blog description

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

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Christmas Mothers and Cookies

Every year I make sand tarts. I mixed the dough last night. Today I begin to roll, cut and decorate them by myself. My mother and sister and I made sand tarts together for years, but I do not miss them today. I spread and turn the cold block of floury butter, sugar and eggs. I can make them my own way, not Mom’s way.

In Christmases past, the cookie baking would start well. Our best intentions arrived every year in spite of the year before. Mom would roll the dough so thin that it had to be floured enough to come away, or the stars would lose their points and Santas their hats. Mine will never be that thin, I vow, and stop rolling. When I cut them they pull away with the cutter and drop solidly onto the parchment paper. Mom would have started over and her nerves would begin to fray.

Perfectionism. That was her problem. She would hand over a tray and my sister and I would do the decorations together. First the egg wash, then the cinnamon sugar, then the chopped peanuts. Today I do the egg wash and sprinkle colored sugar. It saves two steps. I wonder what my grandmother used for decoration when she taught my mother. I see my mother helping with the cookies. In my imagination she is six years old, it is 1930, and her mother yells at her. “We can’t waste that sugar! If you can’t do it right, get out of the kitchen.” I cringe for Mom, raised during the Great Depression by a woman who refused to raise her. I shake the sugar sprinkler harder. Green flakes bounce off the tray and pile up on one tree more than the others. So there.

I put my first tray in the oven. We always burnt a tray. We tried not to by having one person watch the oven. Usually me. I would be looking out the window when Mom would notice. For several years that was when she would explode, her anger pouring over us. Anger out of all proportion. I think I was 13 or 14 when I finally got her to laugh at the burnt tray. “Well, we got this year’s burnt tray out of the way.” I pull my first tray out. It is perfect.

What was she so angry about? I wondered if it was me when I was young. Now I know better. She had a miserable childhood and was determined to create a loving home for us. It didn’t work out the way she thought it would. As a wife and a mother, I have felt the lack of appreciation, the constant expectation that my husband and child should come first. I start cutting stars and they stick. I leave the torn ones on the counter. I will squish them together and roll them out again. I know my sister and I didn’t think of Mom as a woman with a life. My second tray goes in the oven with all stars sprinkled red.

Rolling dough again, I think about those early years and the party Mom would have between the Christmas Eve services. We would go to the family service, come home and have 20 or so people drop in until we went back for the candlelight service. I pull my second tray out of the oven and half are too brown. I rolled them thinner than the rest. Mom wouldn’t have served those at her party.

I start the third tray by letting the dough soften before I roll it. In hindsight, it seems crazy that my mother not only sang in the choir but entertained them with perfect cookies the same night. There was a basis for her need to impress the churchgoers. She had gotten pregnant before meeting my dad and left town to have the baby. Fighting the judgment of others with cookies is as rational as being a Christian who condemns single mothers in my mind. I take the third tray from the oven. This one might have earned the forgiveness of the Pastor and the acolytes.

The late service was my favorite. It was a service of carols. “Silent Night” and “What Child is This” sung by candlelight gave me goose bumps. And Mother Mary was the image I saw most clearly in my imagination. No wonder we are perfectionists. The perfect mother got pregnant without having sex and never burned a tray of cookies.

I had planned on making 6 trays of sand tarts, but I’m getting tired with the fourth. Some of the trees in this batch look like they were in a blizzard, bending sideways in the gale. It has taken decades for me to shake off the idea that I wasn’t “good enough.” I know I learned a lack of self-esteem from my mom, but we both came by it easily. As good Christian ladies, we were worshipping a man born to a woman who went through the pain of labor without having had the orgasm. As my mother would have said, “What a crock.”

I roll out my last batch in record time. In honor of women everywhere, I smear the egg glaze around with my fingers and sprinkle the trees with red AND green sugar. I am a child again, not a lady-in-training. Mom is going to love these sand tarts. We will forgive ourselves and each other and feast on sugary goodness. The taste will make up for all the trouble.

Monday, December 22, 2014


Solstice Song
The place of dreams,
Of ancestors and bones,
Of chalk and flint,
Of long-lost ceremonies and
The sacred hares’ circle dance.
Beneath Grandmother’s silvered rays,
We breathe magic
Charms of frost.

