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Sunday, December 25, 2016

Carol's Coat~~

Hoag Family reunion, 1971
L. to R., Abby, Carol and Deborah Waldron

My mother-in-law, Carol, was a strong New England woman, one who was born and died in her home state of Massachusetts. She was taller and broader than me, had a powerful presence, softened by short brown curls and a ready smile. Back in the early 1970's, in between a full time job and starting the first NOW chapter in Lexington, she bought a fine Woolrich(c) coat, teal colored twill with a tan-and-white wool lining.

A few years passed. Carol grew wider as folks tend to do in these United States, and the coat was handed to her youngest daughter, Abby, now married and a timber framer. That's her on the left. It probably never really fit Abby, except perhaps across the shoulders. Still, it was serviceable for a rough New Hampshire winter. The good twill broke the wind and the liner created an Indian blanket warmth. Like all coats of this period, it was unwieldy. After putting it on, you felt lumbering and bear-like. 

There was a hood, too, but by the time I inherited the coat, the string was gone. In deep cold or high wind, however, the big hood could still be pulled over a scarf for a second line of defense. You might look like the Abominable Snowman, but in my now senior world, so what?

The coat is a keeper. It's worn weekly all through winter. Like any article of clothing that has been in use for so long, it shows it's age. For one thing, there's a dab of yellow house paint on one pocket, now hopelessly sunk into the twill. That, and a little hole on that same pocket, might suggest a thrift store source when viewed in cold, unforgiving daylight.

At Christmas time, an old coat probably seems like a weird topic, but there's a part of me that, though descended from a long line of upstate New York farmers, is pure Yankee at heart. In the midst of so much consumption--and so much compulsion to consume, pounding on the psyche from every side--there's a part of me that's stubbornly resistant. I remember my much loved and frugal Grandfather, and the rhyme he recited to me long ago.

"Use it up,
Wear it out,
Make Do
Or do without."

In later years, I'd hear it again, now repeated among my husband's New England relatives.

There is another narrative though, beyond the warts-and-all-virtue, but a memory of the two other bodies who have sheltered inside this old coat. One is a sister-in-law who has become a sister, and my formidable mother-in-law, now departed to the other side.  

This wool and twill bears memories. It's not just "an old coat."

Carol, Springfield, MA HS Graduation, 1943

~~Juliet Waldron

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Sunday, December 18, 2016

The Rosemary Tree

Well, here it is--the event no one was waiting for--a sprawling rosemary used as Christmas tree, Hanukkah Bush, or whatever. When autumn came, it seemed a shame to leave it outside to die. I can't just stick it in the garden and wait to see if it will winter over or not because after several years, I'm emotionally invested. We go back with one other for some years, this rosemary plant and I.

It would look nicer if I'd just keep it trimmed back into a sensible cone or something, but I'm from Yellow Springs, the land where the bushes and shrubberies and trees grow with perfect, radical self-expression.

Our weather where I now live might allow it to survive winter, but I haven't had a lot of luck with that strategy in this unforgiving clay soil, so I've been cosseting this one and bringing it in for the cold months. Now here it sits, taking up inordinate amounts of space on the round table between the printer, scanner and the two CPUs, so I decided to put it to seasonal use. 

I put on a few store bought decorations, but the little handmade ornaments have the most meaning. My Grandmother Liddle made a few of them for church bazaars--the little sewn hearts, nutcracker men, and clothespin soldiers. Friend Joy baked a couple, the pink pig lower left, made from cornstarch and then painted. She made a Christmas tree too, all trimmed with bows and ribbons. The cornhusk angels came from GMA L too, handmade at Ohio craft stores.  There are also a pair of long dangling "icicle" blown glass ornaments made long ago by Chris's Uncle John.

The rosemary is too supple to support much weight, so I couldn't use the bird for a topper. Set in the pot is a Navaho granny, holding grandbabies in her arms. I bought this ornament when I didn't get to hug my own grandkids enough because they lived too far away. The little clay granny makes  happy whenever I looked at her. Her presence always  helps me to send an imaginary hug to my dear grand-girls.

