Thursday, August 18, 2022

Esmeralda and the Brown Brachet

 As I worked on this, I realized there must be a story to go with it. Here's a beginning--both story and picture need some work--but I have more pictures and more story in mind. (A brachet is a small, noisy hunting dog.)



Clearly, the brachet had been a mistake. But when, on the third lonely day of her quest, the little hound had popped out from behind the Standing Stones of Glarn, Esmeralda had greeted it with joy.

“Hail, O brachet! Art sent to accompany me, mayhap as guide and guard?”

The skinny brachet had fixed her with a penetrating gaze which dropped at once to the leathern pouch at her side.

“Art hungered, little one?” Esmeralda knelt down before the brachet and reached into the pouch. “Gladly will I share of my simple provisions.”

Two wheaten rolls and a twist of dried venison disappeared, and the brachet moved closer to nose at the pouch. Esmeralda reached out a hand to stroke the dog—no, this was a bitch, to be sure. “What a pretty maid thou art, with thy white stockings and elegant long ears.

The brachet had accepted the caress with a philosophical sigh. There will be more food, she reasoned; in time the fragrant bulging pouch will be at my mercy. The woman is desperate for companionship. Look at her crouched there, cloak spread on the ground, face imploring. If she had a tail, she'd be wagging it.

The brachet had allowed herself a tiny whine and, swallowing her pride with the last morsel of bread, had licked the young woman’s hand. There, done and done.


“Come out of it, you wretched brachet! Leave it, I say.”

Esmeralda’s feet hurt. Five days of walking, three of them through this strange wood, five days of listening to the brachet howl, five days of watching the sinuous brown body dart off into inaccessible places. Five days of watching the crystal at the top of her staff fail to respond to the rising moon as it should have done.

“When the crystal is set alight by Luna’s beams, then must thou follow the path she shows,” the aged Sooth-Seer had whispered. “Follow it even as an arrow from a bow if thou wouldst find the dungeon where the true prince lies.”

Esmeralda drew in a deep breath and limped ahead. Just a few more paces and she would be clear of these dark trees. She could just glimpse a clearing ahead and sense, rather than see, a burgeoning glow.

The brachet continued her frenzied excavation at the base of a grandfather tree as Esmeralda stepped into the moonlit glade and held aloft her crystal-topped staff.



Wednesday, August 17, 2022

Subscribe Here!


Coryat calls your attention to the newly restored subscription widget in the top of the righthand column. (Which is different from the old one but evidently all that Blogger offers now.) Several folks have told me they were no longer receiving the daily posts via email.

I haven't a clue why this happened, but I've put the widget back.

Bob says it's easy to do. He gets all his favorite blogs via email.

Shiny, the captain of the goldfish, is encouraging his gang to sign up.

Jenny is asking John to sign her up.

And the ever-reclusive Angeline, is totally uninterested.

Tuesday, August 16, 2022

Appalachian Kintsugi

John's at it again--turning inadvertent cracks into turquoise accents.  (Sandy, your acorn is getting its finish coats of polyurethane.)

This pot is locust from a fallen tree. It has an insert with a frog for making a little flower arrangement.

Around here, locust is valued for fence posts and firewood--but it has a really beautiful grain.

This votive candle holder is turned from a limb of Black Walnut--which is light on the outside and dark inside. I think the turquoise here looks like a waterfall.

As for me, I'm continuing to edit bookshelves. Upstairs, still, in the SciFi and the YA. Of course, there's a lot of reading involved-old favorite Andre Norton has my attention now.

And I take the occasional break from reading and sorting to work on watercolors. All this YA and fantasy has me working on a fantasy if I just don't mess it up when I add color.


Sunday, August 14, 2022

Goldfish Memories-- Gail Armour and Jeanie the Half-Girl


Sitting out on the deck with John and our adult beverages, I was mesmerized by the goldfish. It's always challenging to count them--we think we have eleven gold and two or three dark ones,

But as I watched them darting about, a very old memory surfaced.

I was very young--maybe six or seven--and was enrolled in ballet classes at Gail Armour's dance studio. (More about Gail HERE) The studio was one wing of a house that wrapped around a big goldfish pond and we students walked beside the pond and the silent circling goldfish to get to the studio. The other wing contained a costume shop that seemed to do a thriving business.

 I loved ballet--the wonderful sound of the commands -- plie, tour jete, arabesque--and to this day I remember the five positions of arms and feet. 

