Monday, August 21, 2017

Green Witch's Garden: Eclipsed!



Call me a nerd, but this whole Eclipse thing has been very exciting for me! Such a natural phenomenon is so mystical and beautiful...I was going to take pictures of my Garden in various stages of Eclipse. And I did. But I made an exciting discovery in the middle of the process...something none of my science teachers ever taught me (or perhaps I wasn't paying attention...that's more likely).  And that is this: Rather than use Eclipse glasses or pinhole boxes...just depend on Nature. That's right! The Trees filter out the light and create the image of the Eclipse on the ground. The Three Sisters (my three large oaks out front that have grown together) painted, with their leaves, a glorious design of shadow Crescents, alllllll over my sidewalk! Honestly, I was like a little child when I made this discovery. :):):) I have since heard they are called "Sun Dapples." Lovely.


I was so enamored of this little miracle that I went inside to fetch an old board I've been saving for...well, for whatever.  I love the little Crescents sprinkled on the wood...maybe I'll use the picture in a future installment of Remember's story. She would like this very much. :)

And maybe I'll paint tiny Crescents on the wood, sort of memorializing such a wondrous moment.

I could show you pics of my Garden in several Eclipsed stages, but they don't hold a candle to these, at least as far as I'm concerned.  One last little photo for you...Eclipse Crescents in water, in my ground-level birdbath (I do that for the non-flying variety of critters)...



I hope you took time out to enjoy this incredible moment that occurred in our skies this day. Perhaps you drove a long way to witness the event...but sometimes such miracles can be found in your own Garden...if you look.

© 2017 Nancy Duncan


Thursday, August 17, 2017

Mary Prince Rowe's Sampler



'Tis almost finished!!  I decided to make it into a needle book and, wow, I couldn't have done it better than if I had actually planned it that way!  :). Originally, it was to be a small fictional sampler based on history, but my imagination ended up taking it places that probably a woman of that time period would not have stitched.  Then again, there are historical samplers with names, and houses, and trees, birds and phrases, so perhaps it's not too far from reality after all. If you would like to read about the historical facts behind my design, you can visit my June 30 post "Mary Rowe's Sampler."  In the meantime, though, I will tell you about its construction.  All of it is handmade, hand stitched.

It is stitched on 36 count linen which I dyed and stained in a walnut bath. The original linen was beautiful, but a stark white, so I knew I had to tone it down. It is stitched in DMC threads---one over one---the outer edges stitched in a vintage cream linen thread from my mother's collection.

The front side is the  picture...all symbolic, from the bittersweet branches in the corners to the house with one lighted window, to the trees both dead and alive, to the crows...

The back side says what it is really about...literally...the nine Gloucester women who were accused of witchcraft in the autumn of 1692 and ultimately released because of the travesty that preceded them.



Three of those names are of special interest to me as I could be related to them. The 1722 is the imaginary year of the stitching and the two initials beneath it are Mary's, who died the following year in 1723. I felt as though it may have been her final word regarding the injustices of the past.

The edge has "Innocent Unafraid" stitched thereon, the Rowe family motto ("Innocent But Unafraid").



When unfolded, there is a worn and tattered needle page of linen, crudely stitched to the backing, which is a simple brown cotton, the same kind of material that might have been used. Although Mary came from a prominent family, they most probably were thrifty in their use of materials.



 The needles you see on the linen page are from my mother's lace making box, full of vintage linen and silk threads. They, along with about 20 more needles, were attached to a business card of Helene Von Rosensteil, Inc., Costume and Textile Conservation in Brooklyn, NY.  My mother, I know, helped to restore antique textiles at the Witte Museum at one point...and she learned the art of lace making, even having taught lace making classes in England, so I can only guess they are something special.  They are certainly special to me. So I will display only four in my needle book, saving and putting the rest in their original box.  From my research, I believe that the pinheads are made separately from the pins...do you see how tiny they are??? You can compare them to the staples next to them (see below).



Folded out, this is the needle book...which, if you have been following, is quite familiar to you already.



So, all I have yet to add is a linen yarn loop at the bottom of the front side (when it's folded) and a cloth/brocade small button at the top of the back side (with all the names), which will serve as a clasp of sorts.  I am hoping to find the perfect button among a collection of buttons that my husband's mother gave our daughter when she was only five. It would be the perfect touch. When I complete it, I will post the picture here at the bottom.