~Juliet Waldron

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Holiday Rant by Orb Weaver

~~~When Orb Weaver has something truly pithy to say, she says it! Here she is, guesting on Cronehenge.~~~

Most of us have been stuck in the morass of pre-pre-holiday planning, and the fact that Chanukah and Christmas basically correspond this year have made it much easier for the two-star families … you know, David’s and Bethlehem’s.  And while our attentions have been elsewhere, shit, as they say, has been happening.  Another Seal Team 6 attempt to rescue an American failed.  Well, they got the detainee, but they sort of broke him during the transfer.  So he died on board ship.  Dead, by any other name, is still dead.  Sorry, Will.  It seemed appropriate.   

In any event, I’ve gone back to paying attention to some of the news, usually BBC and Jazeera, because they really don’t have any dogs in this fight of ours.  It’s interesting to hear how disinterested parties translate our societal ills into exactly who and what they are:  Our leaders, for the most part, are greedy malcontents with enormous appetite and capacity for what I call pure evil, what others call pure power.  They are mad with it, like the Caesars and  the Czars.  And they know the rest of the world hates us.  They don’t care.  Whatever it takes.  Just like Tony Soprano. 

But unlike Tony Soprano, whose murderous tendencies were reprehensible in that they were “only business”, ours are wholesale extermination of civilians, women and children, in what is being sold to the general public as a war against the infidels.  That always worked well in Hollywood, and it works almost as well in everyday life.  Hell, it worked pretty well for the Crusaders, with only a couple of exceptions.  Lie and call it a religious crusade, when in actuality it’s only business.  And we wonder why they hate us, these (to us) strange, proud, devout people who will never, never give up on it, this hatred of us.  And why should they?  We have proven ourselves to be incompetent in the running of our own government, so why on earth would they want to be like us?  But we can never mind our own business, alienate our allies, and there’s all that oil ... So we start a holy war of our own, Desert Storm.  So here we are, almost fifteen years later, and we have managed, with a little help from Africa, to turn the entire middle east as well as Afghanistan and Pakistan, into a complete cluster fuck.  As Tony would say.  Israel.  Palestine.  Lybia.  Iraq.  Iran.  Yemen.  Jordan.  Saudi Arabia (on a good day for OPEC).  And the worst part is that even though they hate each other, they are absolutely united in their great distaste for America.  Like we were with the Indians, and then the Chinese, and then the Italians, and then the Irish, and then the Jews followed closely by the Japanese, remember?  Well.  Now we are a tribe unto ourselves, the Americans.  And most days, we kill each other at an average of 44 people per day.  Per day.  How can that not be a national cause of alarm?

And now, to add injury to injury (the insult depends on which side you’re on), the brilliant legal minds of a Grand Jury in the City of New York decided (never mind what continues to occur in Ferguson, MO) there were no grounds to indict Officer Mark Pagano for his successful employment of the illegal choke hold.  Never mind this officer has been censured on several occasions due to civilian complaints.  Never mind two law suits were settled by the NYPD on plaintiffs who sued the NYPD and Officer Pagano in, I believe, civil rights violations.  And so we have a multitude of disenfranchised, underemployed, UNemployed, uneducated and UNWILLING folks ... men and women who are tired of burying their children, their husbands, and are UNWILLING to allow this to continue.  And what do we do?  What answers do we have?  Are human beings in general genetically hardwired to hate whatever is different?  I thought we settled all that shit in the ‘60s and ‘70s.  So here we are again, shades of Detroit, vestiges of Watts, the smoke’s the same, the flames burn as brightly now as then.  Fueled by the same unkept promises.  Enabled. 

I’m starting to be reasonably uneasy with my government.  I’ve had other periods of distrust in the course of the last 50 years, and I’ve witnessed them behaving badly a thousand times, with no recourse in places like Kent State and Chicago, but this is more than that.  This is an ear-to-the-ground kind of thing, like an oncoming train making the tracks hum from ten miles away.  You know you have some time, but not much, before the 3:11 makes mush of you.  That’s what I’m feeling.   You know, the feeling you get when you hear “Something’s Coming” from West Side Story.  Yeah, that feeling. 

Could it be?  Yes, it could.  But it won’t.  This ain’t Broadway, and Leonard ain’t directing.  And what’s coming is way more Sondheim than Lion King.  I hear Wagner.  And a little bit of Schumann.  I want to run into the street, screaming for people to wake up.  But I won’t.  Jail is not a place I want to be.  And so ... the proletariat will once again hide from what they don’t want to see, or hear, or experience.  They will cling to the little electronic gadgets they hold pressed to their very noses, and they will never make eye contact, and they will be safe.  Let me know how that works out for ya.


