Saturday, July 23, 2016

Possum Goes on Retreat

Rumination after a return from the woods. 

The possum has been at a retreat in the woods, in company with a lot of other creatures, bears, snakes, turtles, birds of every hue, wolves, rabbits, frogs, monkeys, mice, dogs, as well as some highly verbal cockroaches, dread-locked dragons, and reclusive cats, all meeting, greeting, contemplating, and studying the ways of balance and peaceful co-existence. It was very hot and very sweaty because it was July, and the animals slept in tents, walking some distance to reach showers or potty. That is, when they weren't dancing, singing, creating art, forming friendships, or meditating.

One of the finest sights is only on view during middle of the night rambles to the necessary: the Milky Way, our local galaxy, now nearly invisible to the more domesticated animals who live in the vast sprawl of cities. At the same time, grandmother moon grew fat, her face glowing through the tall straight trees, the oak, tulip poplar, beech, swamp maple, as well as the trees that grow with a hula-hoop twist, like sassafras, or flowering shrubs like mountain laurel and witch hazel.  All the creatures did a lot of walking through the woods and down along the creek, which was now singing a very soft tune as it ran over  the red and gray earth bones because it hasn’t been raining much.

What goes down must come up again, and this is true, not only for rain, but for all of us, especially if we wanted get back up again, away from the Hemlock Hole where we had been swimming, to our tents, or to the open pavilion where delicious meals are served, or to visit the forest cathedral. Worship took place in the open air. You don't need to go inside a building to hear the sacred words-or to sing hymns to Creator. If you wonder at that, remember the sermon on the mount--and if that's not your creed, recall the great Black Elk, who simply said: "The holy land is everywhere." 

Cell phones do not work in this place, although occasionally, standing on the hill by the contemplative labyrinth—stones laid into the ground, wildflowers—you could get a signal. Some creatures, suffering from electronic withdrawal, could sometimes be seen standing up there, arms extended, waving little glowing rectangles at the heavens, like devotees of some new sect, praying for even the smallest sign from the brutal cacophony which lay on the other side of the ancient blue mountains.

The possum returned home after a week of study, peace, mutual respect, and concord to a world convulsed with shootings and military coups, as well as the usual work-a-day torture, sexual slavery, famine, drought, injustice, greed, and cruelty. A few mass murders in the name of God were tossed in for good measure. Sound bite solutions to complex problems were trumpeted by the servants of Mammon--and by many accepted--easy-way-out notions which, when examined for longer than a minute, shouldn’t convince a flatworm, much less any self-respecting creature who (in vain) calls itself homo sapiens.
Humble Possum was shell-shocked. She had left the Holy Isle and re-entered the electric mad house. 

~Juliet Waldron

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Saturday, July 9, 2016

JULY 11, 1804

At 5 a.m. on this day, two gentlemen left New York from separate docks. One departed from the vicinity of Greenwich Village, the other from a dock somewhat further north. By all accounts, July 11th was a beautiful day, one of those summer rarities with blue skies and low humidity. A disinterested observer would not give these travelers upriver a second glance. Each boat—besides the oarsmen—carried three gentlemen, one of whom was an attorney well known in the city. A fine leather case accompanied the gentlemen who’d embarked from Greenwich.  

Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton were the two attorneys.  The leather case contained a brace of elegant smoothbore pistols that belonged to Hamilton’s brother-in-law, John Church. Each pistol weighed several pounds—a lot to hold steady in an extended hand—and delivered a bullet weighing almost an ounce—a .54 caliber ball. Only two years past one of these handsome weapons—lacquered walnut handles ornamented with fittings of brass and gold--had killed Hamilton’s beloved 21 year-old son Philip.

Despite that, and many promises made to his wife, on this day Hamilton and those fatal pistols were again heading toward the dueling ground. Set among Weehawken’s Palisades, the notorious ledge stood just 20 feet above the Hudson. To the dismay of the property’s owner, men from New York customarily used the place for their affairs of honor, for New Jersey did not prosecute duelists with the same energy as did the Empire State. Screened by trees and brush, it was secluded. Captain Deas, the owner, dwelt at the top of the precipice where he must have had a spectacular view across the river. He was generally unaware of the illicit activities taking place below him until he heard gun fire, an ominous sound bouncing along the cliff face.

Burr and his second, Van Ness, were first to arrive. They busied themselves tidying the underbrush and debris. Shortly thereafter, Hamilton and Pendleton climbed to the spot. Courtesies were exchanged and lots were drawn by the seconds as to which man would supervise the duel. Pendleton assumed the duty. When he spoke the word “Present” the gentlemen would fire at one another.

