Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Full Mead Moon



Goody Prymm was up early, entreating Remember to help her prepare for this important day.  She was feeling especially good---much better than of late---and wanted to go to the woods.  Remember was holding the now-healed crow, feeding him some fruit gathered from the small orchard  trees out back and asked Imagination what was so special about this day.  Why, this was St. John's Eve---Midsummer's Eve!  A time for gathering herbs, which would be at their most potent, and wildflowers, too!  It was a day and night of celebration, one she would not soon forget.  Hearing these things, Remember quickly placed Nightfeather back in his enclosure, Goody Prymm giving her a look of remonstrance, as he was fully healed now and should be set free.  Remember shifted her eyes away and ignored the old woman's silent reproach.  She had grown attached to the bird, as Goody Prymm had cautioned, and did not want to let him go...not just yet, at least.


So they gathered their baskets and filled them with the herbed bread prepared the night before, some cheese, and elderberry wine that Goody Prymm had traded for dyeing Goody Coffin's linen, Goody Prymm also tucking colorful strips of ribboned cloth in her pocket. Out the door they went, stopping first in their own gardens, Goody Prymm instructing Remember to pick specific herbs for this day:  St. John's wort, hyssop, sage, mint, basil, parsley, rosemary, lavender, and feverfew.  She did not speak of their healing properties this time; rather they simply enjoyed the plants' sensual aspects.  With each bunch they picked, the herbs released their aromas, full and strong.  Then the two headed to the meadows and finally to the woods, where they would pick meadowsweet and various wildflowers, and cut small branches of rowan, oak, fir, and pine.  The day was exquisite for walking and foraging in the wild!  This was Goody Prymm's day, her gait more spritely than usual and a healthy flush in her cheeks.  It was as though she were the herbs they harvested, full and strong, and at her very best.


Their baskets overflowing, they walked the now-familiar path to the black pool, a favorite spot for them, as it was always cool and restful.  Sitting down on the old log, they took out their fare and began to eat, the elderberry wine sweet and potent, a perfect accompaniment to the herbed bread and cheese.  And then they dined leisurely, taking in the day, Goody Prymm sharing things she never had before.  Tomorrow the sun would be at its height and then, just like that! magickally begin to weaken; it was a turning of sorts, the first trace of a seasonal change.  In her grandmother's day, they would decorate using oak leaves and holly, while her mother would visit shrines and holy wells and springs, dressing them with flowers.  All sorts of folly occurred on this eve and day!  Ramblings in the local woods, even wheels of fire rolled down great hills!  Remember listened, her eyes wide with wonder as she tried to picture these things in her mind.  Goody Prymm continued with stories of rites and spells, so to speak, performed to help women get married and have children, adding that it was said that such a night "set many cradles a-rocking," her stopping and smiling wistfully at the thought.  Coming out of her revery, Goody Prymm said now it was time to weave flower wreaths for their heads!  Here her ancient hands seemed deft at forming her wreath, fingers no longer stiff and slow, and Remember emulating her methods of twining and winding, adding her own sprays and colorful combinations according to what pleased her.  And this was why Goody Prymm brought the colorful ribbons!  As they worked, Goody Prymm recited a poem, soft and low...

"Yes, you are here in the soft buzzing grass.
Yes, you are listening among the flowering gardens.
Yes, you are shining from the most royal blue sky.
Yes, you are granting me what I wish tonight.
Grant me a healthy life with high purpose,
A true true partner to share my joys and my tears,
Wisdom to hear your voice giving me guidance,
Wealth to give to others as you have given to me."

And she wondered who Goody Prymm was thinking about as she spoke the words, a soft smile on her lips.  When they had finished their Midsummer wreaths, they gently placed each other's wreath on the other's head, all smiles and grins at their creations, Remember exclaiming that Goody Prymm never looked more beautiful than on this day!

They spent the remainder of the afternoon, talking and sharing while weaving a great wreath of oak, pine, holly, and fern that they would hang on their door when they returned home.  The woods were alive with magick that day, verdant and lush, colorful mushrooms growing on the ferny floors, the dank scent of greenness all around them, the dark pool gurgling with its clean, cold water.  Before they knew it, it was time to head back as Goody Prymm announced that the gloaming was at hand...that time of "betwixt and between," the time right before nightfall.  Gathering their now-empty baskets, Remember placing their door wreath around her neck, they walked the path leisurely to their home, looking, for all the world, like woodland fairies with their flowered head wreaths.


