Sunday, February 28, 2016

OWL SONG


 
 
The owls are doing their spring routine, singing (if you want to call it that) since January. I know this because there is a decaying silver maple near my bedroom window, and because I am a light sleeper. These are not the small shivery-voiced owls, but the magnificent Great Horned, who has a deep voice. This vocalization always becomes a duet after a few minutes, because invariably another owl shows up, parks (himself? herself?) in a nearby tree and begin a call and response. A-Whoo-Whoo-Whoo! A-Whoo-Whoo-Whoo! Sometimes it goes on for thirty minutes, but I never get tired of it.
Remember those marvelous Farside cartoons, created by a wildlife biologist? I acknowledge that he is the author of these quips, but as I lie there in the moonlit semi-darkness imagining their conversation, it becomes either something along the line of “Hey Baby! Hey Baby!” if they are male and female--or, if male, it's doubtless the classic turf war of taunts and insults:  “You and what army?” 

I love lying there, hearing, even in surroundings mostly cleansed of original flora and fauna, that something of the old natural world survives. More than that, it's still ongoing, and letting me in on the ancient game of love and war as it begins again. After a little, though, as the song continues, I also worry. If any cats are out, I have to get up, navigate the staircase while half asleep and open the door. Usually, whatever feline is out has been prudently hiding on the porch and doesn't waste time getting inside. Bubo Virginianus isn’t nick-named the “winged tiger” for nothing.
 
 

 Also, in the same line, this area is in a migration zone. At certain times of year, we have lots of different birds passaging. Right now, it’s the Snow Geese. If you are lucky enough to see a massed gathering, it’s  a wonder you almost have to see-- and hear--to believe. For a little, out in the spring mud of the fields, there are thousands upon thousands of them. When they fly, wings glancing white against the cold blue of a February high, they, like all geese, call out to one another. Unlike Canada geese, which we have all year, the snow geese have sweet whispery voices, like ghosts slipping overhead through the ragged clouds. It's a sight which lets you know, standing there in that thin sun, that yes, spring is really on the way.
  
 

Nature reminds us of her presence, assuring us that, more as less as the groundhog predicted, winter will soon be just a memory.




 
 
In town, a lawn full of crocus is in bloom, one that was planted by some long-ago owner. Even the tulips and daffodils are giving it the old team try, poking out their green heads. All these “Simple Gifts” from the planet we are lucky enough to live upon fills me with happiness.
 
 
 
 

~~Juliet Waldron




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Sunday, February 21, 2016

Washington Advises~~From A MASTER PASSION

For George Washington's Birthday, thought I'd offer a snippet from A MASTER PASSION, one which takes place in Morristown, where, for two winters, the Revolutionary Army encamped.



A MASTER PASSION-read more

“Your Excellency.” Hamilton saluted and stepped close to the commander’s desk.

“Ah, Colonel Hamilton.” Confronted by that weary, wintry face, Hamilton feared the worst.
 
 If anything has gone wrong with the rum consignment, I am about to catch hell.

“I have here a letter full of conundrums from Mr. van Pelt.”

The letter was passed. Hamilton speedily scanned it, thanking his lucky stars as he did so. As irksome as this new problem was, it was apothecary supplies, not the all-important rum consignment.

Standing tall, Hamilton summarized in a few brief sentences the recent transactions he’d had with van Pelt so Washington could fully understand where the matter stood. Washington nodded his gray head, listening.

While he talked, Hamilton’s mind darted to a possible solution. This allowed him to conclude with a suggestion. He was relieved when the commander nodded.

“Try it, Colonel. Still, it’s damned hard to do business with our Congress promising—but never quite delivering—the money.”

 

Hamilton nodded emphatically. Lack of funds was the distilled essence of the Continental Army’s troubles.

“Write me a letter to this refractory gentleman. Intimate we’ll have what we need one way or another. Twist his tail a little. We’ll send it off under my signature, first thing in the morning.”

Hamilton seated himself at a nearby writing desk and found paper. Washington appeared grimmer than usual. It had been a long day, and the added strain of socializing with the patriot gentry had made it even longer.




 
If you were an ordinary man, George Washington, you would yawn and stretch, lean back in your chair and close your eyes.

Instead, the General picked up another piece of correspondence and proceeded to study it, grave as a monument. Hamilton tapped his quill on the edge of the inkwell and searched for the words to prod Mr. van Pelt.

Embers of blue and rose glowed upon the hearth, illuminating blackened logs. A winter wind, like a starving dog, snuffled around the corners of the house.

After half an hour, Hamilton had crafted a letter. While he stood at attention, anxious and weary, Washington read it over, nodded, and then signed with a flourish.

