Surprise in the Potting Soil

This morning, I was cleaning up around our storage shed.  There was an open bag of potting soil that had been sitting around, adding to the mess.  I picked it up and dumped it out by the azalea in front of the deck.

Whoops!  Something fell out along with the soil, and writhed in the dirt.  At first I thought it was a big earthworm.  A closer look revealed a small snake.  Figuring it was a garter snake, I picked it up.

Yikes!  This was no garter snake.  The baby serpent hissed at me with a wide pink mouth.   Copperhead?  Rattler? (no rattle) but definitely a venomous snake with its triangular head.  If you can identify this baby, please drop me a line!

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After showing it to the workers at the house next door, I took the snake to a warm rock by the stream at the bottom of our property, and let it go.

The big questions: Where is the mama?  Where is the nest?  Are there more surprise snakes lurking nearby?

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Cars and Crafts

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The Cars and Crafts show on September 28 at the Ulster County Fairground turned out to be a day of gorgeous warm weather.  This festival competed with several other events, in particular, the Elting Library Fair.  Attendance was moderate, and yet I sold two books.  The best part of the day was talking to my neighbor, a jeweler.

In the quiet moments, I worked on a new story that is a middle grade mystery.

You see I’m sporting my favorite Hudson Valley Writing Project t-shirt.

Kudus to Nicole Jurain, the main organizer.  That is a big job, and she made the Cars and Crafts show happen.

Another event we attended was the Wiltwyck Quilter’s Guild’s Quilt show.  It was held at the Rondout Elementary School.  The artistry of the quilts on exhibit was astounding.

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First prize winner–Susan Stessin-Cohn–all hand appliqué.  Congratulations, Susan!

I love to quilt, but I am not as precise as this.

Letting Things Go

Leaving the house I’ve lived in for 25 years is sad and difficult.  I’m finding, though, that letting things go can be a relief and an unburdening.

First to leave was my Ashford spinning wheel.

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I bought this wheel when my kids were still young, and I assembled it myself.  We had seven sheep at the time.  Even though they were meat sheep whose wool staple was short, I spun the wool anyway.  I loved the rhythm of the treadle, the whir of the wheel and the smell and feel of lanolin on my hands.  Spinning is a meditative activity, allowing the hands to work while the mind wanders.

These days, my hands are making quilts, and have been doing that for some years, so it was goodbye to the spinning wheel.

Next to leave was the dulcimer.

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This beautiful instrument was a gift, but I never came close to learning to play it well.  To be an accomplished musician, one has to be slightly obsessed with learning the instrument.  As a girl and teenager, I was obsessed with the guitar, at least enough to sing with my students.  As a working mother, I didn’t have the focus or time.

I sent off these lovely creations of wood to their new owners with blessings for their pleasure.

Two Winners:

Heart of a Samurai by Margi Preus

The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill

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Heart of a Samurai (Newbery Honor Book, 2011) is based on the true story of a young Japanese boy, Manjiro Nakahama, who was shipwrecked with some other fishermen off the coast of Japan in 1841.  They were rescued from a volcanic island by a whaling ship.  Manjiro, named John Mung by the American captain, adventures all over the world.  Sailor, farmer, artist, and a determined learner, Manjiro eventually makes his way back to Japan.

For me, the most amazing and thrilling aspect of the story was the inclusion of Manjiro’s own drawings, and the photographs of him and others.  This is a really good book.

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The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill (Newbery Medal 2017)

Since I am a writer of fantasy, I enjoyed being swept into Luna’s world of the Protectorate, and the complex strands of the story. The Protectorate is a dark and sad place, where each year one infant is sacrificed to the witch in the forest.  Xan, a witch, saves one of these babies, and names her Luna. Xan tries to protect Luna from the girl’s magical powers, but this leads to trouble.

Sometimes the language lifted me, it was so fresh and delightful.  I most enjoyed the evil witch who eats sorrows. What a clever creation!  Even though it didn’t grab my heart, The Girl Who Drank the Moon was an enjoyable read.

 

 

Guided by Magic is Here!

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“I never told anyone that I saw the Grassman steal our baby.”

So begins Book II of the Karakesh Chronicles.

If you read Book I, Tangled in Magic, you met Scrub, the waif Agatha rescues in the forest.  In Part 1 of Guided by Magic, Sada tells of her quest to find Scrub, the changeling the Grassman put in the pram, and whom Sada grows to love.  The only thing Scrub leaves behind is a magic necklace.  But are the visions in the necklace to be believed?

In Part 2, Miela, Sada’s little sister, sets out on her own quest.  Trouble follows her, threatening to destroy her dream.

Guided by Magic is particularly special to me because I had the opportunity to do the illustrations.

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I used linocut to achieve the brooding quality of the story.

Guided by Magic, as well as Tangled in Magic, will be available from me at the Car and Craft Show in New Paltz, on September 29, at the Ulster County Fairgrounds.  I will also be selling the books at the Unison Arts and Crafts Fair on December 2.

Guided by Magic will soon be on Amazon, too!

Please add a book review!

 

Claremont Art

Here are the final photos of Claremont that I couldn’t upload onto my iPad.

The Margaret Fowler garden at Scripps College.

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Bird sculpture at the Square I gallery/ two horses in a garden/sculpture in a village park

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And a Green Man in someone’s garden!  The Green Man/Leshy character shows up in my fifth Karakesh chronicle, so I’m partial to this image.

 

 

Claremont, Rearview

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The trees of Claremont, above.

We’ve returned to New York, to the lush green and the humidity of the Hudson Valley.  My conclusion: Claremont is a wonderful place, full of culture, friendly people, and beautiful scenery.  BUT– the rest of LA between Claremont and LAX is mostly ugly.

So here are photos of Claremont that I couldn’t wrangle onto my iPad when in Claremont.

fullsizeoutput_1ea0   This garden is typical of the desert landscaping around Claremont houses.

 

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I met this rangy coyote on my morning walk.

It was great to hang out with my sister and her friends.  I loved the cool, breezy mornings and evenings, when the air stroked my skin.

Travel provides new perspectives, and a respite from the responsibilities of life at home. I’m sure we’ll be back in Claremont within the year, as we have a new family member on its way.