I have always been fascinated with the history of witchcraft trials, especially in North America. According to I. Marc Carlson's Historical Witches and Witchtrials in North America, between the years 1645 to 1662, 58 (?) people were tried, 75% of whom were women, and 36 executed. Between 1663 and 1692, over 250 people were arrested in New England, 19 of whom were executed, while 3 died in prison and 1 died under torture. Mary Prince Rowe (also referred to as Martha Prince in historical records) and the other 8 were a part of those spared. Why were they spared? Spectral Evidence was no longer justifiable in the courts and the courts were closed.  It is interesting that so many records and details have disappeared.  It makes me wonder if, as the Puritans began to lose their hold on communities, the records were destroyed in shame. I do not believe history should be "white washed" or "sanitized."  When that happens, we lose the truth and key to our past, which helps us to understand ourselves better...and change things for the future. But I digress...or do I...





Finished!  I added a sweet little material button from Granny's button jar, which I stained lightly with walnut dye, and closed with brown linen yarn!

© 2017 Nancy Duncan


Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Green Witch's Report: The Dog Days Are Upon Us

Yes, the Dog Days of Summer are upon us, especially where I live...fortunately, we have had some rain, which spares my having to water.  Nothing waters like a good rain. Despite the heat and the toll it takes on plants, there is always something going on in a Garden.  So let's have a look-see, shall we?


The Monarchs are sparse but it's still early. I've seen some Painted Ladies and Swallowtails...and they all gravitate to the Blue Mist...






Blue Mist is a low-key flower and extremely invasive but, well, we do what we do for the endangered critters.

The Purple Cone Flowers are still doing their thing, but you can see that they are turning to seed.  I will deadhead and leave some in the Garden to bloom next spring and summer. Yes, my Gardens are not always neat and tidy in that regard, but I am a firm believer in allowing things to live out their cycles.  I'm always rewarded for it, as is the local wildlife...

And there are those plants that absolutely THRIVE in the heat (thankfully), such as my Hummingbird Bush, with its bright red spikes...and this little pepper bush with its red peppers, alongside the Black-eyed Susans...



And there's Yellow Tickseed (not a pleasant name, I know, but a real fighter in the heat) nestled in Blue Spiderwort. See the tiny blue flowers? I know.  It's a "weed" to some, but to me its little understated blue flowers are quite sweet and it's very controllable! I didn't plant it...it just came to me, so I've allowed it to take residence in my Garden, its being very mannerly. :) Another heat-lover is my antique Green Rose.  I love their peppery, rosy scent! I need to dry some for potpourri.  It's nice to grind in my mortar and pestle and sprinkle over my carpets before I vacuum.  Rather like strewing herbs in the modern way. They are not as big as the picture suggests, their blooms being about the size of a 50-cent piece.



Other nice-smelling strewing herbs (once dried, of course) are Rosemary and Lemon Balm, both of which are thriving in the hot temperatures. Lemon Balm bread is a nice sweet bread to go with my Lady Grey Tea on a rainy afternoon...



How are you when it comes to Ivy (not the poisonous kind)?  The little one seems to have found its happy place, trailing every which way in the Grandchildren's Garden. Kind of like it's playing "Follow the Leader!" It was actually a small potted plant hung on the fence several years ago and which I thought had met its demise.  But lo and behold, it's back!  I think I'll call it the Lazarus Ivy. The one on the right has grown by leaps and bounds, placed in a sheltered corner of a side garden next to the deck, its having made friends with a giant red rock I found in the woods next to us years ago. These ivy plants will perhaps add a nice touch to a winter wreath...



Oh, look here!  The Sweet Autumn Clematis is getting its buds.  It will bloom a shower of tiny puffy white flowers in September, which happens to be a special month for me. The Agave is really starting to grow...geez...hope it doesn't grow too too fast, as Agaves get HUGE!



And there's the Wandering Jew and Asparagus Fern out in the messy Woodland Garden...Yeesh. That Garden needs some work...but then, a Green Witch's Garden work is never done...



I'll leave you now with this picture of a lacy Cypress Vine, so soft and delicately intertwined with the prickly dead heads of the Purple Coneflower in my Butterfly Garden. Some years the vine covers the entire Garden in August but, this year's being so wet, it has been held in check.



Bless for now ("Bless" is the Icelandic word for "goodbye")...Will I see you in September? Good! It's a date, then. ;)

© 2017 Nancy Duncan









Friday, August 11, 2017

Latest Updates on Mary Prince Rowe's Sampler

To see the latest updates on Mary Rowe's sampler, go to the June 30th post...