~~Juliet Waldron

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Sunday, December 11, 2016

God Speed, John Glenn

 The Right Stuff

It was on February 20, 1962 that John Glenn, a Marine pilot who'd flown 149 missions during World War Two and the Korean War, completed his historic three trips around Planet Earth--as "spam in a can."  It took a heck of a lot more nerve and balls out skill to survive those earlier military assignments, I'm sure, but it was for the orbital flight of the tiny Friendship 7 that he attained fame and a ticker tape parade. Such are the ways of popular culture, but he was the first American to orbit the Earth and the third American in space.

Spam in a Can

John Glenn went on to serve his country in the Senate for many terms, as a Democrat from Ohio 1974-1999. No "come here" politician, Ohio was his home state. He'd been born in Cambridge, Ohio in 1921 and attended Muskingham College, where he studied mathematics. When the attack on Pearl Harbor brought the US into World War II, he dropped out of college and enlisted, first in the army and then, after not being called up, as a Navy aviation cadet. He was an old style gentleman, married to his childhood sweetheart for 70+ years, a staunch supporter of the social safety nets for aged and less fortunate Americans, as well as a lifelong advocate of NASA and of first class science education in the kind of well-funded public schools that kick-started his own career.  (Contrast this with the politicians we elect nowadays -- lying, self-dealing confidence artists -- and feel sorry for yourselves.)

I was in boarding school in England when all this happened, so wasn't stateside for the hoopla, although I soon learned about it, from the teachers (mistresses) at tea time when we all sat down together. (Don't get any big ideas about "tea" at 1960's boarding schools. In those days it was brown bread and a single pat of butter, and several cups of hot tea--and that, dear readers, was all there was to eat until morning, where we received the same tea and bread all over again.) At any rate, the news made me happy. It was about time our power house country caught up with those "Ruskies!"

In the '60's, kids like me were called "children of broken homes," and mine certainly had been, with violence and betrayal, via a divorce granted by some southern state which deemed child support unnecessary. Nevertheless, I remained proud of my nation, though my classmates, whose parents remembered the great days of the British Empire, often scoffed. When I heard the news about that orbital flight--me, the solitary "Yank" walking the 45 degree halls of the grand old buildings where we boarders  housed--I experienced a chest puffing moment of national pride!

One evening soon after, I stood, wrapped in my robe, in the top floor hall where three flights of stairs ended. I sang "America the Beautiful" as perfectly as I was able. My voice, of which I was proud, reverberated nicely inside the space. Though I was far away from home, alone, with no support on any side, I was, on that long ago day, proud to be an American and not afraid for anyone to know it.

So, with the passing of John Glenn, another chapter in my own old memory "copybook" closes, one of a more hopeful time. As Scott Carpenter -- now the sole survivor of the Mercury Missions  -- radioed on that day in 1962 -- "God Speed, John Glenn."  

Oldest man to fly in space, John Glenn, October 29, 1998

~ Juliet Waldron

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Saturday, November 26, 2016

Doctor Strange -- and me

  A headline that remains topical

I wasn't allowed to read comics when I was a kid. I could read the newspaper funny pages, where I predictably followed "Prince Valiant." And because these were parental favorites, I also read "Pogo" and "Lil Abner."

When I was sent to camp for most of several summers (scorched-earth divorce in the works at home), I met NYC kids who refused to leave the bunkhouse and just lay around and read the zillions of comics--DC, mostly--that they'd brought in boxes from home.  I've always wondered why, if their parents sent them to camp to get some sunlight and air, they allowed for the transport of all those comics. Maybe they only wanted the kids to read this stuff elsewhere. Anyway, no one could forbid my reading here, so, among this motherlode of graphic fiction,*  I soon found a superhero to fit my (then) off-beat personal taste for history and myth, this time "The Mighty Thor."

