A Spring Walk in the CountryAs a child growing up during the 19th century, or so it sometimes seems, I remember placing baskets of flowers as a surprise on friend’s doorstep early on a lovely May Day morn. Also, dancing around the May Poll festivities in which, not I, but my younger brother and sister both participated. The little girls with garlands in their hair, decked out in pretty spring dresses. Mom made my sister’s. One year the wind toppled the May Poll and then there’s the time the children got all wound up in the ribbons and over it went.  Humiliating for my young brother who’d practiced so hard and tried to no avail to instruct his fellow dancers to wind them properly. I never did trust that May Poll thing to go as planned and hoped to be crowned May Queen, surrounded by a glad assembly of courtiers. No such luck. But May Day was special and has strong flowery associations in my memory. And wind. It never entered anyone’s mind that this revelry had possible pagan connotations. May Day festivities were simply a spring rite and good fun. (*Image of cherry tree in our yard)
How about the rest of you? Any May Queens among us?
birch tree in spring“May 1st, often called May Day, just might have more holidays than any other day of the year. It’s a celebration of Spring. It’s a day of political protests. It’s a neopagan festival, a saint’s feast day, and a day for organized labor. In many countries, it is a national holiday. (Royalty free images of birch trees)
Celtic calendar feast ushering in the start of summer. (It also went by a variety of other spellings and names in assorted dialects of Gaelic.)
Bonfires, often created by rubbing sticks together, were common features of Beltane celebrations. Related rituals included driving cattle between two fires, dancing around the fires, and burning witches in effigy. Another tradition was Beltane cakes, which would be broken into several pieces, one of which was blackened. They would be drawn by celebrants at random; the person getting the unlucky blackened piece would face a mock execution.
In recent years, Beltaine has been adopted or revived by neopagan groups as a major seasonal festival.
TreesBringing in the May: *This is more what I remember.  :)
In medieval England, people celebrated the start of spring by going out to the country or woods “going a-maying” and gathering greenery and flowers, or “bringing in the may.” This was described in “The Court of Love” (often attributed to Chaucer, but not actually written by him) in 1561. Totally irrelevant, but I am a direct descendent of Chaucer on my father’s side.
The Beauty of Spring in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia“And furth goth all the Court, both most and lest,
To feche the floures fressh, and braunche and blome;
And namly, hawthornbrought both page and grome.
With fressh garlandes, partie blewe and whyte,
And thaim rejoysen in their greet delyt.” (*Wild roadside flowers near us)
Another English tradition is the maypole. Some towns had permanent maypoles that would stay up all year; others put up a new one each May. In any event, the pole would be hung with greenery and ribbons, brightly painted, and otherwise decorated, and served as a central point for the festivities.
May Day was also a time for morris dancing and other dances, often around the maypole. In the 19th century, people began to braid the maypole with ribbons by weaving in and out in the course of a dance. Other later traditions include making garlands for children and the crowning of the May Queen.”
From an interesting site: Herbal Musings
Beltain, Bealtaine, Beltine, May Day, Cetsamhain (‘first Samhain‘), Walpurgis Night (Beltane Eve), Celtic ‘Flower Festival’
Druidic Name: Beltane
archangel-michael, old stained glass windowChristian Equivalent
Roodmas, Rood Day, Feast of Saint Philip and Saint James, Feast of Saint Walpurga
Beltane is the cross-quarter festival that marks the start of the summer quarter of the year and the end of the spring quarter. This is a time when nature blossoms and felicity and fertility return to the land. In times past, the livestock stockaded at Samhain was returned to summer pastures at Beltane.
…a joyful festival of growth and fecundity that heralds the arrival of summer. It is the festival of the ‘Good Fire’ or ‘Bel-fire’, named after the solar deity Bel. Bel was also known as Beli or Bile in Ireland, with Bile meaning ‘tree’, so Beltane may also mean ‘Tree-fire’. Beltane is the counterpart of Samhain (and is sometimes referred to as Cetsamhain, the ‘first Samhain’), and these two important festivals divide the year into summer and winter halves, just as the two equinoctial celebrations, Ostara and Mabon, divide the year into light and dark halves.
Lighting fires was customary at Beltane, and traditionally a Beltane fire was composed of the nine sacred woods of the Celts. All hearth fires were extinguished on Beltane Eve and then kindled again from the sacred “need fires” lit on Beltane. People would leap through the smoke and flames of Beltane fires and cattle were driven through them for purification, fertility, prosperity and protection.
AngelicaIt is a traditional time for Handfastings (marriages), and for couples to make love outside to bless the crops and the earth. Maypoles were often danced around at Beltane to bring fertility and good fortune. Beltane lore also includes washing in May-day dew for beauty and health, and scrying in sacred waters, such as ponds or springs.
The festival is sometimes referred to as Roodmas, a name coined by the medieval Christian Church in an attempt to associate Beltane with the Cross (the Rood) rather than the life-giving symbol of the Maypole. Beltane was also appropriated by the Church as the Feast Day of Saint Walpurga, who was said to protect crops and was often represented with corn.”
(*Royalty free images of the Archangel Michael and the sacred herb Angelica)

