blog description

Old women talk about old things: history, myth, magic and their
checkered pasts, about what changes and what does not.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Crone Cross- Purposes

On certain summer days
Yearning for cool green freedom
I visit Meander River
Slowly opening to water wisdom
I bring simple songs of gratitude
Often I am given a gift in exchange
Today it is a puzzle quiet and contrary
Narrow path crossing my wide path
On the river side, a steep bank
On the field side, low thick brambles
Some of my friends would say "Faeries"
Others, more pragmatic would say "Muskrats"
Contrary cross-purposes are also in the water
Currents crossing wind ripples
Within are gnawing of difficulties, distractions of losses
One side goes one way while the other goes the opposite
What is the lesson? Where is the gift within?
Noticing anxiety, I bring my attention back to present moment…
 Breathe, breathe … Sink into calm centre. Sink singing
Here and now all is well
Is simply this what I am to learn?

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Fat Cat Files


Orange Lizzie—you used to be so petite and sweet! 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 because cats smother babies.” After imparting this bit of ancient folklore, the 3 bonnet ladies who’d brought her walked out and left Lizzie behind. 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!” The next day, in tears, she called me and begged me to take her. I had four puddies at that time, but Lizzie was smart enough to sleep under the covers with my grumpy husband, which was exactly the move guaranteed to open the door to a new home.

She’s always been a lap cat, a lady who likes to share a couch with us in the evening while her Mommy—not so svelte herself—snacks and watches TV. In her early years, Liz hunted bunnies, birds and chipmunks with deadly skill and committed rodenticide along with the best of them, but with a bottomless food bowl and a lap always 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 beside us like a purring bright orange mini-tiger, would no longer even twitch.

Years have passed. Liz is now a cranky 14. Her hips hurt and she’s losing the ability to climb onto the couch or into my bed. It’s very difficult for her to clean her backside, so often I have to get out a washcloth and do it for her. The thanks I receive is hissing and a lightning fast claw – the only fast movement she has left. Last Christmas, when my son visited us, he declared her “a Tribble, not a cat.”   She’s round as a ball, legs barely visible. She has chosen to ardently dislike our other cats. When we were gifted with another orange female a few years back, Lizzie, in disgust, banished herself from the downstairs. The two “orange girls” have an on-going feud, with spastic hissing fits of cat-on-cat violence at the first glimpse of the other.
Kimi a/k/a 'Wah'
Can you see why they hate each other? (Neither do I.)

About the only thing Lizzie’s good at—or for, these days—is sleeping with me, and even that isn’t an unmixed blessing.  Lately, she’s taken to waking me with blurt-blurt-blurt and a delicate but ever-increasing claw pressure against my face several times during the night. Like Simon’s Cat ©, she points to her mouth and asks for another handout. When Bob, who like males of all species, enjoys pushing the buttons of others, scrambles noisily onto the a/c in the bedroom window and meows—which he too has taken to doing at least once a night—Liz attacks the windows and the blinds, hissing and spitting and making a huge racket. As one of my buddies (whose Siamese is another specialist at devising nighttime torment for his Mommy) says with a sigh, “Cats! Please tell me why we keep them?”

Bob on the wrong side of the door
~~Juliet Waldron
Historical Novels with cats, horses, and buckets of mice...

Monday, August 12, 2013




This is a current event, one not covered much even by local news, but one that I finding fascinating and sad. Thirty years ago, the town of Hershey was centered around a great sprawling, -- and let’s face it – ugly – chocolate plant, one that had grown in stages, production area by area, over many years. There were about five hundred workers, give or take, when the place was in production, and these were all good union jobs, which brought prosperity, comfort and a fair ration of smugness to the inhabitants, who considered themselves to be Milton Hershey’s Chosen People.

View of the plant during the recent flood.
Now the old plant has closed and a new, more efficient one has been erected on the western side of town.  Here, some of the younger workers have found employment, but many other workers had to take early retirement while others took severance packages and left for other jobs. The union made large concessions. Some internet sources say that a 1000 people are employed at Hershey West—others say 500—but since a large plant came online in Mexico there is a different feeling in the town that Mr. Hershey, that legendarily benevolent dictator, built for his workers.  