It wasn't until college, as a young married student, that I met up with comics once more. This time the forbidden fruit was found in the rooms of Boston friends, many of whom were early psychonauts. It was in such rooms, hung with black light posters and India print bedspreads, that I was introduced to Doctor Strange and the rest of the Marvel© World.  It was "Make Mine Marvel" from then on.

As does this one

I had kids young. My husband I used to read all kinds of things while seated on the floor or on the bed before lights out. As the little ones passed beyond the "Wild Things" and "When We Were Very Young," they were naturally attracted to the vivid panels of our stash of old comics. Cheap, bright, colorful, and full of drama, those old books found new readers. Eventually, every one, (which, if preserved in a plastic sleeve might be worth something 40 years later), was all read to rags. The coolest psychedelic drawings were silly-puttied to death.

The kids got older and so did their parents. Comics disappeared, only to return with Hollywood's decision to make lots of blockbuster teen/YA movies--a natural home for such stories of derring-do. For years, as CG progressed towards the astonishing flowering that marked Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings, I've muttered, "Why don't they resurrect Doctor Strange? At last they've got the tech to really do him up proper."

Then came 2016 Dragon Con. I'd heard about the upcoming Doctor Strange movie with real excitement, especially as I'd heard about the talented cast. On the first day of Dragon Con, we were bumbling through the crowd, admiring the amazing costumes dreamed up by attendees of this yearly blow-out festival of cosplay. I had just been grousing "So, where's Doctor Strange?" when he walked through the door of the hotel. I rushed the guy, crying "Why, it's Doctor Strange, Master of the Mystic Arts and Wearer of the Eye of Agomoto! Can we get a picture???"


And there, bumped and blurry with excitement, we are! This was just the first of the excellent versions of Doctor Strange that I met over the next three days. They were all pretty great, all dressed in costumes that were copies of one or another of the character's long and varied sartorial existence. (Different artists favored different get-ups.)

Next, the movie came out. I went with a contemporary who uses a cane because she needs a knee operation. We two old girls helped each other to seats in the already darkened theater, then showing the first of 10,000 DC/Marvel trailers. We'd snuck in apple slices and water bottles and settled down, after a quick glance up at a bunch of teens hiding out in the back, wondering if they wondered about why the heck we were there. We hoped for the best.

Long story short, I really enjoyed the heck out of this movie. Although there was a little too much 21st Century snark, those classy actors gave their all to such dialogue as they were offered. The knock-out visuals accomplished the rest. Suddenly, I was back in that long-ago black light lit room.

Someone in authority, I believe, really studied the originals of those old graphics, the ones I remember so well, and they were sufficiently respectful to elder fans like us to make sure these vignettes were included. At the end, I was rewarded by a vision of the same sorcerer I remember so well, gazing from the window of his Greenwich Village Sanctum Sanctorum!

Some fantastically lucky fan took this at a NYC Comic book store...

And who could be more perfect for the character than Benedict Cumberbatch who has been giving us his BBC Sherlock Holmes with such panache--Star Trek villains, etc.? The few changes--such as making the Ancient One's gender ambiguous by casting the chameleon actress Tilda Swinton--or giving Chiwetel Ejiofor, as a strong Baron Mordo, a backstory, seemed an improvement, even to such a grumpy traditionalist as me.

I hope the residuals from some Marvel jobs will enable these talented actors to get some meatier, and far less lucrative, roles later on.

~~Juliet Waldron

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Sunday, November 20, 2016


A bit late with this rumination, but – apples!

Stopped at Z’s Country Market today on my way back from Lebanon. It's a grocery owned by Mennonites, with bonneted girls in their homemade dresses and gym shoes working the registers. Local produce here, from local fruits and veggies to backyard honey and stone ground, non-GMO flours. 

Happiness—for me, anyhow—can be found hanging over a big wooden bin of apples. Different kinds, different bins, from the newish Crispin, Macoun  and Cameo, to the elder apple statesmen, Cortlands, Macintosh, Staymans, Ida Red, and Winesaps. (You will notice that I haven’t mentioned “Delicious.” Poor things, they’ve been bred to be perfect for shipping, which has made them bland and dry. They  have a bin, too, but I don’t bother.)

