as we continue to create, to learn, to teach, we maintain vitality. What do you do to maintain your vitality? 

Saturday, June 21, 2014

So Many Choices

Summer Solstice today.  Researching "solstice" the words: pagans, neo-pagans and new agers are tossed out like candy on Halloween ( or should I say Samhain).

Having discovered lately (finally) that life does not have to be either/or, I have decided to celebrate solstice with an international-interfaith flavor this year.

In Lithuania it is called Saint Jonas' Festival. I will sing and dance and tell tales (this being my first of the day though the singing and dancing has already begun!) In true Lithuanian fashion, a fine hello to all Jonas, Jone and Janina's out there! By the way, the holiday was supposedly high-jacked and adopted as John the Baptist Day, so hail to you John. ( so I guess blessings go out to you Johns, Jons, Juans, Juanitas, and Joannes and Ivans)

Speaking of Ivan's, it is also Kupalo Night or Ivan Kupalo Night, the shortest night of the year. Ivan is the John in Slavick languages. Again, the adopted by Christian religions to celebrate John the Baptist. John, Ivan, Juan, JoAnn, all those names, when deciphered into their basic roots mean "bathing". It kind of makes sense that baptism and John would be celebrated at this time of year. It could actually be one of those what-came-first-the-egg-or-the-chicken kind of things!

So many cultures celebrate the longest-day aspect of the solstice but I am intrigued by the "shortest night" view of the Slavik people. Bonfires are built and the revelers jump the fire to prove their courage; couples are encouraged to jump the fire holding hands. If they break their grip their relationship is destined to be short lived. Think of the lawyers fees that would be saved if we made bonfire jumping part of premarital counseling!

Some of the celebrants search for fern flowers and magical herbs; maidens create small wreathes to float down rivers and would-be suitors try to snag the wreathe of the one they are smitten with.

It is also a day to celebrate fertility. I would imagine if you were one of the lucky ones to find a fern flower, capture a sodden wreathe and jump a bonfire with the wreathes creator without letting go of hands and still had time in the shortest night of the year...well, you might soon be celebrating honey moon. That, in itself, is another fertility holiday and rite.

p.s. ferns don't flower! If someone brings you a little blossom and tells you it is a fern flower, cut them off from the mead....they've certainly had their fill!

In Poland, the day (or night ) is called Noc Kupalo. All the rituals mentioned above are observed with the addition of telling fortunes. I am guessing that the most accurate fortunes would be those predicting burned feet, lost wreathes and a few hangovers. ("The cards tell me you will awake in the tall grass, toes crispy and feeling as if Ivan Kupalo is in your head banging to get out!)

 Finland built huge bonfires too and called the longest day of the year Ukon Juhla. The Fins are very astute people, as they usually built their fires on the beach of a lake or the sea. Two birch branches would also be placed on either side of the entrance to the homes, welcoming visitors. Heavy indulging in spirits is also part of the Finnish ritual...and I am not talking ghosts! It is now called St. John's Day but still celebrated with bonfires and booze! Go Finland!

Fete de la Saint-Jean is what the French call the day. They, too, build bonfires but in the past it was called Cat Burning Day.  Moving on.......

Greece celebrates the day as Klidonas which translates to "Sign of the Oracle". Now that is a culture that saw John the Baptist coming!  The day is considered a fine time for unmarried woman to find their true love. Wreathes are also involved, but unlike other cultures, Greek doors are been decorated with wreathes for two months and they find this a grand day to burn them (the wreathes, not the doors). Like many others, bonfires, drinking and dancing are a must and after several "Opa's" there is the mandatory jumping of flames to prove your manliness and courage!

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Many Western hemisphere cultures laid out a banquet for the Sun Gods, hoping they would be rewarded with good harvests.  I don't find that jumping flames was a popular on this side of the globe either.

I, for one, will try jumping the fire pit prior to building the fire. I will jump the flames prior to consuming any alcohol and I will definitely shave my legs to prevent any singeing. I may build a wreath and see if Frank retrieves it (which I am sure he will to prevent it from being swept up by the pool sweep) and he will be justly rewarded. At the stroke of midnight, eastern standard time, 9 p.m. here, I will take my pseudo-midnight swim, knock back a toast to the Sun Gods, Moon Goddesses, John the Baptist, Fire-jumpers, and all the Johns, Jons, Ivans, etc. I will dance sky-clad only until I reach my towel (shame to scare the neighbors on such a festive evening).

Climbing into my bed, I will know that somewhere, my ancestors will be smiling down on me and asking each other, "WTF?"