When they arrived, Goody Prymm instructed Remember to gather kindling and wood for an outdoor fire, while she placed the Great Midsummer Wreath on the batten door.  Stepping back, admiring their work, Goody Prymm smiled at the distant memories it evoked.


Soon night had indeed fallen, just as it promised, and a Full Moon rose in the sky.  The fire blazing now, Remember brought out their chairs to enjoy Midsummer's Eve, while Goody Prymm went inside to retrieve a special treat.  Upon her return she was carrying a vessel that she said contained mead, a rich honey ale that she had been brewing for a year. The Full Moon in this month had many names...Herb Moon, Strawberry Moon, and Honey Moon being but a few.  But for a Full Moon to occur on this night was a rarity, and special indeed, Goody Prymm choosing to call it a Full Mead Moon.  Remember had never tasted mead, but that first sip was like sipping the nectar of the sweetest meadow flowers in the world!  Goody Prymm laughed at the young girl's expression and then cautioned her to sip very slowly and enjoy the night.  As they sipped their mead and watched the fire, Goody Prymm told her that this was a time to acknowledge the wild things of this world...things that can be enjoyed, yes, but cannot and should not be tamed or controlled, Remember not replying but knowing full well what she meant.  Then Imagination changed the subject and talked about their head and door wreaths being symbols of seasonal cycles...and reminding the young girl that everything in this life changes...and to appreciate even the dark times when they come---and they would come---because such times make a person stronger and yet more appreciative of life's transitory and beautiful moments.  Then she playfully recited a poem from her childhood:

"St. John's wort doth charm all witches away
If gathered at midnight on the saint's holy day.
Any devils and witches have no poem to harm
Those that gather the plant for a charm."


At the owl's cry, Goody Prymm said it was time to toss their head wreaths into the fire, signaling the end of Midsummer's Eve.  Each removed the wreath from her own head, Remember somewhat reluctantly, and then threw them, one at a time, into the fire, the smell of burning herbs and flowers perfuming the night air around them with their earthy scents.

Afterwards, they lifted their cups and toasted one another, honoring each other's strengths and beauty, and drank in the moment.





***With a nod to "Summer Solstice Mythology:  Midsummer Night," from Arthur George's blog Mythology Matters, June 19, 2015; and "Celebrating Midsummer," from Waverly Fitzgerald's blog School of the Seasons, 1998.

***The first poem is from Zsuzsanna E. Budapest's book, The Grandmother of Time.  

© 2017 Nancy Duncan

Friday, June 16, 2017

Remember Me



I just couldn't stand it.  My hands were itching to begin another piece...all day long yesterday and the day before I stewed about it.  Today, though, I awakened with renewed fervor...and know the bones of what I will be working on...

The Crow in flight.  My drawing is sketchy :) but the stitching will be more detailed.  Mostly stitched in that deep black...but with shades of deep blue, the way you see a Crow's feathers in the light.  I may use silk thread for the black, as it has a sheen to it...

The blue reminds me of this early, early morning sky, a Waning Moon peeping through the branches of the Three Sisters...I often awaken before the light of day.  I see things that would otherwise be missed!

I'd like to incorporate outstretched arms at the bottom of the piece...but my vision often does not line up with reality.  We'll see.  Whose outstretched arms do you think they would be?

Update:  So I've whip-stitched the edges so that the linen does not unravel.  I think I will be making this design into a small pillow, primitively stitched around the edges with my own drop spindle handspun linen thread, and stuffed with fresh straw.  Would Remember have done it that way?


Just like I did with the rabbit on the Tombstone tympanum, I traced my Crow design directly onto the linen.  Can you see his spirit there?  I almost feel as though this is cheating...that it should be done freehand, but that is very difficult to do for me, having learned that lesson from stitching the Black Rabbit that way on Goody Prymm's sampler.  All turned out well, but had it not, well, that would've been a lot of ripping out and a loss of black silk thread, and perhaps even destroying the linen in the process!  Some of you might recall GP's sampler, earlier on in the Goody Prymm series...











A note on the linen for this new piece.  It is 35-count "Anne Boleyn" from The Primitive Hare.  It makes a beautiful ground, especially for black thread.  I have stitched a blackwork piece using this linen, as well as the Besom Hanger that I designed.  One I sold and the other I gave away.  I will keep this one for my Goody Prymm pieces collection.  See how nicely the Crow stands out against that linen.  Can't wait to add the blue accents!