Anthologies and Short Stories
Short stories are finding homes in anthologies more and more these days. You remember short stories, don't you? You read them in literature classes. Many writers have a few on their computers and under their beds. Maybe you have one lurking on a closet shelf or in a file cabinet.  

Well, I do, too, and I plan to join the Indie authors who have put them up on Amazon and made money with them or offered them as free reads.  When I became an editor for Gilded Dragonfly Books I wrote a story for our anthology. The anthology has 9 stories that will capture your imagination and make you think.

In north Georgia there is an amusement park called Dancing Dragonfly Amusement park.
And in that park there is a magic carousel, Carousel Déjà Vu by name. 
And if you ride that carousel, you should reach for the brass ring.
And if you catch that ring... 

You didn't think I would tell all, did you?

Jackson Nighttraveller chooses people he thinks need to ride his carousel, and Dr. Alice is one of the nine riders in our anthology, Carousel Déjà Vu. 

Dr. Alice’s Ride

by Mary Marvella

Dr. Alice Compton couldn’t think of one reason she had stopped here this March afternoon, to sit alone on this bench across the way from Dancing Dragonfly Amusement park. Well, maybe one. She and her family had loved this amusement park when the kids were smaller. They had laughed and eaten their share of cotton candy and hotdogs. They had ridden the Déjà vu carousel and other rides and had enjoyed each other and cherished life. Her teenaged kids and her busy husband never wanted to come here anymore. She wouldn’t even be here today if they’d answered their cell phones this afternoon. Mack’s text that he would be working late had prompted her to send several angry responses. She needed her family, damn it! She sniffed, then swallowed hard.

Some force had drawn her out of her way and made her stop here on the way home from the hospital in south Gainesville.  Why today, of all days, hadn’t she gone straight home? A sob ripped through her throat as a part of her heart tore off. Little Lila Jones had never ridden a carousel or eaten hotdogs, and now she never would.

Do  you think Alice needs to ride? Are there days you might want a do-over? 