“Excellent, Colonel Hamilton. As much and as little as needs to be said. That last sentence, which could be construed as a threat, will probably elicit some action.”


A cold, slight smile of approval curved the General’s lips as he dried the ink with a sprinkle of sand

As Hamilton inwardly heaved a sigh of relief, Washington spoke again.


“One last matter, Colonel.”


Now what? Every muscle in his body begged to go upstairs, to fall into his narrow camp bed, and plummet into unconsciousness.


With precision, Washington folded the letter. He fired wax and let it drip onto the crease, setting his seal precisely. As this went on, there was silence, nothing but wind and crinkling coals. Hamilton was motionless. Washington was a ponderous thinker, and long pauses were common. What the General finally articulated, however, was neither about the commissary or the war.

“You could do far worse, you know, Colonel Hamilton.”

“Sir?”

Washington lifted his head and regarded him levelly. “Than a little winter campaigning, my boy, directed toward capturing the heart of a certain charming newcomer to our assembly.”

With alarm, Hamilton recognized amusement in those cold blue eyes. The “my boy” signaled that the usually distant Washington intended their conversation to be personal...

 
 

~~Juliet Waldron
 
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Saturday, February 13, 2016

Angelica's Diary Excerpt





Originally published as Independent Heart.
 
Angelica Ten Broeck, patriot heiress, writes in her diary a few days after the American defeat at New York, 1776.
   


I still can't believe what I saw outside of Aunt Letitia's parlor windows last night. The whole City south of her house was on fire. We were afraid, and the servants stood before the door with muskets in hand. So much smoke blew about that even inside the house we were coughing. The whole sky turned red, and throngs of people carrying pitiful bundles of clothes ran and wept, driving their cows and horses down the street!

I hadn't believed it could happen, that General Washington could be driven out of New York and that the British would rule here again, but that's what has come to pass.

My Aunt believes that Americans set fire to the City themselves, that British troops were not responsible for this arson. This morning the fires still burn, and we've heard that more than half of the buildings downtown are in ruins. Auntie and I had hot words on the subject at breakfast, but after what I've seen and heard of this war, I confess I am truly not certain of what the truth is. 

It's unimaginable, the things my Uncle Ten Broeck has written of, terrible things being done all up and down our peaceful valley, the looting and burning, the cruel maiming of horses and cattle done by those who must have nothing but evil in their hearts. Everywhere, my Uncle says, men settle old scores with their neighbors, while hiding these dreadful crimes behind politics--as if calling themselves "Loyalist" or "Patriot" can excuse the heinous things they've done. 


Oh why did I ever come to New York? It has turned out exactly as Uncle Jacob warned. I've been a great fool, traveling in the middle of a war! All I want now is to go home, to sail up the river back to Kingston,  but now I am trapped behind the lines of our enemy. My Aunt Letitia says that I--and my inheritance--are safer here, that because my Uncle Jacob is a patriot and defies the British, he will be hanged and his lands forfeited to the Crown. It is better, she says, that I "not be involved in his folly and ruin."

She keeps saying she wants me to marry "a respectable English gentleman" and "leave forever this barbaric place".  She doesn't seem to understand that I am an American, bred in this land and rebel to the bone. Even though General Washington has been defeated, I believe that in the end--somehow, someway--our Cause will triumph and that one day we shall enjoy the blessings of true liberty and peace...

Angel's Flight is the Revolutionary War sister book to the award-winner, Genesee.
~Juliet Waldron~
 

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Sunday, February 7, 2016

The White Stag






Sabine believes she's seen her lost love.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The stag lifted his head and she saw how pale he was, like polished ivory. He carried eight fine points; he was as magnificent as those who had seen him had reported.

 

            Dark, large eyes surveyed her. Not an albino, just as reported! She could feel her heart begin to pound from the intensity of his gaze. The creature was at a distance, but his eyes seemed to glow like black coals. His sides heaved. When he rose, the entire herd followed.   All heads turned Sabine’s way. The stag made a huffing noise, his exhalation two cones of steam in the frigid air. The does began to move away from her, back into cover. She felt a terrible longing, the ache of things lost—maybe forever.

 

            “Is that you, my Lord?” She cried aloud, the sound of her voice echoing in this empty place. She opened her arms wide, imploring.

 

            The outline of the creature wavered. For one dizzying instant, Sabine saw a human face suspended between the antlers, the contours weirdly elongated.

 


            With a final snort, the white stag spun and leapt away, crashing into the underbrush after the others.

 
 
~~Juliet Waldron
 
 
 
 
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http://mizging.blogspot.com (Ginger Simpson)