Update:  This  morning...a little "storm stitching," as it rains and thunders!  Lovely way to pass a summer morning...Why, you must be thinking, "How slow she is with her stitching!"  Yup. Slow and quiet and easy does it this morning...gotta fill in all those spots.  Don't know why but, when I was at University, I had no problem sitting still through three-hour lectures.  But when I embroider, I must get up and move quite often, else I get too "antsy."  Notice, too, that I'm using an embroidery hoop now.  Although I really enjoy just holding the linen in my hands unadorned with a hoop, here you can see how important using one is.  For one, the linen was beginning to pucker, this being a satin stitch fill-in.  Also, by stretching the linen more tautly, the gaps reveal themselves...gaps that will need to be filled in.  The hoop (now vintage), btw, was my mother's, made of a different wood...rather pretty, and always nice to use something of hers.

Update:  The gaps are being filled in...now that I've gotten some obligations out of the way, I can really set about finishing this piece, which must be done for next week...can you imagine why?



I added some purple silk accents (not blue, as in the story Remember strokes his "black-purple feathers").  The accents really aren't so pronounced as they appear in this picture (though I wish I had used only one thread for the accents, as opposed to two)...but it does look as though I need to do some touch-ups, especially on the tail feathers.  After those reparations, on to the lettering!  What will it say?  "Remember me."



Update:  I've begun the lettering, poring over these two iconic books (you veteran stitchers know what I'm talking about)...



...and decided to go with the same lettering as I used in Remember's sampler.  Those of you who have been Goody Prymm followers from the beginning will recognize it.  Although Remember could read, she could not write (as was common for many during this time), so Goody Prymm taught her her letters through stitching a sampler!  I think it will be Remember's signature from now on.  Yes, that's little Smoke atop the e and the m.  :)



Update:  This morning I've been drop spindling flax, which I intend to use to sew the little pillow together.  I must admit I had to review the process, as it has been a while since I've spindle spun flax. Ah, yes!  It must be spun counterclockwise.  Why?  Supposedly because that's the way the plant grows toward the sun.  Also, spinning "z twist" makes the bast fibers adhere to one another more strongly.  The first photo is of the flax strick (or part of it) that I used.  I was told that it is antique, found hanging in a barn in Kentucky, according to the Smoky Mountain Spinnery shop owner where I purchased it.  Charming idea, certainly.  The second photo is my flax water container.  It's a tiny gourd that has been hollowed out and wrapped in handspun flax, which can be hung on the spinning wheel, if that's what is being used to spin.  I just set it on a nearby table.  The old spinners of days past would use their spit.  I prefer the water.  :). The wet also helps the fibers to adhere.  Wool (as opposed to flax) is a protein fiber and has its own interlocking properties and so does not need moisture.  The third picture is my spinning caught in action.  Just look at me go, lol!  Dance, little spindle, dance!



This last picture is what I've spun, a nice little "cop" there on my spindle (now you know why, in fairy tales, the maiden is "flaxen-haired").  I may need to spin more.  I will let it rest on my spindle for a day or so and then see if it is usable to sew my pillow together.  As in all things, my spinning got better after a little while, although earlier some of the linen thread was quite thin and uneven.  Threading it through the linen and backing will determine its "staying" power.  We shall see!!




Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Waxing Gibbous

It was early evening when Goody Prymm asked Remember to join her in the gardens...that she had some things she needed to share with her.  Given the seriousness of Imagination's tone, Remember, who had been stroking Nightfeather, gently put the crow back into his enclosure and promptly joined Goody Prymm outside.



It was a glorious Spring evening, later promising bright moonlight, as the Lady, Goody Prymm's special name for her, would be waxing gibbous, perfect, she said, for promoting strong leaf growth, and adding that a gibbous moon was one of love, friendship, and courage.  Remember always loved that about Goody Prymm...that she saw beyond the tangible.  They strolled around their gardens, acknowledging the fine progress, Goody Prymm speaking her quiet truths.  The yarrow was beginning to blossom fully now, the blooms excellent for inducing the sweats for breaking fever, and the chewed leaves helpful for alleviating the pain of toothache.  It was a wonderful plant for a healer to grow!  If applied as a poultice, or used in a bath, it would take away the discomfort of rash and heal broken skin.  Finely powdered and sprinkled on minor wounds, yarrow would staunch the bleeding.  Why, if added to a footbath, it chased away the chilblains of a winter's night, a truly remarkable plant.

Stopping to appreciate and touch the bright yellow flowerheads rocking gently with the breeze, Goody Prymm playfully shared an ancient superstition that, if thrown into the fire, the flames of the burning flower would reveal one's future husband! Together they laughed at such a foolish belief.  Then Goody Prymm added in a more sobering tone that people usually find what they are looking for...if it is witches they want to find, it is witches that will be found...but if one looks for beauty and truth, then that is what will be found.   She fervently hoped Remember always looked for truth and beauty in this world.