Replicas of the pistols

Rashomon-like, what happened will never be completely clear. Van Ness and Burr swore that “Hamilton fired first,” but even if he did so, his bullet went off into the trees—not the careful aim you’d expect from a war veteran who still hunted small game on his property—or a man who’d come to Weehawken all set to exterminate a hated rival. For his part, Pendleton swore that the duelists fired at almost the same time and that Hamilton had done exactly as he’d declared on the journey across from New York and had thrown away his shot. It’s also possible that after Hamilton was wounded, a reflex action caused him to pull the trigger. All we’ll ever really know is that Burr's aim was excellent; his shot penetrated Hamilton's liver, shattered his vertebrae and lodged in his spine.  

On the following day, July 12, about 2 p.m. the life of this remarkable Founding Father, Alexander Hamilton, came to an end in the home of William Bayard of Greenwich Village.   Hamilton was surrounded on his death bed by grieving friends and family, chief among these his loyal wife, Eliza.

Hamilton's grave at Trinity Church in the heart of the financial world he created.

~~Juliet Waldron ~ All my historical novels :

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Saturday, July 2, 2016

Happy Independence Day

In honor of Independence Day--and because I'm slacking off to hang out with a visitor--I'm going to post a quote. Like other formidable intellects who have taken an interest in the workings of society, Alexander Hamilton can be quoted in service of a whole host of POV's.  Digging around in such a trove online, I happened upon this one. It seemed timely, a bit "wake up and smell the coffee" mashed up with a good dose of "get over yourself" + "you've got your work cut out for you."

"Have we not already seen enough of the fallacy and extravagance of those idle theories which have amused us with promises of an exemption from the imperfections, weaknesses and evils incident to society in every shape? Is it not time to awake from the deceitful dream of a golden age, and to adopt as a practical maxim for the direction of our political conduct that we, as well as the other inhabitants of the globe, are yet remote from the happy empire of perfect wisdom and perfect virtue?"  

Alexander Hamilton~ The Federalist Papers

~~ Juliet Waldron

Two romantic historicals set during the Revolution in the Hudson Valley
and one old-fashioned historical novel below:

 Angel’s Flight

~~Juliet Waldron ~ All my historicals :

Saturday, June 25, 2016

The Last Hamiltonian Cat

Major General Schuyler and Elizabeth enjoy a treat from their indulgent human 

Orange Elizabeth —you used to be so petite! When we adopted you, you weighed four lbs. You were plunked down on the counter of a friend’s pet store with half a bag of Walmart Cat food and the parting remark, “Take her. My daughter can’t keep her any longer because cats smother babies.” After imparting this bit of folk wisdom, the 3 bonnet ladies—the youngest, pregnant and weeping--walked out and left Elizabeth behind.
Major General Schuyler relaxing

Stunned, my friend tucked her into a bunny cage for the day and then took her home and hid her from her husband, who’d sworn there would to be “no more darn cats in this house!” Before you think him an ogre, you need to understand that she already had sheep, assorted dogs, cats, teenagers, a business to run, and a big gray Macau.
                                                                                                 The Renowned Hamilton
The next day she called me and begged me to take the young cat. I had four puddies at that time, but Lizzie was smart enough to sleep under the covers with my grumpy husband for a few days, which was exactly the move guaranteed to open the door to a permanent new home.

She was always a lap cat, a lady who liked to share a couch with us in the evening while her Mommy—not so svelte herself—snacked and watched TV. In her youth, Liz hunted bunnies, birds and chipmunks with deadly skill,  committing rodenticide along with the best of 'em, but with a bottomless food bowl and a lap ever available, she soon retired from these classic feline pastimes.  Sitting on the porch on long lazy summer evenings, the resident house wren could scold to her heart’s content, but Lizzie, stretched out on the cement like a purring mini-tiger, would no longer so much as twitch the tip of an ear.

Years passed. Her hips bothered her. She lost the ability to climb onto the couch or into my bed. It was difficult for her to clean. If I helped, the thanks received was sometimes hissing and a lightning fast rake – the only dynamite move she had left. Some years back, when my son visited, he declared her “a Tribble, not a cat.”   At that time she was round as a ball, legs barely visible. When we were gifted with a second orange female, Lizzie, in disgust, temporarily banished herself from the downstairs. The two “orange girls”  have continued an on-going feud for the last five years, complete with hissy fits when they unexpectedly encountered one another.