Thursday, August 10, 2017

Child's Play

There's a sweet little girl who lives across the street from me.  Her name is Lilly. She's eight and has taken a shine to me. Perhaps it's because she loves my gardens, right now aflutter with the earliest Monarchs, but I'm also teaching her to knit... mostly she likes to chat and I am a good listener. :) Yesterday we worked on mastering the purl stitch (she's a quick study, let me tell you!). Such a smart little whip! Children love to learn...and they are naturally curious.


Today, as I was straightening my antique cupboard which, if any of the grandkids dared look in it, look out! There are things in there that just peak the curiosity and capture the imagination.  Books, yes.  All sorts...art (Andrew Wyeth, being one of my favorites), architecture, religion, yoga, gardening galore, and a few antique books, as well as some eclectic and odd ones. But what makes the cupboard really interesting is the odd stuff---you know, the stuff you loved to look at as a kid. And the stuff I still collect and stow away. Perhaps it's the child in me still. There are seed pods, giant acorn caps, dried lichen and herbs...



There are crystals and dried leaves on which to write wishes...



And the oldest book I own, once owned by my dear Dad...Pinocchio, copyright 1916, and so worn I have to tie a big green ribbon around it to hold it together.  The illustrations used to both frighten me and intrigue me. They still do. (Check out the first line of that chapter, lol!).



There are three little wooden mice I've had since I was nine and bought when living in Germany at a wonderful store called Harry's, where they served soft drinks, champagne, and special chocolates to the customers as they browsed. Some of the mice have their ears chewed off (don't really know what did that!), but this little family is perfect for a cupboard with mouse holes! Their tails are long gone, reminding me of a nursery tune...And there are these tiny carved ivory tusk polar bear and arctic fox figures that my father brought to my mother when he was in Alaska for survival training all those years ago. I always adored them as a little girl and am fortunate to be the recipient. Such wonderful detail...and the smooth, cool texture of the ivory is a delight for the fingertips!



And I keep my blackthorn mortar and pestle, filled with herbs, in there, mostly as a Goody Prymm prop.  When I open up the cupboard, the sweet herbal smell of dried herbs wafts through the room. There's also an antique hand crank child's sewing machine from 1930s Germany, which I bought years ago...it's tole painted. I don't know why I keep it, except that it's a toy from a not-so-innocent era...kind of sad, really...





Lastly worth noting is a little brass bell that belonged to my husband's mother. I love to keep it in there because each time I open or close the cupboard doors, there's the sweetest little tinkling, reminding me of loved ones who have passed.

Hope you enjoyed peaking in my cupboard!  Who knows what else I'll squirrel away in there...

© 2017 Nancy Duncan

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

The Spirit in Goody Prymm



As I type the manuscript, tweaking and editing, so many details come back. I have decided to periodically write in The Bonnie White Hare Blog some annotative notes and comments regarding A Year and a Day in the Life of Goody Imagination Prymm. Why? Because it crystallizes my thoughts and is preparing me for the queries I will be writing as I seek publication. Also, although the story is, I believe, essentially a good one and a pleasant read, I want readers to know that there is so much more to discover in the reading of Goody Prymm!

This post today is directed to the idea of Spirit. Spirit, in fact, is the overriding element of this novella. The idea of Animism is prevalent throughout, Animism being simply defined as the belief that everything---creatures, places, even objects and words---all possess a distinct spiritual essence, that animals, plants, rocks, rivers, weather, handmade objects are animated, alive in their own right, and intertwine with the characters in their daily lives. Animism is the oldest known belief system, even predating paganism, and much of Goody Prymm is about belief systems: the Puritans, the early settlers, the Indians, the phases of the moon, animals as spirit guides.  You didn't know that, did you? Or perhaps some of you did. The word Animism comes from the Latin, meaning "breath," "spirit," "life." Goody Prymm is all about honoring life, in all its forms. She especially makes this very clear to Remember in the last days of her life, almost urgently so.