They ambled on, the crickets beginning their nightsong and the toads their mating croaks, whereupon they stopped to enjoy and taste the minty greenness of the catmint, which was growing profusely now.  Used to relieve chest congestion and phlegm, catmint also aided in reducing stress and anxiety,  Goody Prymm stating that one's mental and emotional state were often a precursor to some physical ailments...that it was always important to minister to the whole person when healing or otherwise, using not only knowledge and experience but also kindness and compassion, Remember picking a small bit and sticking it in her pocket for little Smoke's enjoyment later on.  And on they walked, Goody Prymm sharing basil's use for calming coughs...and the juice of rue to treat earaches.  Inhaling the sweet late spring scents on the wind, the old woman expressed how serene a garden was! That it was, in fact, more than a garden.  It was a teacher of patience, trust, and---here her words slowed---acceptance of those things that can't be changed.  Here she waxed about the essentialness of dormancy in plants...and, in fact, cycles---in plants, in the moon, in the seasons!  That they were indeed all necessary and all truth, Remember listening with great reverence but also with a touch of questioning alarm at Goody Prymm's seeming urgency to tell her these things.

At the mention yet again of truth, Remember summoned her courage and quietly confessed to Goody Prymm of her having read some of Imagination's writings she found in the old slope desk while Imagination was away that day...the very day that she was securing Remember's stay.  At this revelation, Imagination went quiet, and then expressed, soft and low, her deep disappointment in Remember.  If she were curious about the desk, why hadn't she simply asked about it...to which, in her silence, Remember had no good answer.  Goody Prymm then proceeded to express again how a garden teaches trust...and that trust was essential for all things to grow and flourish.  They walked on, Goody Prymm continuing to share her lifetime of wisdom.


Soon the Lady was up in her starry realm, her moonbeams streaming down on the gardens, giving them another cast, an other-worldliness.  Goody Prymm was tiring and, sighing, expressed her desire to go in and have some tea, a nice lemon balm tea for healing.  Acquiescing to the old woman's need, Remember followed closely behind her down their garden path.  Before reaching their threshold, though, Goody Prymm turned, took Remember's hand and, looking directly and deeply into the young girl's eyes, stated that all Remember would ever really need was right here...that she should trust...that, just like for the birds and the beasts, and with resourcefulness and faith, life would provide. Seeming to understand, Remember nodded her head in earnest.  At that, they opened the door and went in to have their evening tea.

© 2017 Nancy Duncan

Monday, June 12, 2017

Green Witch's Report for Summer: June



Wasn't the Moon beautiful last night!  Did you see it...did you take the time to watch her rise in the night sky?  She is Waxing Gibbous, looking a little lopsided on the right side, which means she is moving away from last Friday's Fullness, headed toward the New Moon, which won't be for a while yet.  It's best to plant above-ground plants when the Moon is waxing, but I decided to add a few more plants while the temperatures were still, well, temperate. :)

So what did I plant...ah!  Some Rue!  I love its bitter smell, which sweetens as it dries, going from a blue-green to a tan-yellow.  Great for wreath making!  And I planted one of my old favorites...Yarrow...this one is called "Moonshine," and will also be wonderful for accenting dried wreaths (Can you tell what I'm going to be doing this Autumn?).  I used to craft all kinds of things from Nature...and I want to return to that more often.  You know, move away from the computer and its "manmade-ness" and back in touch with the authentic things this beautiful world offers.  Isn't the leafery on the Rue lovely?  And that bright bold yellow of the Yarrow!  Pictures are nice, but it's much more satisfying to be able to feel and smell these plants, too....


Of course, I planted more Lavender...and also some Catmint...



My Mexican Mint Marigold, lol, looks as though she has little ones in tow!  Oh, how sweet they smell when dried!  They will get tiny, understated yellow flowers which work nicely as accents for any Autumn wreath.  I will also plant a patch of Silver King Artemisia this evening, its ghostly grey-green wonderful for the base of wreaths...


The Summer Phlox, also smelling sweetly, will bloom all Summer long...such a beautiful pink...given to me by a gardener friend who lives on the nearby spring-fed pond.  When you cultivate a Garden, you cultivate friends, too!



The Lilies are doing fairly well, though not as well as last year...it's interesting how the Garden stays basically the same, yet is different each year depending upon what the weather has been...

The Abelia is abloom, inviting the occasional bumblebee and many honey bees...



