Happy Thanksgiving 2013!

A few Thanksgiving ‘cooking’ and ‘serving’ tips:
By Annette Marie Hyder

  1. Gratitude acts as a thickening agent in any recipe for happiness.
  2. Expressing your appreciation to others is the best way to plate your thanks.*
  3. The passing around the table of the serving platters and bowls of turkey and stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy (in gravy boat), sweet potatoes, bread, soup (in tureen) and cranberry sauce is a good metaphor for taking good things given and then passing those good things on.
Happy Thanksgiving, friends!

Previous Thanksgiving posts

Pumpkin pie, I love you
Thanksgiving a loaded holiday for many Native Americans
Honey Pi’s dress magically expands to accommodate extra turkey
Headdress of Days

*Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it. — William Arthur Ward

Sunday Things: The Story of Fire

Photography, The Wall, by Annette Marie Hyder

Advice the Autumn Crone Gave Me On Climbing the Wall
By Annette Marie Hyder
(from the Night Fairytales series)

Continued from previous installment.

I rose from the realm of dreams slowly. Feeling softness beneath my neck and taking that for the great wolf’s back I cautiously opened my eyes. There was a closed-in dimness to my surroundings and a smell that suggested roots and cold. The cold however was only a suggestion that my nose made as the actual temperature was warm. I saw shadows dancing on what I took to be the ceiling of the dimness and heard a soft noise as if of lapping. The taste of wood ash teased the tip of my tongue.

Rolling over to get off the great wolf’s back proved to be impossible. This is because I was no longer on the great wolf’s back and the softness I took for him was actually the softness of the bed I found myself upon; a bed piled high with all manner of raggedy looking blankets but whose softness felt like fur and pillows heaped at the headboard which fairly quivered with the down they were stuffed with. Peeping over the top of this mountain of coverings and cushions I found the quiet lapper — a fire in the far corner contentedly sucking on the bones of wood on its fireplace plate.

When I say that I saw the fire eating its dinner of wood I am not only speaking metaphorically. I was born with the second sight and I see things like this regularly.* I saw the fire as it actually was at the moment. A diner in the corner enjoying a meal.

Continuing to look around I found that I was in a troglodyte’s cozy dwelling with a bed, food stuffs hanging from the dimness of the ceiling, and a fire crackling away in the hearth — but no Gnar in sight. And from the size of the bed I was on I rapidly came to the conclusion that whoever lived here was of an unusually large size. As my eyes adjusted to the dimness I also noted that the cave ceiling was impressive. The ceiling must reach 24 feet in places and in others soared right out of sight. It was from the ‘lower’ heights of 24 feet that the foodstuffs were hung, sausages, onions, fat and sassy bulbs of garlic. I even saw dried fish strung and hung in batches that made them look like they were swimming through the air and I saw many, many herbs hung too.

There was what looked to be a workbench to my far right, covered in all manner of jars and vials. There was a huge chair, a huge mortar and pestle on the workbench and tools shaped for fearsomely large hands. The wall behind the workbench looked to be embedded with circles of glass. I got up to investigate and found that the floor was a good ways down. So I made a jump for it from my reposey height and then made my way quickly to the workbench noticing a passage to my right as I went.

I had been able to see the top of the workbench because of the height provided by the bed and being in the bench’s shadow now and a good 5 feet too short to see the top I looked at the wall instead. I could see that the circles of glass in the wall behind the workbench extended all the way down to the cave floor. The circles were the bottoms of bottles that were stored in the wall and each bottle had a rune scratched on its flasky bottom.

It was at this point that I heard someone coming. Two someones by the sound of it. I leaned back into the shadows under the workbench and looked around the stoutness of its left front leg. I wasn’t too surprised to see Gnar and a person of unusual size enter the cave together from the passage I had noticed earlier. A person of unusual size? A giant, yes. And Gnar. And I came right out as if I hadn’t been trying to hide at all when Gnar looked directly at me and said to his companion, “There she is. I told you she’d be up by now.”

“Come on out, girl. And I will introduce you to our benefactor.” Gnar said. The giant beside Gnar bent down to his knees and I could see that he had a kind and lively face. He had the green eyes that I had seen on most of his kind and the usual lack of hair. No hair on his head, no eyebrows or eyelashes either, no burly patches on his hands or chest either from what I could see. But this giant did have, against all expectations, a rare growth of hair in the form of a mustache. Four white hairs graced each side of his philtrum and stuck out sharp and stiff. The mustache reminded me of cat whiskers in its sparsity.

“She doesn’t give her name.” Gnar said to the giant beside him. “So I shall introduce her as ‘Girl’.” I felt inexplicably insulted at this.

“Latham,” he said, turning to the giant, “this is Girl. Girl, this is Latham.” I put my best foot forward and gave Latham a big smile before dipping over said best foot in a deep curtsy that would have been a thing of beauty in any royal’s palace.

“Pleased to meet you, Latham.” I said.

“And I am pleased to meet you, Girl.” Latham replied.

“Thank you for your hospitality, Latham. I thank you because I feel certain that, matching person to belongings, this must be your home that I found myself in when I awoke.”

“It is indeed my home and you are welcome to it.” Latham said. “Many have come for rest and respite from the long road and everyone who comes and stays for one night stays for free. But if you wish to stay for any length beyond that there is a fee.”

“Oh well, I thank you again and with the best will in the world will be going on my way.” I said.

“Girl. It would be better to find out the price of another night here in Latham’s home before deciding to take on the storm that rages outside.” Gnar said.

