Coming soon: Growing Magic–Book V of the Karakesh Chronicles

Bimi Lightfoot’s faerie mother gave him away when he was a baby.  But who is his father?  Someday, Bimi promises himself, he’ll seek out both his parents.  That day comes sooner than Bimi expects, when his faerie cousin, Liri Flare, sweeps him into the sky on a mission to steal a horse.  Once away from his adoptive family, Bimi sets out to find his mother and learn the truth about his father.  He gets help from some of the magical folk of Karakesh, but other encounters are downright life-threatening.  Does Bimi find what he seeks on his quest? 

Look for Growing Magic (I’ll let you know the launch date) and the other Karakesh Chronicles at



Photo by Anna Tarazevich on

Today I glue strips of colored fabric

on a round cheese box

to hold my bobbins

I think of your small intestine

glued together by scar tissue

As I spread Elmer’s glue

with a brush

your friend rushes you

to the emergency room

Strips of speckled blue cloth

along the edge of thin wood

strips of scar tissue

form adhesions

a blockage in a pink tube

Green ribbon shot with gold

orange flowers on pink

in a fan pattern

You in your blue cotton gown

tubes in your nostrils

turn the glue bottle upside down

waiting for the drip

while far away

the IV drips glucose into your veins

No solid food for you.

I squeeze the plastic bottle,

air wheezes back in

The tubes in your abdomen

suck the material away

I slide my brush over woven material

squares and rectangles of blue

and green hospital walls

I have a little cheese box covered with bright cloth.

I cannot cover the distance between us.

Written February 28, for my sister having surgery

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The Problem with Rayon

The fabric known as rayon or viscose originated as an alternative to silk.  Back in the 1860s, Count Hilaire de Chardonnet developed a way to produce artificial silk fiber from cellulose.  Almost one hundred years later, in 1955, a newer, better rayon called “high-wet-modulus” (HWM) proved to be stronger and suitable for sheets and towels.  HWM rayon had the advantage of being machine washable and easy to care for, as opposed to the viscose type that had to be dry-cleaned.

The invention of rayon gave a big boost to the fashion industry.  Fabrics that looked and felt like expensive silk could be marketed to a less monied demographic.  Designers and clothing companies forged ahead, ignoring the problems of manufacturing rayon.

Rayon is made from cellulose derived from trees: hemlock, pine, and spruce, along with cotton linters, the residue fibers remaining around cotton seeds after ginning.  The cellulose must be extracted and purified—and there resides the problem with rayon.

Steps involved (from
• Sheets of purified cellulose are steeped in sodium hydroxide (caustic soda), which produces sheets of alkali cellulose. These sheets are dried, shredded into crumbs, and then aged in metal containers for 2 to 3 days. The temperature and humidity in the metal containers are carefully controlled.

• After aging, the crumbs are combined and churned with liquid carbon disulfide, which turns the mix into orange-colored crumbs. The crumbs are then bathed in caustic soda. This results in a viscose solution that looks and feels like honey. The solution is filtered for impurities and stored in vats to age for 4-5 days.

• The viscose solution is next turned into strings of fibers by forcing the liquid through a spinneret into an acid bath. The acid coagulates and solidifies the filaments resulting in regenerated cellulose filaments. Next, the filaments are ready to be spun into yarn.

• Once the fibers are sufficiently cured, they are ready for post-treatment chemicals and the various weaving processes needed to produce the fabric.

Look at the amount of chemicals used in production!  Carbon disulfide is powerful enough to burn through skin to the bone. 

Paul David Blanc, author of Fake Silk: The Lethal History of Viscose Rayon, discloses the true hazards, both environmental and human, in the making of rayon.

From the book description on Amazon:

Viscose, an innovative and lucrative product first introduced in the early twentieth century, quickly became a multinational corporate enterprise. Blanc investigates industry practices from the beginning through two highly profitable world wars, the midcentury export of hazardous manufacturing to developing countries, and the current “greenwashing” of viscose as an eco-friendly product. Deeply researched and boldly presented, this book brings to light an industrial hazard whose egregious history ranks with those of asbestos, lead, and mercury.

I am just one of many consumers who has bought “greenwashed” viscose clothing, patting myself on the back for purchasing a fabric touted to come from renewable resources.  We have been duped into believing that viscose, rayon, modal, and cupro are conscience-free fabrics, when in reality, their production threatens both the environment and the factory workers.