As for the critters in and around my gardens, this Big Boy (what I've dubbed him) is a Texas Spiny Lizard...here he camouflages himself on my weathered tobacco-stick tripod in the Moon Garden...can you see how fat he (or could it be a she?!) is???  Believe it or not, they are quite sociable creatures!





This pile of sticks below fell a little at a time from the tops of the Three Sisters...a nest for the Mississippi Kites that return each year.  There is a fledgling up there, I know, as I have found a large fluffy feather or two in my Gardens, as well as evidence of feedings (frog legs in my bird bath!).  They are the most graceful of flyers, these Kites, and their high-pitched whistle as they soar above the trees makes me happy that they return each year.




Nature has so much to offer...you just have to be observant and use your imagination (a desirable activity).  I stopped the other day to pick Queen Anne's Lace, growing wild in a field...placed them to dry between the pages of a heavy book...and voila!  Snowflakes for a Rosemary tree this Christmas!


And, yes, my dear little Owls are still about, as well as Toads...

In this world there are landscapers...and then there are gardeners.  As for myself, I prefer being a gardener.  There's a certain emotional investment that comes with it, teaching me so much more than what the eye can see...

© 2017 Nancy Duncan

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Knitting With Owls



For the next several weeks, I will be working on different projects.  I've completed the Goody Prymm Tombstone sampler and I've only three more episodes to write before laying that goode lady to rest.  So, not being one to just sit around idly, I will be typing my GP manuscript...cleaning it up and connecting the literary dots, so to speak...which I will continue when I return from Iceland in late July.  Then I shall set about writing query letters to publishers and seeing if anyone is interested.  Fingers crossed.

I do have a wool appliqué project swirling around in my head, as I've been commissioned to create a piece for Christmastime, and I also will be busy knitting my vest!


And that brings me to this topic, "Knitting With Owls."  Knitting does not come easily for me.  I enjoy it and have knitted a few lovely things, lace knitting especially.  But it's a love/dislike thing for me.  I love choosing a new project, I love creating something from scratch, I love the selection of wool yarns from which to choose, and I love the feel of those yarns between my fingers.  I think most of us who create are very tactile by nature.  I know I am.  If someone I know is wearing something inviting to the fingers, I will politely ask them if I can touch it.  They always acquiesce and I think they enjoy the compliments bestowed about their garment.  I enjoy the peace of knitting quietly of an afternoon, though I must confess my hands and fingers tire much more easily than they do with embroidery.

On the whole, I enjoy embroidery and appliqué work much more...and these thoughts led me to analyze myself more deeply.  Knitting is very precise...it's structure...counting...figuring....it's, well, mathematical.  Many knitting designers are also engineers, I've discovered, so there you have it.  I am not a precise person by nature...in fact, I'm often openly defiant of precision when it comes to creating.  I'm more intuitive.  Embroidery allows me to be this way.  Knitting does not.  This is not to say that I can't be precise...oh, that comes in my writing!  I will sketch out notes for a chapter ahead of time, just to know where I'm going, and then put my fingers to the keyboard and let it fly.  THEN I go back, and back, and back yet again to rephrase, to clarify, to add, to find just the right word.  In essence, my language needs that precision to communicate precisely what it is I want to communicate.



I think stretching one's self...moving out of one's comfort zone is very healthy, so long as it is not a harmful thing.  And knitting is stretching for me.  When I complete this vest (notice I said "when" not "if"), I will wear it with joy, knowing that I created it and that it was something that was challenging for me to complete.  The yarn comes from my friend's sheep farm in Central Sweden, the wool of which is processed in Denmark.  My yarn happens to come from the Wensleydale and Jacob breeds that she raises there.  I have for a number of years "adopted" a Spelsau ram on her farm, meaning I help to pay for his survival.  He's gorgeous, an ancient breed of sheep from the Viking Age.  So I know where the wool comes from, where it has been processed, who knitted it...and you just can't say that by buying a machine-made sweater from some department store.



So what does knitting have to do with owls?  I sit in my special chair, where all of my creating happens, open the windows, and listen to them hoot, and trill, roosting right outside those windows.  It is so calming.  Knitting with owls.  You should try it some time...

© 2017 Nancy Duncan

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

The Union

Remember awakened to the sound of Nightfeather making his subsong of coos, rattles, and clicks, none of which seemed alarmed.  Nevertheless, she was somewhat alarmed at the possibility of Smoke's access to the healing bird and hustled into the hall to check on him.  Relieved, she saw their bandaged feathered guest was still in his enclosure, safe and sound by the fireplace...but to her surprise, Smoke was lying next to the box, curled up beside it, sleeping.  Apparently the small feline found pleasing company with Nightfeather, and he with her, the crow continuing his soft sounds to the slumbering Smoke.  Remember stood smiling at the wonder when in walked Goody Prymm telling her that she must get dressed in haste, for they had an important event to attend in the village.  The old woman refused to say anything else until they were walking to their destination, which was to be the Ipswich Meetinghouse.