Wednesday, November 19, 2014

A G.O.M.E.R. Story, or Death by Carrot

The best laid plans gang aft awry, or whatever the exact quote is. I had a plan for this autumn, as I’ve had borderline too many commitments to handle. I had a plot this year in our town's community garden. I was lucky to get a space in this gold-plated community effort, for once my town decides to do something,  it is all-the-way luxury class. We have an electronic gate, a sturdy fence, and the township supplies aged compost and sturdy raised boxes. We’ve had a rather chilly autumn this year and so it’s been a question for this old person of waiting for the stillest and warmest day possible to finish up. I’d watched Weather World from Penn State faithfully; I’d seen an upcoming Monday and Tuesday were going to be the last hurrah of Indian Summer. Perfect, I thought, as this was the drop dead-week for clearing up at that garden!

In the meantime, I was consuming those vegetables, both my own and those of generous neighbors. On the fatal day, I’d had a delicious lunch of peppers stuffed with beans, sprouts, bright orange winter squash and finished  with a fresh apple—a crisp, yet sugary Empire, I believe.  The coup de grace to this high fiber orgy was an entire, crunchy, raw-from-the-garden carrot.

Oh, and BTW the backstory is that there are significant portions of gut missing after a long illness followed by two surgeries.  By 5 p.m. that evening, I knew I was in trouble; by midnight, the waves of pain were mountainous. It was time to head to the ER for the ritual vein piercing, then you’re a sad-sack bit of flesh still warm only because of attentive nursing and Ringer’s Lactase drip.   Needless to say, I was in hospital during those two warm days in which I’d planned to make my final harvest of even more sprouts, kale and beets. Only the beets, after my release from the hospital, are on the menu—for the next few months, at least. After that, caution is advised regarding how much fiber goes in.  My friendly neighbor was happy to receive the two 4 foot stalks of sprouts; the kale went into the community fridge in the hopes someone wanted or knew what to do with it's dino-hide leaves.

It's sobering to realize that ingesting a raw carrot can actually be a flirtation with death. Confusing a desire "to live normally,” with how far I’m truly able to do so, slides easily into the realm of “denial.” How easy for this old lady to stray over the line!

 Juliet Waldron       Amazon Author Page                            Website                 Facebook Author Page

 (Photos of Day of the Dead altars at Smithsonian, Museum of the American Indian.)




Friday, November 7, 2014

BLACK MAGIC - An excerpt

(Published by surprise--but here it is while I run around like crazy, playing internet catch-up!)

           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, like 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, Held, 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, 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 so, a little puzzled, a buzzing rush of energy blasted into his feet.

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


~ Juliet Waldron ~
Buy the Book:  (I could really use a review...)

Thursday, October 30, 2014

The Indoor Plant Conundrum

This is the time of year when I repot my indoor plants, getting them ready for winter and the tougher, dryer, darker conditions of house living. I've had a plant called a Hoya since the summer of 1969 when we moved into our first house, a ramshackle money-pit of a farmhouse set in the middle of a Connecticut cornfield. The Hoya was given to me by the seller as a few cuttings stuck in a pot of dirt. This plant liked light, I was told, and it would create flowers once a year that had a "lovely" scent. Best place to hang it up = the bathroom. So, as a new homeowner, young housewife and would-be plant person, I followed directions. I watered the Hoya regularly and fed it, because that was how my mother-in-law took care of her plants. (As a sidebar, hers, on a steady diet of Miracle Grow(c) had grown to be Little Shop of Horrors sized monsters.)

The Hoya grew, the tough vines and rubbery leaves multiplying. The following spring, it bloomed, a white compound S/F type bloom, each single five-starred floret brightened by a red dot in the middle. Soon I realized the flowers were oozing and dripping sap all over the linoleum, sap which took some effort to scrub away. You could smell it at night, too, as promised, a heavy, sweet, rather sickening smell. ("Lovely" it was not.) Then, one by one, the florets dried. One by one they fell, scattering their little sticky brown selves all over the laundry, or whatever happened to be underneath. Every 3-4 years, the Hoya needed a complete repot, because it had filled the container  with a rock-hard root-ball, in the same way spider plants do. I dumped it out, took a few starter vines + rubbery leaves and began all over again.

This plant has lived in Connecticut (10 years), in Tennessee (4 years) and in Hershey (31 years), transported as a cutting in pots rowed up in the back of a VW bug. I have followed the life cycle, fed, watered, cleaned-up after and re-potted the Hoya many, many times.