Green America, a nonprofit organization based in the United States that promotes environmentally aware, ethical consumerism reports:

Sustainability: it’s not a word usually associated with the fashion industry, yet one that consumers are increasingly seeing more when we go shopping. But is sustainability just the next “trend” in fashion – or something that companies are actually moving towards?


  • Approximately 20% of industrial water pollution comes from textile manufacturing. 
  • Textile dyeing is the second largest polluter of water globally. 
  • The fashion industry alone emits 10% of global carbon emissions, more than all international flights and maritime shipping. 
  • 43 million tons of chemicals are used in textile production every year. 
  • While none of the major brands are true leaders in the field, Green America identified the following companies as having better environmental and labor practices – Target, VF, Nike — and several companies that were clearly laggards – Carter’s, J.Crew, Forever 21.


I don’t know how to respond to this information. What do I do now, knowing the provenance of rayon and its relatives?   Write outraged letters to H & M? 

            Kassia St. Clair, author of The Golden Thread:How Fabric Changed History, writes:

            Research is being done into the creation of fibers that are genuinely environmentally friendly to produce and are biodegradable…Perhaps the biggest change, however, needs to come from those of us doing the buying.  (p. 221)

            Here you can watch an old (amusing) film about the making of rayon.  Note the lack of PPE for the workers.  Some wear goggles, but everyone is breathing the fumes from the chemicals.

For more in-depth information on the history of rayon and contemporary production, this video is a good resource, especially for a conscientious consumer. 

The Karakesh Chronicles

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This Door

This door leads to No Body.

It leads to Never Mind,

Forever Mind.

The cool blue light that pulses

and the tiny black seed in the golden circle.

Where peace is a kind horse to ride,

rocking, gentle,

through the surging and resting surf.

And then it all dissolves

into soft gray feathered space.

She comes then,

the warm shadow of a cat,

curls up around you and in you

and settles in your lap.

Welcome, new followers! Thank you so much for reading.

I have a new blog, devoted to caregiving and dementia. Find it at

The Karakesh Chronicles

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The Ticket

Photo by Gu00e1bor Ku00e1rpu00e1ti on

The bike was new and silvery blue, with streamers fluttering from the handlebars.  I had graduated from my learning bike to a real almost-grown-up-size two-wheeler, and I had permission to cross Victory Boulevard at the light.  Our street, Victory Place, was only three houses long, so I was eager to exercise my ten-year-old privilege and explore new territory.

Under a smoggy but sunny blue sky (it rarely rained in Los Angeles), I walked my spiffy bike across the four lanes, mounted up and pushed off into a new neighborhood.  The warm wind lifted my hair, the wheels ticked along propelled by my thin, strong legs.  The houses here looked much like those in my cousin’s neighborhood: wide, dry lawns of stiff Bermuda grass, driveways capped by a garage, a sprinkler whisking water, the smell of wet pavement. 

Up one street and over and down the next I rode, proud to be out but also wishing I had somebody to ride with, a girl with a bike, a friend that didn’t live a car’s ride away.  The street came to a T and I turned right.

Red light flashing behind me.  Black and white car on my left.  Window rolls down.  “Pull over,” the officer calls.  “Stop your bike.”

The day and my eyesight go momentarily dark.  I brake with my pedals.  I can hardly hear for the terrified roaring in my ears. What have I done? 

He gets out of his car, carrying a clipboard of papers.  Writing.  “Well, young lady, do you know why I stopped you?”

I shake my head.

“Did you see the stop sign back there?” he asks, writing on yellow lines with a ball point pen.

I shake my head again.

“Stop signs mean stop, for bikes and cars,” he says. 

I get it now.  I didn’t know that car rules and bike rules were the same. 

“Where do you live?”

I tell him.

“Well, take this to your parents.  We’ll see you at the station on Saturday,” he says.  He hands me a folded yellow form and swaggers away. 

I wait for the police car to drive off before I make my trembling way back home, walking all the tear-blurred streets.

My parents’ reaction to my ticket has not remained in my memory.  I was too mortified, sobbing too hard, to recall anything they said. 