On the pathway leading to the village, a trail which originated with the Pawtucket, Goody Prymm quietly and gently explained that Remember's surrogate mother, Goody Minter, was to be married this day to Goodman Cooper.  This news quite stopped Remember in her tracks.  Looking at Goody Prymm, completely unable to find words, her expression revealed the shock and alarm she felt.  Was she now to return to Goody Minter and take her place as daughter of Goodman Cooper and sister to little Longing?  This prospect did not please her in the least, as this would be a fourth home for her...and just as she had found what she considered to be her true home!  To have to adjust yet again would be too much to bear!  They spoke no further after that, the silence oppressive, and soon arrived at the Meetinghouse.

There stood Goody Minter and Goodman Cooper with his little daughter, the casual ceremony about to begin.  It lasted but a few moments, as Puritans did not consider marriage a religious rite (the Bible did not designate it as such), but rather was considered a civil affair officiated by the local Magistrate.  This union would be one of economic and mutual interests, as so many often were in these days...Goody Minter having been widowed and---except for taking in Remember---childless for over seven years...and Goodman Cooper having lost his wife and four children to the fever, leaving only him and his little daughter, Longing, who desperately needed a mother figure and feminine guidance.
Remember stood speechless next to Goody Prymm, who continued looking forward, her old hand reaching down and taking the young girl's hand, giving it a reassuring squeeze.

Following the ceremony, those who wished walked to Goody Minter's home for cake, rum and sack, a heady wine, to mark the union.  All chattered pleasantly, Remember and Goody Prymm also visiting with the guests, most of whom they knew through midwifery or healing, and some through bartering.  Soon it was time to go and Goody Prymm, wishing the couple a fortuitous marriage, started to leave.  Not knowing what was expected of her, Remember just stood there, lost.  At the door, though, Imagination turned and looked at Remember as if saying, "Are you coming?"  Wasting not a moment, Remember ran to Goody Minter and embraced her lightly, wishing them all well and then joined Goody Prymm.  It seemed as though she had escaped her destiny, at least for the time being.

On their stroll back home, Goody Prymm proceeded to explain to Remember everything she needed to know.  Years before, Goody Minter's husband had been a sailor and, while he was away, she was deputy husband, meaning she ran his affairs in his absence.  This was no small feat, as Goody Prymm could well attest and, like Goody Prymm, this distinction eventually served her well as he left her everything in his will, as opposed to the customary one-third, their not having had any children of their own yet.  When Goody Minter had learned of Remember's losing her parents at such a tender age, she took her in, needing a helpmeet, and though she was not what would be called loving and affectionate, she had done her best, Goody Prymm then turning to the young girl, gently and firmly grasping her shoulders, stating that Remember must know this.  The young girl looked squarely in Goody Prymm's old eyes, taking in every word that issued from her lips, beginning to see things in a very, very different light.  Still, she needed to know what was to be her future.  Understandingly, Imagination continued, explaining that, as Remember was not truly Goody Minter's daughter, she had not set aside a trust for her---and all would now be going into their combined marriage, while she was still young enough to bear a child of her own.  Hearing this left Remember feeling more abandoned than ever...but Goody Prymm was quick to explain about the day that she went into town to attend to some business, Remember privately recalling reading Goody Prymm's writings found in the old slope desk and blushing now deeply at the intrusion.  Imagination had heard of the impending marriage and intended to ask Goody Minter if Remember could stay with her.  After much discussion and alleviation of mutual concerns, Goody Minter had finally agreed to allow Remember to stay with Imagination.  Upon hearing this, Remember stopped in the path, closed her eyes, squealed, and breathed the most profound relief of her life, hugging Goody Prymm as hard as she could without knocking the old woman off her balance.  The two embraced, laughed, and wept right there on that Indian path that they had so often trod together.


Then, Goody Prymm, quite worn out from the day, linked arms with Remember and the two strolled slowly home, never to part.  The cool Spring evening was quite remarkable as they walked their garden path and over their threshold, entering and smiling to see Nightfeather by the warming fire in his twiggy box and Smoke leaning against it, each side by side, comforted by each other's company.