The fact that I’m leaning over the side and searching means that these apples have been off the trees for a few weeks now. Still, they are local, and haven’t traveled across the universe.  I’m trying hand to nose and gentle touch to discover how long they’ve been store-bound, and hoping I can find the tastiest ones.   

Every season I attempt to eat as many varieties of local apples as I can, hoping to refresh my personal sensory image of each kind. I’ve noticed that year to year, the taste changes a little. I’ll find some, miss others, depending on bloom time or if there was a killing late frost. This year, a freeze got the apricots and most peaches in our area, much to everyone’s sorrow.

I wish someone would plant Goldrush in this area, for this is my latest favorite. I’m told they are not new, but a recently revived heritage breed, one which doesn’t need a lot of pesticide to fight off the various plagues. I find I can keep Goldrush into March. Yes, they do wither, but they can still sock it to your taste buds and to their last moment make a spicy, tangy sauce.

~~Juliet Waldron

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Saturday, November 12, 2016

Cats Have Therapists, Too

“It’s all pretty far-out, Cat. You know what I mean?”

These are the kind of conversations you get around old people who have lived with a lot of cats.
The Cat stuck her face in the bowl and munched while I massaged her fluffy, thick back. Patting her was like patting a wide-beamed, long-haired Scottish sheep. The fur was sort of dry and oily at the same time. It left my hands smelling of the cast-off cellar rug, the one that my husband, as the one who promises Yes! Yes! I will vacuum it—but somehow never does—the rug that is an in-home super-fund site, redolent of fuel oil, cement dust, flea spray, cat hair and kitty litter, plus the assorted paints and chemicals which are stored down there. 

This icky basement is the place where our PTSD cat story began and is still the place to which it reboots whenever Kimi feels threatened. Even after six years of safety and kid gloves, she remains an anxious kitty. She’s blonde, and stuffed-toy-fluffy with a sweet doll’s face--but not the pushed in muzzle--of a Persian. She’s heavy and square, what, in the Cat Fancy is referred to as “cobby-bodied.”  She might be the offspring of some hobby breeder’s accident, a Ragdoll, or a Birman, and who knows what else, getting together. Anyhow, we’ve never had a cat like this one before, although, that’s what we say to all the special kitties who have come to live here over the years. She arrived through a friend, who found her, starving, tick infested, with a festering wound on one hip. She was terrified of human hands.

Kimi-Wah still has rules. There are rules about where she may be petted; rules about how she may be petted. Unlike most cats, she sometimes appreciates the sort of thumping you might bestow upon a small dog. She likes to have a blanket on the floor by the television. Here she sits and regards us from across the room as we couch-potato in the evening. Sometimes she calls to us with a plaintive little meow. Then one or the other of her people is supposed to get down on the floor with her and pat her—but only while she’s sitting on the fabric. You have to keep an eye on the tail. If that fluffy plume begins to flail, it’s time to stop.

Sometimes she calls for petting, but if she’s not on the rug, she’ll simply run away if you approach her. Sometimes she’ll run for her blanket and you will be allowed to pat her there, but, just as often as not, she’ll head to the cellar. Sometimes, I’ll follow her down there and hope to gather her up from the old flannel sheet that I’ve put down to keep her off that awful rug. I tell her “no one wants a basement cat.” I tell her that basement cats are almost as bad as ceiling cats, or under-the-couch cats—those top neurotics of the indoor cat world.

In six years, though, she has loosened up somewhat. She’s long-haired and needs daily grooming or she’ll mat and/or get sick from the hair-balls all that fur generates. I brush first and then gently comb. Initially, she had to be held down with all four hands available around here, even for the briefest beauty treatment. The whole time she’d snarl and growl and scream and try to slice us to ribbons with her needle claws.