Autumn draws on apace, and the Hoya sits on the back patio, waiting. I've stared at it many times during the last month, in those last warm days of October wondering when it would reach the top of the to-do list. Then, recently, sitting at the picnic table with Bob keeping me company (lying atop the magazine I had been reading), the Hoya caught my eye once more. Now, I have many things to tend this autumn, what with writing and all the crap that goes with it, volunteerism, meetings, pets, a husband, a house I haven't cleaned thoroughly since spring, and two gardens, neither of which I've put to bed as yet.  

I ruminated on the Hoya as the leaves of the old sugar maple drifted past. The plant sat there, pot-bound and not looking too happy at being left for so long out-of-doors in the wind and chill. Why did I go on keeping it? Simply because I had kept it for so long? Return to paragraph two, kind reader, and you will see the hard facts, the reality of owning a Hoya, which I had, for the first time, finally taken the time to inventory.

This may just be the year I get over my inability to let things go and just say the hell with it.

Juliet Waldron
See All my historical novels


Sunday, October 19, 2014

Champlain's Dream

An author, distinguished historian David Hackett Fischer, tells us how Champlain, a pragmatic, thoughtful French explorer of the early 1600’s, experienced the cultures of the Algonquin Indians whom he encountered.  A man who’d emerged from the bloody violence of France’s religious wars with an open, rather than a closed mind, Champlain understood how to induce people of varied backgrounds to cooperate. His belief in the universal nature of humankind, whatever their nation, allowed him to approach the Indigenous Sauvage with an attitude of respect.

A dream - so ephemeral a thing! Here is one that Champlain experienced 400 + years ago in the forests north of the lake which is now named for him. With a war party of sixty Indians, he and two other Frenchmen traveled into the forbidden territory of the Iroquois, with whom the Algonquin’s were eternally at war.  They traveled at night, and every morning, as they drew closer to danger, the places where the guardians of the Eastern Gate, the Mohawk, lay in wait for their enemies, the chiefs asked Champlain “if he had dreamed about their enemies.” For many days, “no” was the answer.  Then, one morning, about 11 a.m. he awoke and called the Indians to him. At last, as they’d seemed to expect, he’d dreamed.

“I dreamed I saw in the lake near a mountain, our enemies, the Iroquois drowning before our eyes. I wanted to rescue them, but our Indian allies told me that we should let them all die, for they were worth nothing.”

David Hackett Fischer then adds: “The Indians recognized the place in Champlain’s dream as a site that lay just ahead, and they were much relieved…To Champlain’s Indian allies, dreams not only revealed the future. They controlled it.”

A few days later, the Mohawk encountered European firearms in battle for the first time. Surprised by a man in armor and two sharpshooters with long-distance, deadly weapons stationed amid the enemy’s ranks, they were defeated. Champlain’s dream, seen as a prophecy, was true.

To me it seems that Champlain, surrounded by a gigantic, primal forest and the aboriginal people who inhabited it, had moved into another kind of consciousness, one which transcended his European world view and linear time.  The chiefs were content, pleased that their new friend had dreamed so positively, while Champlain, privately, may have been amazed - and even more so in the aftermath of the battle.  



Juliet Waldron
Historical Novels

Quotes taken from Champlain's Dream by David Hackett Fischer

Friday, September 26, 2014


Today, I was in the kitchen hand-washing a few dishes. Hot water came from the tap and a nice container of blue Dawn (c) sat by the sink. As I washed, I felt slightly put out. Always some darn mess in the kitchen to clear up! If you cook at home, you clean-up at home, and as we are mostly stay-at-home eaters, that's the reality with which we live.

The water was hot, the sponge was clean--I've got a thing about changing sponges every day or so. The task was not really unpleasant. I'd already wiped away the grease from a frying pan with a paper towel and dropped that into the trash.

I've an old eco-habit of turning the water off and then turning it back on again as I repeat the cycle of wash and rinse. I reached to close the faucet with one hand, and with the other, laid the clean pot in the dish rack.

As I did this, I abruptly realized how lucky I am that this clean--potable, actually--water just comes out of my faucet simply because I turn the handle.  I can even ask that it arrive ready heated for cleaning purposes. If I drink from the cold tap, it won't taste that great and probably isn't, long term, that good for me, but even without filtering, it's not going to give me cholera or dysentery. I actually live in one of the privileged places on this planet, this despite the fact that in my wealthy town, I'm po ' folks.