***With a nod to David Freeman Hawke's Everyday Life in Early America; Richard Middleton's Colonial America:  A History, 1607-1760; and Laurel Thatcher Ulrich's Good Wives: Image and Reality in the Lives of Women in Northern New England, 1650-1750 (love this book!)

***Note:  The embroidery of Goody Prymm's house was designed and done by me.  :)

© 2017 Nancy Duncan

Thursday, June 1, 2017

The Visitor



It was a fine, fine morning, this first day of June---the month, in Remember's way of thinking, which held the most promise of all the months of the year.  All of nature was regaling in its beauty, and  Remember was outside enjoying the day, strolling among the herb beds, eyeing their progress and satisfied at their growth.  Goody Prymm, however, had chosen to stay indoors by the low-burning fire to stitch quietly, as she had been feeling tired lately, more so than usual, Remember thus leaving her to her peace.

Leaning down to brush her hand against the fragrant rosemary, Remember was jolted from her early summer revery by the very startling caw of a large nearby crow.  And very near he was!  There he sat on a low stone wall, then suddenly hopped down to the ground rather awkwardly, landing in a painful jolt.  Clearly he was ill or injured.  Remember walked slowly to the bird, her foot-tread soundless, talking low and sweetly as she approached.  When she got close enough to him, the bird crouched down, ultimately allowing Remember to carefully scoop him up.  Ever-so-gently she did so, and walked inside to Goody Prymm, the hurt creature in her arms.  Upon seeing Remember with the crow, Goody Prymm promptly put down her stitching and took the bird into her ancient hands and, cooing to it, she felt around his drooping left wing for possible broken bones.  Not feeling anything too untoward, she nevertheless suspected that there was some damage, a small wound showing itself on his wing.

It seems Remember was always happening upon animals...or perhaps it was the other way around.  Wild or domesticated, they were drawn to her and she to them.  It was a trait she and Goody Prymm shared, though Remember's gift was much more pronounced.  Except for Goody Prymm, Remember much preferred the company of animals to humans, so the arrival of this new visitor came as no surprise to Goody Prymm.   Imagination then instructed Remember to fetch some raw honey from the lean-to, as well as four strips of clean, old linen, one strip slightly dampened.  When the young girl had done as she was told, Goody Prymm handed her the bird, telling her to dab the honey directly on the wound, for it was a natural cleanser, and to take the damp strip of cloth and place it over the honeyed wound.  Over that, she was to wrap a dry strip tightly in an "x" around the wing, like so.  All the while, the crow remained amazingly subdued, trusting in the hands that held him, his black eyes blinking brightly at his healers.  Next they would wrap another cloth around the injured wing, this time not as tightly, and then secure the wing to the bird's body so as to stabilize it.

When it was done, they both sat back for a while in front of the low-burning fire, stroking the crow's shiny black-purple feathers, providing him comfort, and talked about crows.  Remember said her surrogate mother always held that they were symbols of death and ill omen, to which Goody Prymm quietly countered that, to the Indians, they were regarded as messengers and symbols of transformation.  After a pause, Remember reminded Imagination about the crow and the old Indian woman's dying.  Smiling softly, Goody Prymm added that all of life, including death, was continual transformation.  Was Remember, after all, she asked, the same girl she was when first they met in that lonely dark Ipswich cell all those months ago?  At this, Remember held the creature closer to her, placing him against her cheek and closing her eyes as she contemplated that dark time...and so grateful for how things had changed since then.

Goody Prymm got up to find an enclosure for him, one that would allow plenty of air and be close to the warmth of the fire.  After such an ordeal, he would need that warmth and quiet for healing.  She retrieved the perfect structure, or at least one that would do---a wattle box they had made to hold kindling.  It was deep enough and would hold their patient nicely.  On the bottom, she placed old cloth, and a wide and shallow clay bowl filled with water for him to drink and to clean his feathers when he was ready.  They would need to keep an eye on Smoke, though, to be sure!

That evening, after the day's adventure, Remember announced that she had decided to name the crow Nightfeather, to which the wise old woman responded that naming a creature that would eventually be set free was a dangerous business...one that would prove painful to the heart.  Remember did not reply, but Goody Prymm knew her words were lost on her.  She would have to learn on her own.

And the night crept upon them softly, all things well for the time being.

***With a nod to Ryan Heavy Head's YouTube "How to Treat a Broken Bird Wing."
The photograph is public domain, the photographer unknown.

© 2017 Nancy Duncan




Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Baking Tombstones

Most people bake cookies, cakes, special recipes...but I've been baking a Tombstone.  Yes, a Tombstone.  Not just any Tombstone, but one for an individual very close to my creative heart.