The following Saturday, my mother forces me into a dress, with white socks and my good patent leather shoes.  She has persuaded my cousin Patty, who is my age, to come with my father and me.  Patty is also dressed up.  At the police station, we are shown into a large meeting room with a linoleum floor and rows of folding chairs.  Several teenage boys are already seated, slumped in practiced attitudes of defiance.

I sit between Patty and my father.  My feet don’t touch the floor.  An officer gives a short introductory talk about following traffic rules.  Then he starts the projector at the back of the room. 

Here is Jiminy Cricket, singing, “I’m no fool, no Sirree, I’m gonna live to be a hundred and three,” and telling us how not to be a fool on a bicycle.  He uses chalk to draw the fool, a goofy looking boy with buck teeth.  Then Jiminy animates the boy, who messes up on his bicycle in several ways.  He rides with no hands.  He doesn’t look where he’s going.  He gets smashed flat by a car.

I swing my legs, impatient to get out of there, to get home, to change into my pedal pushers and t-shirt and play with my cousin.  The film ends.  My father ushers us from the police station and takes us out to lunch at the Hot Dog Show.  I order my favorite hot dog, the Boston Bull, with baked beans. 

I never cross Victory Boulevard to ride my bike in that neighborhood again.  Instead, I ride on the quiet roads in Pierce Brothers Mortuary, across the street from my house.  I can go as fast as I want, and there are no stop signs.

The Karakesh Chronicles

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I Know an Old Lady

Photo by Eva Elijas on

I know an old lady

old as the pines

she rises in moonglow

to wait for the dawn

shuffling through snow

the crooked mailbox

is empty.

I know an old lady who

sweeps her words into baskets

then sets them alight

sends her smoking critique

to the Lord on High

(you could have done better.)

I know an old lady who

swallowed the moon.

Her belly glowed green like a firefly,

and when she spoke

moonbeams poured through her teeth

like torches at midnight.

From Flax to Cloth: The Making of Linen

Photo by Andreas Fickl on

Linen fabric has been around for a long time.  In her book The Golden Thread: How Fabric Changed History, Kassia St. Clair delves deep into linen’s ancient life.  These facts stood out for me:

  • The production of linen involves several labor-intensive steps.  I wonder how the ancient peoples figured out the process.  It’s much more complicated than shearing a sheep and spinning wool.
  • The ancient Egyptians used hundreds of yards of linen for wrapping mummies, precious statues, and other valued items in the tombs, but they also wore linen clothes.  How did they produce so much cloth?
  • Without modern machinery, the ancient Egyptians wove cloth as fine as “200 x 500 threads to the square inch.” (p. 40) How did they spin and weave such fine thread?
  • Linen “is also one of the strongest fibers, twice as strong as cotton and four times as strong as wool.” (p. 44)

Here are the 8 steps for producing linen from flax:

  1. Planting.  Seeds are sown, usually in April. Flax crops deplete the soil so they can’t be continuously grown in the same field.
  2. Growing.  Seeds are placed close together to cut down on branching and to keep weeds away.
  3. Harvesting.  After about one hundred days, the plants are pulled up with the roots (the roots contain usable fibers) and spread out to dry.
  4. Rippling.  The upper parts of the flax bundles are pulled through coarse combs to remove the seeds.  Then the long inner fibers are separated from the straw and inner pith.
  5. Retting. The purpose of retting is to loosen and decompose the unwanted fibers.  Retting can be accomplished by exposing the flax to the elements out in a field.  Another method is to soak the flax in a pond or trough.  Ideally, the flax is immersed in running water, like a stream.
  6. Drying.  When the straw comes away from the fibers, the bundles are untied and laid out to dry in a field.  The crop is turned to maximize drying.  When thoroughly dry, it can be stacked inside to age.
  7. Scutching. Scutching works to remove the linen fiber from other unwanted plant material (“boon”).  A large wooden machine called a “brake” is used to get rid of the trash material.  Then the flax is beaten against a board with a blunt wooden knife.  This is called “scutching.”
  8. Hackling. The flax fibers are drawn through several metal combs for a final cleaning.  The resulting bundle of long fibers is called a “strick.”

When I learned about the labor-intensive process of preparing flax, I was amazed that anyone could discover that a durable, attractive type of cloth resided in that pretty, grassy plant.  Who was that person of ancient times?  Probably a woman.