chloe in the creekAs a child, I sat on the banks of my beloved creek beneath a canopy of willows and nibbled on the tangy leaves of sweet and sours. I hid in my secret place among the bushes and picked bouquets of sweet peas and daffodils in the patch of meadow above the creek. Happy times, those childhood days, spent beside the liquid spill, watching the water spiders skim by, looking for crawdads under the rocks and an occasional salamander.  I’d scoop up a jarful of creek water and sandy bottom soil and bring it to the house, let it settle, and observe the little creatures that emerged. Finding tadpoles in marshy puddles along the edge and scooping them up was a big day. How fascinating to watch them turn into frogs, then release the critters back where I found them.
children playing in creekSadly, my creek and meadow were paved over  and the trees cut down years ago to make a parking lot, typical of ‘progress’ in America. Later our family moved so that we were near a river, which I also loved. And now, I have a pond on our farm. Being near water is revitalizing, as is communing with nature.  Sunday afternoon we visited our daughter, Alison, who lives along a creek with her husband, two children, and their dog. It was a lovely April day and husband Dennis had his camera along. (*Our grandchildren Colin and Chloe playing in the water.)
Children at play in creekCreek and river banks in the spring remind me of Wind in the Willows. One of my favorite quotes from the book below:
“The Mole was bewitched, entranced, fascinated. By the side of the river he trotted as one trots, when very small, by the side of a man who holds one spell-bound by exciting stories; and when tired at last, he sat on the bank, while the river still chattered on to him, a babbling procession of the best stories in the world, sent from the heart of the earth to be told at last to the insatiable sea.”
The Wind in the Willows
“There is nothing–absolutely nothing – half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.” ~ Kenneth GrahameThe Wind in the Willows
To that, I add, or in a creek.

yellowtulips“I believe that gardens themselves are very healing. To be surrounded by the exquisite beauty of nature is to experience a healing of the soul.” — Author unknown
It’s gorgeous in the Shenandoah Valley now, and today a soft April shower is making everything even that much greener. The jonquils are in bloom and tulips just beginning to flower with the promise of many more buds. I’ve ordered several new David Austin roses to add to the roses that survived the winter (mostly Austin varieties so I’m sticking with those from now on), and the greenhouse is filled with seedlings for the vegetable, herb, and flower gardens. What wealth, if you count your riches in the bounties of the earth, and I do. I particularly love seeds. Each one holds such potential.
old seed packetsThere is much symbolism in seeds. Jesus said: “Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” And mustard seeds are tiny. I ought to be able to manage that much faith…
Daughter Elise and I save seed, and get carried away ordering more, but use them all sooner or later. And we share. A  box of filled with ziplock bags laden with various kinds of seeds (I endeavored to organize them into categories) sits under my coffee table by the couch as I write. That way, I can sort through them at any time, know what I have and need. And I just like having them nearby. The table itself is laden with gardening and herbal  books and seed catalogues…I’m seeing a pattern here.
spring flowers“How fair is a garden amid the trials and passions of existence.” ~Benjamin Disraeli
“Almost any garden, if you see it at just the right moment, can be confused with paradise.” — Henry Mitchell
“Those who labor in the earth are the chosen people of God.” — Thomas Jefferson
sprouting seed“Why try to explain miracles to your kids when you can just have them plant a garden.”  ~Robert Brault
“The kiss of the sun for pardon,
The song of the birds for mirth,
One is nearer God’s heart in a garden
Than anywhere else on earth.”
~Dorothy Frances Gurney, “Garden Thoughts”

Pussy Willow
A few evenings ago, as the sun dipped behind the trees on the wooded hills above our farm, I set off with my trusty wheelbarrow heaped with pussy willows we’d rooted last year and wintered over in the garden–where they could not possibly remain–and a shovel. My aim, the farm pond in the meadow. Highly curious heifers with no regard for personal space followed at my heels like pet dogs. If I turned around, they were breathing down my neck. A little disconcerting, so I waved them back. Repeatedly. I was also slightly concerned about chancing upon a coyote, but decided with this lot keeping me company that wasn’t likely. Might not have been anyway, but coyotes do visit the meadow when making their rounds late in the evening or at night. Rarely in the day.
lab mix, our farm dog LanceMy two farm dogs chose not to go with me on this particular venture. Wise. I had to toss the pussy willows, contained in feed sacks after I dug them out of the garden, and my shovel over not one, but two, electric fences and then roll beneath the wire to reach the grassy edge of the water. For those of you who think it’s easy to dig in wet muck sucking at your shovel and your boots, I can assure you that it’s not. Already worn out after a day of overdoing it in the garden, this final endeavor took the last of my reserves. And I sank in the squelchy mud up to my boot tops.  Then my knees. Digging and clawing my way along, I shifted clumps of saturated grass and oook to get my plants into place. Then heaved myself back up the bank to the meadow and pushed my barrow home. A task I desired to accomplish before dark so I could still see the electric fences, installed, btw, to keep the cows out of the pond.
beth252celise252candcowsIf the pussy willows are happy there, we will have lovely catkins next spring. Supposedly, they prefer swampy places and the edges of streams, so this spot ought to suit them. But I reserved one to plant someplace else, just in case. As ever, I am in pursuit of Eden on earth. My own bit of heaven. And I have the aching back to prove it.
(***Images of Lance in the muddy creek near the pond, and daughter Elise on a different outing. And our oh so friendly cows. To be expected, really, as they were hand raised and bottle fed, etc).
pussy-willow-hatsI did a search on pussy willow quotes and found this rather unusual one: ““Everything that anyone would ever look for is usually where they find it.”
― Margaret Wise Brown
I have no idea how that relates to pussy willows, but liked the quote. I hope to find my willows where I planted them, growing happily. I shall report back.