First I found a suitable Tombstone model, that of Major Samuel Appleton, which is located in the Old North Burial Ground of Ipswich, Massachusetts.  I thought it suitable for a number of reasons, one being its look.  But also, the resident of that grave has a unique historical background which seemed to hit the mark for what I was creating.  Major Samuel Appleton was a rebel against the heavy-handedness of "his Majesty's government" and was strongly opposed to taxes being levied upon subjects "without consent of the Assembly chosen by the Freeholders."  And this is decades before the American Revolution, my friends.  You really should read about him...


Interestingly, Major Appleton was also a judge in the early witchcraft trials held in Ipswich in April of 1692 but,  unlike Salem, all were acquitted at these trials.

To create the proper look, I stitched the outline of the tombstone, using grey DMC cotton thread.  Then, borrowing from Stacey Mead's technique used in her marvelous whale pin keeps "Nantucket and Norman," I mixed water with India ink and dabbed it on the area of the Tombstone.  Then I cooked it until dry in the oven.  It gave it a very uneven "tombstoney" look.  Some bled over the outline, especially at the bottom.  No worries, as I will stitch green meadow grass over it.  It bled a bit at the top of the Tombstone, but I think that just gives it an ethereal aspect.  :)



I am currently designing the Tombstone motifs that will grace this marker and be stitched in black and dark grey DMC threads.


***With a nod to "From Stories of Ipswich," and to folk artist Stacey Mead.

***Update:  I've gotten the outline entirely done...and have begun the tablet (the part on which the words are carved), which I wanted to do in severe black thread so that the very thin lines would stand out. But I've gone back and accented with a dark grey to make it look like carving, giving it more dimension.   My color palette so far is laid out.  Those on the tombstone thread holder (appropriate, don't you think? my first purchase ever from Notforgotten Farm) are various shades of grey and black, with a golden green, which I will use for the grass in front of the tombstone.  I wanted it to be a rather muted green.  The brown and the other green lying there on the linen I'm thinking will be pine trees behind the Tombstone, as the dear lady will be buried on the edge of her woods.  They are more vibrant shades, shades of life...but I've also been playing with the idea of stitching New England White Pines in wool thread...



Now I'm stitching the tympanum, which is the rounded top of the Tombstone, the motifs of which are usually mortality symbols, such as winged angels, death's heads, skull and crossbones, etc.  Of course, this one is a rabbit, a hare.  :) First I hand drew my hare design on paper and then traced it onto the linen Tombstone (see image on the left...haha, I accidentally drew it on a printed picture of a White Pine...here it is flipped over...looks kind of cool).  This time, though, the hare is facing forward, instead of looking back (as Goody Prymm had stitched on her sampler)...yes, there's a significance to that, as you will see by the end of the Goody Prymm Series in the next several weeks.  I then stitched the outline in dark grey and am filling in with satin stitch using the lighter grey.  I like the effect very much, as the stitching lines show a kind of movement/flow, and gives the image dimension, lifting it up off the linen ground.  After I finish this part, I will begin the images on the shoulders and side borders of the Tombstone.



Next update:  For the side borders, this morning I have stitched two Crescent Moons, one Maiden and the other Crone (will show later).  Then, I decided the dear lady would have loved a tree on her Tombstone, as she so loved the Woods near her. Of course, it is a tree in Winter...Here you see the tree rightside up and then upside down.  As it is above, so it is below... :)



Now I'm working on the scrolls, etc., at the bottom of the tablet.  Thinking about a small crow...perhaps a snowdrop lying down.  So whilst I was thinking, I stitched the grass at the base of the Tombstone.  Mostly I used two threads for the grass (remember, I'm covering up some of the ink stain that bled past the Tombstone base line), but also used one thread for taller, wispier grass.   I'm only showing you part and parcel of the Tombstone as I work, saving the completed picture for the last GP episode.  After I complete the Tombstone and a few background White Pine Trees, I will do a bit of cleanup around the outline of the Tombstone.  With all this detail, it's looking a bit undefined.



Update:  I nixed the idea of the crow and snowdrop, opting instead for a simple scroll at the bottom.  Don't want to overdo it.  This morning I began the backdrop of the White Pines woods, choosing wool thread for texture contrast, and color to suggest life.  There will be more trees, but here you get the idea.  As the tablet indicates, the last episode of Goody Prymm will be on June 29, exactly a year and a day since I began the series (my, how time does fly!).  On that day I will show the final Tombstone piece, publishing it on this post, as well. In the mean time, there will be two more GP episodes before the final one...hope you'll keep following!



© 2017 Nancy Duncan