Below are some resources if you’re interested in more information, photos, and videos about making linen from flax.

Traditional method of producing linen:

Watch the modern production of linen here:

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Getting Through a Year of COVID

Photo by Olya Kobruseva on

It’s unbelievable.  We’re coming up to a full year of masks, remote schooling, and social distancing.  And so many deaths. 

Gratitude: I am alive.  Turning seventy years old this month, and grateful to be here, in this good body, ensconced in a lovely house with loving family in touch, if not physically present.

I’ve been reflecting on the ways I’ve devised to get through a year of fear, political chaos, and isolation.  Here’s my list of what has helped:

>Yoga: Good for maintaining flexibility and strength, it also eases muscle tension.

>Daily Energy Medicine:  Donna Eden’s 5-minute routine is really helpful for setting up good energy pathways each day.

>Tapping (aka Emotional Freedom Technique or EFT)  I belong to Nick and Jessica Ortner’s Tapping website.  They offer lots of tapping scripts to help with a variety of concerns, including routines to help with COVID issues.  There are free routines available, or you can join for a minimal $12.95/month.

  • Zumba:  I wish I’d discovered this resource months ago!  I love to dance, and Zumba is great exercise that doesn’t require a lot of space.  No equipment is needed except a pair of sneakers and your body.  All those rhythms, salsa, cumbia, merengue, really lift my mood and moving to the beats makes my body feel good.

  • Meditation:  Oops, I almost forgot to mention meditation.  It has been my daily practice for so long (45 years!) that it slipped my mind.  We meditate for twenty minutes every morning.  Lately I’ve been using the Oak app because it’s fun to keep track.  However, nothing is needed except a quiet spot and a method.  I practice mantra meditation, but there are many other possibilities. 

>Walking: When the weather permits, getting outside and breathing fresh air is a great way to expel staleness.

>Zooming: I participate in two online writing groups, one group for caregivers and one for folkdancing, but there are many other groups to join to help one feel connected.

>Crafts:   I like to make things.  I sew quilts and baskets, do applique, paint rocks, and make books for my granddaughter.

>Cooking:  I’ve never been an enthusiastic cook, but since we don’t go to restaurants or order in, I’ve been trying out new recipes to stave off meal boredom.

>Jigsaw puzzles:  The 1000 piece puzzles can keep me busy for days. 

Maybe some of these activities will inspire you as we enter the second year of the pandemic.  Wishing health and peace to all.

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Mrs. Tom Thumb: Lavinia Warren

On a whim, I chose to borrow the ebook The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb by  Melanie Benjamin.  I’m only a third of the way into the book, but it’s already given me lots to ponder.

Imagine being an adult who is 32 inches tall.  Imagine the world from that height: legs and shoes and the bottoms of furniture.  Consider the obstacles you would encounter, such simple things as getting into a chair, or opening a door.  Children at that height are dependent and usually there is a bigger person around to assist them.  An adult of that size, however, would wish to be as independent as possible, as did Lavinia Warren.

Born Mercy Lavinia Warren Bump in 1842, she was a “proportionate dwarf,” a true “little lady.”  She began her life’s journey in Middleborough, Massachusetts, the daughter of a farming family descended from Mayflower ancestors.  She had two older brothers and one older sister, all normal-sized.  Her younger sister, Minnie, was also a proportionate dwarf, and even smaller than Lavinia.

Lavinia pushed back against the protective environment at home and went to the local school where she excelled.  She became the teacher of the primary class and managed her position and the students well.  But Lavinia wished to experience the wider world.  She joined a circus-like showboat company that motored up and down the Mississippi.  Here she got plenty of exposure to the rougher side of performing life. 

When the Civil War put an end to the showboat tours, Lavinia went back home where she soon became bored.  She wrote a letter introducing herself to P.T. Barnum, whose famous American Museum in New York City featured another proportionate dwarf, General Tom Thumb.

Barnum happily signed Lavinia to perform at the American Museum.  She toured the United States.  She married Charles Stratton (General Tom Thumb) in a spectacular wedding attended by the elite of New York City (Astors, Belmonts).  Her sister joined the company.  When the transcontinental railroad was completed, they embarked on a world tour for three years.

And that’s as far as I’ve gotten in the book, so I suggest you get a copy if you’re interested in learning more about this ambitious and interesting woman.

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