Funny how your relationship with your sister or sisters changes so radically as you age. When we were kids they thought I was cool. They followed me everywhere. My two younger glued themselves to me. If I wasn't forced to bring them they would sneak and end up behind me. Not that I was doing anything really awful, but I was a rebellious sort. My father was very strict and the worst thing you could ever hear was, I'm telling your father. At that time in the sixties, I was in seventh or eighth grade and on up into high school, and I watched other girls do the things I wanted so much to do. So, I would use any opportunity I could to have fun. I always got myself in trouble for doing things I wasn't supposed to do! I know you're thinking really bad, but my idea of sneaking around now that I think about it was pretty innocent.Why was I always in so much trouble?
 ImageI'll give you an example. Maybe I pushed the limits? On Sunday my parents would send me along with my three sisters to go to church. I never got why they didn't have to go, and truthfully going to Catholic school I had religion bubbling up the yin yang. In Catholic school you were in church every day for part of the day. It was endless. On the weekend I resented sitting there for over an hour, on Sunday, in the heat, listening to some old man sing in Latin. My mind was never there. So, I decided to change things a bit. We even planned on what we'd say if they asked what the sermon was about. Now, I do have to admit, I confessed this to my mother years later and she laughed. My father just gave me the look.
I told all three sisters if they ratted on us, they were out and couldn't come with me. They thought I was cool, and compared to them I was. No one ever asked and no one ever told.
On the way to church was a small old time bakery. Where your father would go to pick up fresh Kaiser rolls for breakfast. It smelled like heaven, all yeasty, and hints of cinnamon,with chocolate. So my plan for Sunday was this. We'd go to the church, stay for a few minutes and leave to go to the bakery and buy huge, warm, chocolate chip cookies. And they had gum drops too! Image
Then we'd stop at a park nearby and swing, slide, or whatever. We laughed and had fun and we loved it. Soon, we stopped stopping at the church at all. I remember it fondly. No one ever knew.  Image
Not any of my sisters ever told anyone. And years later they remember times like that fondly. Which is maybe why they listen to me to this day.That  brings me to the point of this blog. I was afraid for a while that my sister forgot who we are, who she is, what's most important in life. It was a defining moment for us as sisters.  Image
Recently my my Mom passed away. She was 88 and I think after my father died she just gave up on living. One of my sisters decided to take my mother's rings and told me that our Mom had told her she could. I stopped the car I was driving so I didn't kill us. And I looked her in the eye. I told her if she didn't bring the rings back, I would never speak to her again. I asked her which was more important, having things or having a sister. She tried to rationalize it and I rebuked her. I told her to put them back...For many years she has had her hand out to my mother and father, and I was afraid that she was going to pull something. My parents made her life easy and they didn't do her any favors. Now she has to learn how to live on her own, within her means.
Well the good news is that she gave the rings back. And we were able to amicably decide who got my mother's rings in a fair way. She got one of the best ones, fair and square in a draw. And I told her to remember this time always, doing the right thing always turns out right for you. I have always believed in being fair.
She will always be the way she is. Things are all she has and that's sad. I would much rather have people who care about me, then things I can't take with me.For all the things she has collected over the years, she has nothing worth it all. Of importance anyhow. And no one to love her if she doesn't get it soon.
But, she listened to me. She listened just like she did when I told her to trust me as a child. She made the choice to not alienate her family. I hope she never forgets what's more important.
So we all sat together in on my parents back porch and we ate chocolate chip cookies. While we remembered times that defined us and bonded at least for the time we were there. I hope she never forgets her priorities and stays that way. I'm not sure about it.