Spring and Elizabeth

Lizzie's old age was best for sleeping with me, but even that wasn't an unmixed blessing.  She took to waking me with blurt-blurt-blurt and the delicate, ever-increasing pressure of a claw against my ear. Like Simon’s Cat ©, she then pointed to her mouth, asking for me to go down the kitchen and bring back a treat. When Kitty Bob, who, like males of all species, enjoys pushing the buttons of females, scrambled noisily onto the a/c in the bedroom window, Liz would attack the the blinds, spitting and screaming. Our long-grown-and-gone sons never engaged in this much sibling rivalry!

Goldfish in from the pond, Liz, Bastet
Then, she began to lose weight. I know the end signs, but after 16 going on 17 years, it was impossible for me to admit what was happening. She stopped grooming, so every evening I helped out. I offered canned cat food as I believed she had a tooth going bad. When her face puffed on one side, she and I went to the Vet.
It was not a tooth, however. It was cancer, so I listened to the advice of Dr. Mimnagh, our excellent Vet for the past 33 years, and made the decision every pet owner eventually must. Afterward, they wrapped her little body and I took her home through a sudden, blinding, traffic-jamming downpour--my tears and Nature as one.
This morning, my husband and I put her into the ground, wrapped in a bit of Halloween print fabric—orange with black cats—and accompanied by a sprig Rosemary (for remembrance) and a sprig of catnip for sweet dreams.   Sorely missed she is, my sweet soft little ding-bat companion!

You can tell by the monitor how long ago this was

~Juliet Waldron

All my historicals, written with kitty help:

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Saturday, June 18, 2016


This is comes under the heading of "stuff." Rumination about a familiar kitchen object in "this ever changing world in which we live" (as Sir Paul McCartney would have it).

They are little, rectangular, white and micro-wave safe, created to be used for single service airplane meals. We bought a stack of them about 30 years ago at the Pfaltzgraff Outlet in Lancaster County. Finally, after many years of incessant use, they are beginning to crack. We use them for both micro-wave and as cat dishes.  In fact, if we get pick up one, the cats present themselves with expectation written all over their fuzzy faces. If I put a sandwich on one and take it out onto the back picnic table, Bob will hop up and come over to inspect it, just to be double certain the contents are not meant for him. 

After all, sometimes, Fancy Feast© comes on that dish…

There is nothing remarkable about them, but it occurs to me that they are an artifact of a particular time and place, one now receding in our collective memory.  By our mega-meal standard, these dishes are small.   No supersized anything would fit.
Today, not only is the once flourishing stoneware company Pfaltzgraff defunct, but the reusable nature of the dishes probably represented, to some clever sales person at a disposable tableware company, a great opportunity.
"Convenient! Fast! Just Throw Those Cumbersome Dirty Dishes Away!"
As it was, employees had to pack the plates into dishwashers and someone had to put the frozen-whatever back on them, too, before reloading them all onto the plane for microwaving. The airlines had to pay these folks. So, while they were economizing, they  got rid of all that staff--people--who represented wages and retirement.
It’s only recently that we’ve collectively begun to wonder where “away” is. We're discovering that because there truly is no “away,” disposable plastic is not only a false economy--another thing made out of petro-chemicals that will take a thousand years to fall apart--but a burden to our already over-burdened planet.

And, while all this "progress" was transpiring, another whole host of changes occurred, these along the cost cutting line. Now, on economy flights, you better carry on board anything you wish to consume, because most airlines, except for the long haul ones, have dispensed with offering their passengers anything but soda, juice, and a tiny package of nibbles. If you’re lucky.  

My handy little Delta Dishes remain, faithfully going in and out of the microwave and dishwasher daily as they have for the last thirty years.  They serve as spoon rests when I’m stove top cooking, as slice of pie plates or cookie trays. All this, and, of course, they are just the right size for a dab of cat food or a spot of cream for some importunate kitty.

~~Juliet Waldron

American Revolution/Adventure/Romance


~~Juliet Waldron ~ All my historicals :

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Saturday, June 11, 2016

Battle of Monmouth

Next weekend, fellow historical author Kathy Fischer-Brown (author of Winter Fire) and I will attend a battle--a reenactment of the Battle of Monmouth Courthouse which took place in New Jersey during late June of 1778. For the last two years we have been happy voyagers to these history fests, first at the scenic Saratoga Battlefield and last year at the historical site at Fort Ticonderoga in upstate New York.  I love visiting that area, because my mother's family hails from there. This year, however, we chose to sate our thirst for  Revolutionary reenactments--and to have a chance to speak with, and learn from, the dedicated, knowledgeable participants--we're staying a little closer to our own neighborhoods.