I turned over in my mind scenes of women and girls daily trudging hot, dusty miles while lugging heavy pots of water simply to supply a bare minimum basic needs, then thanked my stars  that I was washing dishes in a fine stainless steel sink of a functional height with plenty of running hot water.  And although I've been washing up since I was a kid--in this life, it appears that is a an unvarying part of my destiny--for the first time, I felt a real change of heart, an attitude adjustment at a root level. From now on, I'll remind myself to feel gratitude while I wash those dishes.

~Juliet Waldron

Historical Novels with setting that stretch from the 15th to the 19th Century

Friday, August 22, 2014

A Visit With the Mother

A small cabin sits on the shore of a quiet lake. It is made of wood, tightly constructed. One room, with a steeply pitched roof, it is snug and dry and comfortable. On the side facing the lake there is a roofed porch running the width of the cabin. Between the porch and the lake there is a picnic table, fire ring, and a few trees. I am stopping here for only two days, but even the shortest break from the busyness of home is a welcomed one. I quickly settle in.
I listen to rain fall all night, but I wake to sunlight and air that is fresh, even cool for August. After breakfast,  I set up a place on the porch. With the cooler in front of my chair, I am lounging in a lovely forest room. I pick up my laptop and begin writing. It is a revelation at first. I am using this tool for the first reason I had for buying it. It is a word processor. Without the distractions of an internet connection, it works amazingly well. I write long after noon. Lunch becomes dinner and after editing my work at the picnic table, I am ready for a break.
I return to my seat on the porch with a book – a Kindle in fact. These electric tools seem out of place, but they do not intrude on the silence. I am reading the second chapter when I notice movement on my left. I look over and down at the short space between the rails and the floor and there is the body of a black snake. The body is moving, and moving, and moving but there is no head or tail in sight. As the apparent length of this fellow dawns on me, a tiny head looks over the foot rail well around the corner, nearly in front of me. Its face has a very small rounded nose, tiny eyes, and a smooth line that is its mouth. My visitor looks rather friendly, as if this hesitant movement, and the pause during which we look into each other’s eyes, is a meeting of alien minds. We have the same needs: green leaves, blue sky, rippling water, and, well, we won’t dwell on food right now. But the need we are satisfying at the moment is companionship. Woman or snake – we all need someone with whom to enjoy this day, this sun, this world.
Finally, the snake sticks his tongue out at me and breaks the spell. I know the boy and girls at the next site would love to see this handsome snake, so I invite the family to cross our short divide of small hill and slender trees to get a look at a real, wild snake.  They rush over and check him out, ooh and aah at his size, and embarrass him right off into the woods. He reproaches me for a moment, heading toward my feet, reminding me that we might have been quiet friends. I hope he knows I love him but wanted to share him. Okay, I wanted to show him off. He disappears in moments.   
Days later, I will learn that in many cultures a snake is seen as our umbilical cord to the Mother. He was a messenger to me, reminding me that I am tethered to this Earth. In my mind, I thank the snake for blessing me with this message. I wish him many baby snakes and a long life.
When night falls, I light a small fire in my metal fire-ring. As I look at the light reflected on the leaves above me, I hear a plop in the water below me. Thinking I might have heard a ripple meeting the shore, I continue watching the fire and the lights reflecting on the far side of the lake.  The next watery sound I hear is definitely caused by a swimmer. I step down to the shoreline and place my hand against a tree to steady myself. I wait for a while but find myself enjoying this moment without added drama. The tree’s bark is surprisingly smooth and warm to my touch. I think of her roots, deep in the ground, drinking happily from the muddy water inches from her trunk. Some low branches brush  the surface of the lake, and I imagine all the life that might be sleeping, eating, or simply being there in the shelter of her green leaves and small stems. I share her view across the lake and I listen for anything she might like to tell me.
The idea that occurrs to me, after a motionless time, is “eternity.”  The knowledge that this tree will grow while these stars shine and this water whispers for a time I cannot measure fills me with a fullness, a roundness. I cannot describe the happiness I feel at being a small part of such a vast existence. There is comfort in seeing and being and letting it be enough of a contribution in this quadrillionth of a speck of eternity. So I tell the tree, “Thank you for this blessing.”  And I bring this interlude with me when I return to my busy life – always there, always inviting me to return. When I experience my oneness with our Mother, there is no need for anything more.