This morning, in typing the chapter "An Education," in which Goody Prymm and Remember are just beginning to know one another, they trek into the woods, Goody Prymm's intention being to begin teaching the young girl the knowledge she wants to pass on.  What better place for the two of them to start than in the deep woods, away from the constraints of civilization? Remember has never been so far into the woods, but Goody Prymm finds more solace there than in community, and visits there frequently. Now old age and youth venture together, each drawing on the strengths of the other. While in the woods, Remember pauses to hold a snail on her slender finger, marveling at the creature. Did you know that the snail is a symbol of life spiraling out and expanding? It is a symbol of growth, something that both of them are on the precipice of. And then, as Goody Prymm is teaching Remember how to "go within" her essential self, they both open their eyes to find a wolf sitting there in front of them, its "feral amber eyes" staring into theirs. This is the second time in the story that the wolf appears, the first time appearing to Goody Prymm alone, as she has a dark vision by the deep pool in the woods. The wolf is Spirit, pure Spirit. It is a symbol of guardianship, loyalty, and spirit, all of which Goody Prymm will be for Remember as the story unfolds. And it is no literary coincidence that the Indians refer to Goody Prymm as having great "Manitou," or spiritual energy.  Nor is it an accident that we later learn through Goody Prymm's hidden journals that the very ship she sailed over to the New England from the Old England was the ship called Spirit!

The raven, the deep pool, why, even the great stones in the woods (Goody Prymm and Remember "sat still as stones" when they saw the wolf there in front of them!) have life and meaning in the story.
Perhaps I will publish a chapter or two here and there for you to reread, or read for the first time, only with new eyes.  What will you find? I hope you will find much more than what is written on the page...

© 2017 Nancy Duncan

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Barley Moon

August Barley Moon...also called Moon When Cherries Are Ripe, Women's Moon, Acorns Ripen Moon, Green Moon, and Thumb Moon, to name a few.  But I prefer Barley Moon.  Beautiful, isn't She?

Saturday, August 5, 2017

My Autumn Mind


My mind is crystals and moss...
Full moonshine and stars.

I inhale the soft musk of night
And hear the crickets' call...

There is nothing sweeter than Nature
As She implores,

Seducing me closer,
To her ancient door...




How I long for September's golden tune,
One of crimson Autumn with her full Harvest Moon!

Promises of golds, and reds, all jeweled hues...
Ripe brown nuts and skies of October blue.

Oh, to wait is so painful to bear...
But the Seasons know it is their cross, now one I, too, share.

So smile at the sunflowers with their pearls of golden seed,
And just know that Autumn awaits in their stead.

© 2017 Nancy Duncan

Friday, August 4, 2017

Souvenirs



Traveling abroad means bringing back souvenirs...and for me, this often means visiting a knitting shop and purchasing the local yarn to bring back home to make with it my own souvenir.  Yup.  I did it when I visited the Orkneys six years ago.  Purchased some North Ronaldsay wool, brought it home, spun it, and knitted it into wrist warmers and a headband, each christened with horn buttons from the self-same sheep breed.  On the rare occasion when I wear them, I always smile to think of the Orkney Islands with their spiritual Standing Stones...


This time, whilst in Bergen, Denmark, we visited a charming shop.  Bergen is almost fairy tale-ish in its charm, with its colorful buildings and steep-pitched roofs, to the shop windows filled with eye-catching knitwear and trolls (yes, they are everywhere in Bergen).  Why, even their manholes are charming!  I fell in love with the beautiful knitwear on display, as well as a darling antique yarn winder (they always steal my heart).  Perched on the top shelf, too, was a Norwegian wheel.  Beautiful, isn't it? It was there that I picked up a nice ball of Peer Gynt 100% Norsk wool, a lovely deep charcoal grey...







We knew we were on to something...even a sculpture on our ship reminded us to stay on our mission. We dubbed her the "Knitting Lady," but joked that perhaps she should be called the "Nutty Lady," as she was really holding her needles all wrong.  Way wrong, lol!


Our next knitting purchase was in Isafjordur, Iceland, from a lovely shop where I purchased two balls of Lopi Yarn, a set of 5 needles, and hand carved buttons from Denmark.  I plan to use those on the vest I am knitting.  Such a cute shop, and the proprietor "packaged" our purchases in hand sewn, recycled worn material with her logo stamped on it.  Too cool.  I fell for the rich pumpkin and brown shades...perhaps because I am subconsciously craving autumn...


The last knitting purchase was in Scotland at Cawdor Castle, home of the Cawdor Campbells, which may very well be my ancestry. Beautiful old castle and lovely grounds...


Lo and Behold! we saw a Wool Shop right there on the grounds, and managed to purchase some black Hebridean wool shorn from the Castle sheep...


I'd say we did it just right, having found local wool from each country we visited!  We decided to do a little "free knitting" (sans patterns) on the way home, and I will be making it into a pumpkin mat...adding an Northern Isles Raven, of course...



© 2017 Nancy Duncan