Cannon overlooking Lake George at Ft. Ticonderoga

Upon checking into the reenactors' website for Monmouth Courthouse, I found a wealth of primary source in the form of excerpts from letters, official lists, and diaries concerning the battle and its aftermath. Among the testimonies from witnesses of the day and regulation doc army headcounts, I was intrigued by the one borrowed below. This was researched by John U. Rees, who is a member of Friends of Monmouth Battlefield. Further links -- to -- contain other eye witness accounts. Many accounts will be understandably conflicting. Current warfare is whole worlds beyond  the man/horse/letter tech of the18th Century. Troops became easily scattered, especially through rough/broken terrain or obscured by a black powder haze. Communication was either by messenger or dumb luck.  

The account that follows made a deeper impression upon me than the stories of battlefield action. I'll reproduce here courtesy of Mr. Rees/Friends of Monmouth Battlefield the account of a Georgia surgeon, Dr. Read, who tells, in some detail of what he encountered on the field after the day was over:
The evening at length came on, and the battle ceased, except some skirmishing at a distance, and some struggles to the left in arranging off prisoners … with the approach of night, both armies lay exhausted by fatigue and the heat of the day - a deep morass lying between them. They lay down, man and horse, just where they halted; Washington and his suit[e] lay upon the field. It was generally understood the battle was to be renewed at the dawn of day. Dr. Read, with his servant, rode on to the left of the line, seeing, in a few instances, regimental surgeons officiating, and administering to some wounded soldiers, and hearing the groans and cries of some men who crawled, or been brought off into the rear. They reached a wagon which stood in an inclined situation, having the fore-wheels shot away; this position afforded a comfortable shelter to the two adventurers … At the dawn of day they heard the shout of victory - ‘the British are gone!’ Dr. Read mounted, and rode down the hill which bounded the morass, and observing several men entering the low ground to cross over, he did so also. The bog was very deep, and required the utmost effort of his and his servant’s horse also, to get through it. As objects became visible, he saw several dead soldiers in the bog, mired to the waist, and probably shot. On the opposite side he saw an officer lying a few yards from the morass, nearly cut in two by a cannon shot; he was alive, and spoke, implored Dr. Read to lift him to a tree which stood near, alleging that he had been all night trying to do so, ‘that he might die easy.’ The clotted blood was piled up several inches on his front, and it had ceased to flow. Dr. Read, with the assistance of his servant, essayed to lift him tenderly, and, stepping backwards, they placed him against the tree. The blood now began to flow perceptibly, and in all probability terminated his life; they heard him utter a few words of thankfulness, and proceeded on. At the summit of the hill, dismal, indeed, was the scene; there lay fifty or sixty British grenadiers - some dead, some alive, calling for ‘help!’ ‘water!’ uttering the most dreadful and severe imprecations on ‘the rebels.’ Dr. Read and his servant ran down the hill, and found plenty of water; with his servant’s hat he administered many draughts of water to these poor, famished soldiers; it was busy occupation for an hour. Dr. Read … now proceeded to dress wounds and apply bandages. Tearing off shirts from the dead, he made bandages, and applied them, to the best of his skill, for remedying hemorrhage. Some country people and Negroes coming to the field of carnage, Dr. Read enlisted their feelings, and hired them to assist in lifting and turning these wounded men, and, at length, in procuring wagons and straw to remove them to the court-house … he was greatly assisted by his servant, Peter Houston … They succeeded in moving twenty-one grenadiers, all with broken legs, or muscles so lacerated as to render them helpless. Dr. Read, seeing no medical aid come to him, proceeded to amputate whenever the patient would consent to the operation. In these operations he was aided by lint and bandages being sent, he knew not from whence, and every article of nourishment. Dr. Read continued to dwell in the court-house, sleeping … in the Judge’s bench. There he was observed by sundry groups of officers, who came riding around on a tour of observation, and his name enquired into … [His servant sometimes informed the visitors that his master was working] ‘at his own expense.’ This explanation must have had an effect, as on the third day he received from the Secretary a special commission, which gave him rank in the medical department, and extra rations and forage...

Then or now, war is hell. With luck, there will be more stories to share after the upcoming weekend. I hope that the weather will be kinder to us than it was at the actual battle, when it ranged into the high 90's. Can you imagine fighting wrapped in all that wool and linen?