Hershey proper remains a popular tourist destination, a traffic-clogged crossroad leading to a sprawling, roller-coaster festooned amusement park.  Where I live, I can hear machines pounding away, as they demolish the old factory. Last week, for the first time in years, a welcome smell drifted into our house. I figure the wreckers must have been at work on the old conching rooms, where great vats of chocolate liquor were massaged into tasty submission. I was fortunate enough to see those processing rooms back in the 80's, and it was an unforgettable experience. The friction heat generated by the stone rollers in each giant granite tub warmed the entire stadium-sized room to a tropical level and when you walked out, your clothes smelled like chocolate.

For about an hour last week, I could smell the creamy hot cocoa scent which always used to come our way from the factory every day about noon. Then it was gone.

Juliet Waldron
Historical Novels with Grit and Passion


Sunday, August 4, 2013


 by Pieter Bruegel the Elder

Here we are again, back to the ancient Loaf Mass, which signals the high harvest time, when the grain and fruit is ripening in earnest and the heaviest farm labor is required of subsistence communities. In this bountiful scene, farm families work together to bring in their grain. In the distance, on the next hill, probably a place with good sun and drainage, another field of grain can be seen. Whole families are here, sometimes whole villages, all working together, "making hay while the sun shines" and,  this being Holland in the early 17th Century, that probably didn't happen all that often. 

In my grandfather's childhood in upstate New York, he said the entire town turned out to participate in wheat and corn harvests. Originally, the early (and expensive) farm machinery was owned in common and everyone pitched in as fields ripened, in order that the grain could be brought in the way that maximized the "take" for all. This helped keep the small farms profitable, but it would require a strong social organization and a real group imperative among neighbors.


An Excerpt from Roan Rose which takes place on Lammas follows:

Lammas was a day for bringing bread and cakes for the Queen of Heaven. We village women also took time to decorate St. Alkelda's Well. The pavement around sputtered with lights. Offerings of bread and fruit were delivered in small baskets. Everyone brought something, and everyone, if they chose, could take something away.   The priest took a tithe of this offering, but he did not forbid us the ancient devotion by the water, which has happened in other places.
              One summer when they were staying at Middleham, Anne brought Richard to the well. Whether she’d meant to pass here or not, it was on the way to our village church, which they had been going to honor with their presence. With the strange pull remaining between us, we all arrived at the well at the same time.
              I’d arrived first and was in the act of arranging my gifts upon the steps, when the Duke and Duchess appeared. On my knees, just having lit a candle with a twist of straw, I turned, and there they were. They’d seen me too. I knew they sometimes missed me, but they missed the girl of long ago.
              Today, kneeling I was just another peasant woman, broadening as I ate less meat and bore children, my freckled skin burnt by the sun. I stayed where I was and watched others pause and bow.   The priest was with them, as well as the family chaplain and a clerk. The priest’s eyes lit upon me with irritation.
              "She makes more of an offering at the well than in the church, does Mistress Fletcher."
              "Rose?" Duke Richard chose to pay attention to him.
              "I do not deny it, my gracious Lord."
              "Is not the Mother of Our Lord as important as your saint?"  I'd hoped for a gleam of something like humor in Richard's eye, but it wasn't there.
              "My eldest child, as you know, noble ones, is called Alkelda." I was as humble as I knew how to be and indicated my daughter’s solemn little face. “I have a special devotion to our saint."
              The priest nodded wearily. He had heard this tale one hundred times and from one hundred different women. Churchmen have listened to this excuse since the beginning of the rule of the fathers. Lady Anne laid a white restraining hand upon her husband's arm. 
              "Mistress Rose has a deep devotion to Our Lady, this I know."
              Richard was mildly surprised.  Anne was not the sort of noblewoman who was in the habit of telling her husband what to do, at least, not in public.
               "Today she tends our Holy Well. These offerings, My Lord husband, are for the poor, for the old and infirm." She used the alarmed male silence which followed to strike home the nail. "As you must remember, here it is of old our custom."
              There was a pause in which Richard studied us, the women, children and grannies of town bowed down at his feet. 
              "My Lady reminds me that charity is ever a blessed custom. It shall not shorten, even by a tithe."
              The priest bowed, his pale face curdled milk. The rest of us bowed again as Lady Anne went past on her husband's arm. She was, like Our Lady Herself, a blessed intercessor.
Anne offered the nosegay she'd carried and a hank of bright blue silken thread, which we village women would later share out among us. When the lord and lady moved on, the crowd parted. As in the Earl of Warwick’s day, there’d be a pig brought from the castle for our feast...
~~~~~~Juliet Waldron
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