I wonder how many people out there can relate...

"Where the yarrow grows there is one who know."~

My fascination with herbs and herbal lore is largely prompted by my absorption with all things historic and the thrill of seeing, touching, tasting, and above all smelling the same plants known by the ancients. Herbs have changed little, if at all, over the centuries and offer us a connection with the past that precious little does in these modern days. It’s pure intoxication to rub fragrant leaves between my fingers and savor the scent while pondering the wealth of lore behind these plants. I hope my enthusiasm enriches your life with a deeper awareness of those people who dwelt on this earth long before us. With such a vast trove of plants to delve into, I’ve only done posts on a handful of herbs, but am working along on adding more. I also give online workshops on herbal lore and the historic medicinal use of herbs.

“Faierie-Folks Are in Old Oaks.” ~Old Herbal Saying

Regarding my resources, my favorite herbal ever, a massive two-part volume, is A Modern Herbal by Mrs. M. Grieve first published in 1931. It’s not actually all that modern, but is in comparison to those of the ancient Greek and Roman naturalists, Pliny the Elder (Roman, 23 AD–August 25, 79 AD) Dioscorides (Greek, circa 40—90 AD) and Galen (Roman of Greek ethnicity AD 129-199/217 AD), or British herbalists John Gerard (1545–1612) and Nicholas Culpepper (1616-1654).

Interesting here to note that Pliny the Elder, whose 37 volume Natural History served as the basis of scientific knowledge for centuries, died on August 25, 79 A.D. while attempting the rescue by ship of a friend and his family from the eruption of Mount Vesuvius that destroyed the cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum. The prevailing wind wouldn’t allow his ship to leave the shore. His subsequent collapse and death were attributed to toxic fumes. Go figure. His nephew, Pliny the younger, writer, historian, and Roman senator is also an important figure because of all the letters he left behind detailing events and persons.

Back to Maude Grieve and A Modern Herbal, apparently in the early twentieth century it wasn’t illegal to include instructions for growing and distilling opiates, but it is now so I won’t. However, despite her quaintness or perhaps because of it, there’s a wealth of information in her herbal.

I’m also quite fond of Rodale’s Illustrated Encyclopedia of Herbs, by Rodale Press. I misplaced my original volume or foolishly lent it to someone, or perhaps it wasn’t mine to begin with and I returned it. All I know is it could not be found and so I bought another. Engrossing.

A little known volume I’ve found vastly useful regarding Native American plants and their historic uses is entitled Field Guide to Medicinal Wild Plants by Bradford Angier, published in 1978. This invaluable book was given to me by my dear late grandmother.

My collection is a rather random acquisition and I'm adding all the time, but I’ve learned a lot. OK, so those are my three faves out of all the herbals I’ve read, available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble. I’ve also come across innumerable online sites that I refer and link to as they arise.

somewhere_my_lass_final1 (1)In preparation for writing my light paranormal romance, Somewhere My LassI did a lot of research on medieval hospitals and came across some fascinating sites. For medicinal info on ancient British/Scottish practices found at the monastic hospital of Soutra outside of Edinburgh visit: A Day In The Life Of A Medieval Hospital.
 For more on medieval hospitals in general visit this site:

"Here's flowers for you; Hot lavender, mints, savoury, marjoram; The marigold, that goes to bed wi' the sun, And with him rises weeping..."
William Shakespeare, 1611.