These days, she’ll call to me while I’m at the computer—whiny meow after whiny meow—until I give up and fetch the brush and then head to the blanket. She’ll trot ahead of me, plumy tail waving and then lie down, all in anticipation of her beauty treatment. She’ll even let me hold her and trim her nails. Lately, she’s been getting up to couch-potato beside me in the evenings; she's even getting the hang of happy purrs.   

We didn't think she'd ever come round, but inch by inch, she has. It's been one of the longest lasting feline rehab projects we've ever undertaken, but in the end, her sweet sensitive self is beginning to reappear. 

A rare trip outside for the Wah

~~Juliet Waldron

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Sunday, November 6, 2016

Feast of the Dead

Last weekend I attended an Interfaith Sanctuary to attend the Feast of the Dead, held yearly to remember our ancestors, to pray with and for those who mourn, and to honor friends, mentors, and relatives who have passed beyond the veil.

Held in a campground, we are in touch with earth, air and water. We live close beside our planetary family, the plants and animals. We experience the autumn cold nights and the glowing leaf fall days. We hear the tree toads--the very last--singing after sundown. We watch birds, raptors, and the winged clean-up crew, the buzzards, soar on thermals.
This helps us to reconnect ourselves with feet-on-the-ground reality, to remember that all we truly have is the precious present. We hope to leave behind as much of the work-a-day, with so many pressures, so many daily frustrations, punishing schedules, and night-time's electronic opiate distractions. We step away from the terror and injustice, to escape a society drenched in money madness, where selfishness and greed are admired, as best we can, if only for a few days.

Here, we remember the past, back to the morning when we left our palm frond huts and began the long walk out of Africa. We honor those who came before us; we rededicate ourselves to those who will come after us.

One of the services was an interfaith Missa* with spoken prayers from many dove-tailed belief systems. I wanted to share some of these, to preserve a memory of a place beyond the endless noise machine of modernity. Although we prayed many  prayers familiar to Christians (notably Hail Mary and Psalm 23) but there were also many others of great spiritual power.


Shanti - Shanti - Shanti

Om - Shanti

May there be peace in the higher realms;

May there be peace in the firmament;

May there be peace on earth.

May the water flow peacefully;

May the herbs and plants grow peacefully;

May all the divine powers bring us to peace

The Supreme Lord is peace

May we all be in peace, peace and only peace;

And May that peace come unto each of us.

~~ Hindu

Yoruban Ancestor Prayer

May those from under our feet

Breathe the warmth of community until us

So that the peace we seek mounts our bodies

And sits on the chairs of our heart,

Sprinkling love and joy around us all.

Excerpt from “Breaths”

Listen more often to things than to beings.

Listen more often to things than to beings.

‘Tis the ancestor’s breath when the fire’s voice is heard.

‘Tis the ancestor’s breath in the voice of the waters.

And to close:

May the blessing of the spirits be upon you.

May you be your best self. May you walk in beauty.

May your guides be with you at every crossroads.

May you be honorably greeted when you arrive.

Shared by Juliet Waldron, all prayers taken from the Interfaith Sanctuary Missa
All Saints/All Souls Spiritual Service


Sunday, October 30, 2016

Black Magic ~~ Shapeshifter!

Goran uses shape-shifting to visit
the other 'powers' who dwell on his mountain


           Goran turned and found himself standing on a high rock shelf above a hollow filled with thorns. He saw the eyes, gazing out at him. Glowing, bright living eyes, green fire! He’d only thought of the Great Boar, the eyes in the thicket down in the oak woods—and suddenly, he was there.

            I thought you might be here.

            And so I am, Great One.

            What is it about that particular rock, Lord, that you like so much?

            Wanting to make some sort of an answer, Goran gazed down at his feet and then rather wished he hadn’t. It was shocking to see what they had become, his legs ending in the talons of a bird of prey. The rock below was ordinary granite, dotted with a few white flecks of marble. As he did this, a little puzzled, a buzzing rush of energy blasted into his feet.

     Aha! This rock is an excellent place, full of power!


~ Juliet Waldron ~
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