~~Juliet Waldron ~ All my historicals :

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Saturday, June 4, 2016

Red Magic ~ Excerpt ~ Amazon Countdown !

Caterina has been forced to marry her dead older sisters' rakish fiancĂ©. Months later, the marriage remains unconsummated. When she intercepts a letter from one of his mistresses, she is first jealous and then alarmed, for she realizes that despite her resolve, she has fallen in love with him.

Cat thought she'd never be able to get to sleep.  Still, somehow or other, she wandered into that strange other realm.     

          There was Wili, sitting in the window seat at home.  Her sister, blonde braids demurely crowning her head, was deep in embroidery, a piece stretched on a frame. 

          Cat was horribly agitated.  She ran forward with the letter in her hand, the letter from Konstanze.  Wili gazed at her, a serene expression in place.     

          "Wili!  Read this," Cat cried.  "Does it mean what I think it does?"   With deft fingers her sister ran the needle into the cloth.  Then she took what Cat offered and read.  Her skin, always pale, was of an unearthly translucence.         

          After awhile Wili looked up and shook her golden head.  Firmly she handed the letter back.           "I don’t cry anymore," she said.  The soft gray eyes that Cat remembered so well were full of nothing but a profound, unruffled calm.  "It's for you to cry over him now," she said.   
       Coolly turning away, she retrieved the needle and resumed her handwork. 


           Someone had come inside the bed curtains, someone with gentle hands, someone whispering something she didn't understand.  Great arms picked her up and Cat's wet face came to rest upon a freshly laundered nightshirt, one that covered a massive shoulder.   "There, there," a male voice comforted.  "Wake up, little one.  Wake up."      

          "Christoph," she gasped, understanding at last.  She felt her muscles gather and flex.          

          "You were having a bad dream." The great arms, like oak, girded her.      

          To push against his chest was nothing but frustration.  She might, with as much effect, push one of the stone walls of the manor.  Sobs tore out of her.         

          Why hadn't Wili given advised?  Why had she been so cold?   Oh, was it because she knew how Cat was feeling about the man she'd loved in vain so long?  Was it because she knew how close Cat was to going through his door and, under the cover of darkness, climbing into his bed?       

          Her husband continued to hold  her.  One hand soothed, while the other cradled her against him.  She sobbed, let the tears drench his nightshirt. He began to rock her.  Now and then his lips brushed her cheek, but it was so tender, as if he comforted a child.   

          "It was Wili," she whispered, telling part of it, the only part she dared.  "I dreamed of Wili."            Christoph heaved a heavy sigh.  "She was on my mind tonight too," he said. 

Cat lay limp against him.  How easy it was to cry herself out against his strength, to feel the affectionate hand on her back, the one in her hair!  His chest moved against hers as his breath went in and out.  She could feel the pulse of his heart, an even drumbeat.
         "Are you better now?" he asked after awhile.  He sounded supremely weary.  

          When she murmured, "Yes," he released her and got up out of the bed. "Elsa," he called.  "Elsa!  Come at once."    

          Cat sat still, trembling with all the warring emotion. A tall skinny figure appeared by the side of the bed, illuminated in the rippling light that came from the open door into his room.       

          "Elsa, dear," he said gently, "sleep with the Grafin tonight.  She's having bad dreams."  

          "It's not necessary," Cat said, but she had to move back, because Elsa was already climbing in beside her.         
           "I think that it is," Christoph said firmly. He began a retreat towards his own room.  "Please stay, Elsa, no matter what."         

          "Yes, Herr Graf," whispered Elsa, sending a questioning look at her mistress.         

          "Thank you," he said.  "Good night, ladies," he added, carefully shutting the door behind him.  Now it was dark again.  Silently Cat lay back.  She felt exceedingly strange.

          "I don't want to talk," she said softly.  "I'm upset but I think I just ought to try and go to sleep again."     

          "As you wish, Mistress," came the reply, "but you know," Elsa said after a pause, "you can trust me."     

          "Yes."  It was pitch black and Cat couldn't see a thing, but she knew that the long thin girl beside her was bursting with questions.    

          Suddenly, she ached to confide.  Maybe not everything, but something.      Finally she reached out, took Elsa's hand and whispered, "The Graf never takes me to his bed."

          "I know," came the whispered reply.  "You are always so angry and so sad." 

          "We are both angry and sad."   

          "It is because of your lady sister, is it not, Grafin?" came the surprisingly astute reply. 
           "Yes. "

           Elsa's thin fingers pressed hers warmly, but Cat was grateful when the servant didn't speak again...

~~Juliet Waldron

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