But I was and am an awkward sort and lessons stopped before long. (There was a recital in which I was one of three Green Pea Fairies and I got to wear a tutu!)

The memory that came to me yesterday was from over seventy years ago, but I can still see it. I was outside the house, maybe waiting for my mother. A car pulled up and a tiny woman emerged. She seemed to have been cut off at the waist and the garment she was wearing was a kind of sack ending in a leather oval. Her hands were on the ground, and she propelled herself up the walkway, swinging her body between her arms, toward the costume shop.

I can't remember if I ever told anyone about this. So much in the world is strange and inexplicable to young children. But when the memory came back to me, I did some online research and discovered Jeanie Tomaini--born without legs, a longtime circus/sideshow attraction who lived in Gibsonton, near Tampa. So, there she was, coming to the costumers who could deal with her special case and making an indelible impression on me.

There's more about Jeannie and her husband Al Tomaini, the Giant,  OVER HERE.


Friday, August 12, 2022

Progress Report from Me, Josie

Now that I am five years old and will start kindergarten in 11 more days, here are the things I can already do: 

I can fix my own breakfast. First I pour cheerios into a bowl.

Then I pour in the milk Very Carefully. That's it! Except for eating. Jenny got the leftover milk.

I can put the stinky dirty clothes into the washing machine. And when they are clean, Meema will hand them to me, and I will put them in the dryer. Teamwork!

Meema used to have to dress and undress my babies but now I can do it all by myself.

I pick out what I want to wear and dress myself every morning. Also, I am good at accessorizing.

I make sure the babies stay out of trouble--they want to run around all the time--so I put them to bed with Octalia to wrap them in her tentacles so they can't get away.

I am careful when I paint.

I take pictures with Meema's phone and do not drop it. These are two of my pictures. The first one is the goldfish pool.                                                

There are eleven orange goldfish and two or three black ones that are very hard to see. I have named some of the orange ones. Shiny is the captain. Then there is Goldy and Orangy and Black Back and Rocky. Rocky likes to hide under the rock at the edge. When it started to rain, Meema and Grumpy said maybe he was under the rock so he wouldn't get rained on and get wet. I said That is silly--he is in the water and he is already wet. Sometimes grownups are silly.

Also I took a picture of the clouds. 


Thursday, August 11, 2022

Out of the Woods


Penland's in Marshall in now carrying some of John's work. After the shock of the fire and the long slow cleanup and rebuild, it's so gratifying to see his work out in the world.

Penland's is a special place to us. We bought overalls there for ourselves and our two-year old almost fifty years ago. Penland's has always carried my books--along with many others of regional interest. Country apparel, local crafts, jams and jellies, fried pies, produce . . .you never know what you'll find in this delightful old-time store.

This below is the shelf-talker displayed with the pieces.

No, the pot with the turquoise inlay isn't for sale. But he's working on making more.


 John Skemp has been a woodworker here in Madison County for almost half a century. After a calamitous fire destroyed the old barn that was home to his Wool Branch Woodworks as well as a lifetime collection of tools, with the help of friends and family, he slowly rebuilt. Now he has returned to his avocation, working with wood, most of it from the forested cove where he lives.

The woods used include Cherry, White Oak, Ash, Tulip Poplar, Hickory, Locust, Linden, Eastern Red Cedar, and Black Walnut, usually from trees harvested for firewood or naturally fallen.

The pieces are finished with food-safe (but NOT dishwasher-safe) polyurethane to protect and highlight the natural grain.  The weed pots are NOT meant to hold water, but are the perfect place to display a twisty twig or dried seedpod or . . .

Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Intimations of Change

A maple on the bank above our house always jumps the gun and begins dropping beautifully colored leaves in early August.  And while I know in my heart that autumn and cooler weather are a good ways off, I can't help enjoying this sneak preview--especially on the days that the temperature and humidity weigh on us, making it hard to breathe.

I try to enjoy each season for its offerings and summer's field flowers and butterflies (alas, not many) are among the pleasures--along with the amazing heirloom tomatoes and peaches now available. I'm loving the different salads and cold soups that we have for supper, the fragrance of just mown grass, an adult beverage under the fan on the porch of an evening, and the fireflies that dot the night. 

But life and the planet roll on and these early messengers remind me to carpe each diem.


Saturday, August 6, 2022

Perfect Imperfection Again

This is from a smallish cherry log, not completely seasoned. John turned it anyway, hoping it wouldn't crack as it dried.

But it did. So he filled the cracks with this pretty stuff.

I love the contrast with the wood.