Storm? I didn’t see any sign of a storm. No tell-tale hints in their appearance either.

As if reading my mind, Gnar said “We have not been outside because of the severity of the storm. We came in through the passage from Latham’s storage room. Gnar’s eyes gleamed when he mentioned Latham’s storage room and I wondered what Latham kept there.

“You don’t mind if I check out the storm for myself then?” I said. “I’d like to take its measure, look and see.”

“Be my guest.” Latham said gesturing towards the passage. “You have only to go along the passage until it forks and turn left when it does so. Carry on until you come to my front door. It is built right into the cave face and panes of glass frame it from top to bottom on each side. You should be able to get a good view of the storm through those panes. When you return you can tell me if you would like me to open the door for you or if you’d like to stay and pay.”

Following the giant’s directions and silently cursing Gnar for getting me into a situation in which I might be bartering — with a giant — for lodgings, I soon found the fork in the passage and not very long after the door the giant had mentioned with windows looking out upon a fierce and very inadvisable-to-go-out-in snow storm. I touched my fingers to the giant’s beautifully paned windows and breathed three sighs onto the glass. I wrote three sigils of protection into the condensation left by my breath, one for each sigh and one for each person in Latham’s home that night.

“What is your price for a night’s lodging, good Latham?” I asked when I returned. At my question a huge smile split Latham’s face and made his mustache whiskers lift up to the creases beside his giant-green eyes.

“A story, Girl.” Latham said. “A story is the price of a night’s lodging and you get supper and breakfast too.”

At this I sat down immediately, right there on the floor, and began to tell Gnar and Latham one of the stories of fire.

“The first people did not have the flower we call fire when they were new to this world.” I said. “It was
Raven that gave fire to the first people. The Raven of this story is not a raven that you or I would have seen, he is not a clever bird of little stature but he is a being after whom the ravens we have seen were all scattered as reminders of what this one great Raven-being did.

It was Raven who, with the storm to end all storms raging, spread his glossy wings and arched them over the tents of men as he brooded through the night. He knew that Horgul the bear would come soon, icing the seas as he swam them and sucking the warmth from the sun into his all-absorbing white hide.

Everything that Horgul touched with his cracking paws and tenebrous claws felt the clutch of his cold spirit drench them in slivers of terror. The trees stiffened with fear, the grasses and flowers hid underground. Even the water stopped singing, silenced and petrified with Horgul’s coming. Horgul would come soon and then Raven’s feathers, his hen-postruing, would make a well meaning but tattered blanket for his fledgling people.

So Raven flew to the sun and stole a spark of that great fire and brought it back as a gift for his people.

Raven gave the first people fire to fuel their courage and warm their hearts. They made much of it, involving it in almost every aspect of their lives.

No more would they eat their meat raw but they would pass it through their friend the fire, sharing it with the fire and then eating it themselves. No more did they only use skins and furs to keep them warm but these too they shared with the fire, placing them before it and then finding their skins and furs warmer still.

They loved fire and kept it awake all through the night by telling it stories bound in bark. Fire loved the stories that wood tells of deep secrets sought with patient roots and wonderful visions wound through branches and leaves, left there by the wind. The fire’s bright eye kept watch for the first people and they slept through the nights in peace.”

I noticed the fire listening, leaning out and flaring up and then banking back down as I told this story to them. Latham nodded his head. “A good story.” he said.

“I would have preferred one that featured a great wolf.” Gnar said. “But this one was ably told.”

Sometimes when I am telling stories, time takes liberties and spins itself faster or slower than what I think the story should account for. This was the case in this instance and time had raced us to the end of day in between the time I sat down to tell the story and its end.

Latham made a very good supper for us of fish stew, and bread with butter, and onions on the side. There was cold clear water to drink too. And I could tell that Latham was used to guests of my size because he had utensils, plates and cups to match my modest needs. Gnar turned his nose up at the onions and bread and butter but lapped up his fair share of the stew from a bowl that looked — mind I did not say this — very much like a doggie bowl.

Latham and Gnar took their leave and I briefly wondered where they would be sleeping but gave the thought up as a great wave of irresistible sleepiness overtook me and it was all I could do to climb my way back up into the giant’s bed.

I was glad that they liked the story. I hadn’t told the whole story though and this was out of courtesy to the fire. I hadn’t mentioned that in the story Raven saw that Horgul, with his heavy breath, his howling, might be able to blow the fire out. No I didn’t mention that or the solution Raven had come up with. Nor did I mention that this night was the second time I had found myself inexplicably and suddenly overcome with a sleepiness that seemed spell-like in its urgency.

And there’s one more thing I didn’t mention: the way Gnar had seemed to grow larger when he was carrying me on his back. I wasn’t sure if that had really happened and I have found that some things are better — when you are finding your way — some things are better left unsaid.

To be continued.

* Yes I see ghosts and fairies and any other sort of magical creature you
might happen to think of. I see personifications and I’ve seen
Personification herself. Sometimes this seeing
is a blessing and more often than not a curse. But it is the way that I
see things and so I take it in its course.

Put the World Down

House of Atlas by Grace Weston

Put the World Down
By Annette Marie Hyder

It’s Friday so take the world off your shoulders.
If you’re wearing it
out on a Friday night
it can really get in the way.
Not a good fashion
and it’ll fall off your shoulders
when you start dancing
the night away.

Happy Friday!

Antlers strung with tiny bells and wild bright stars

Digital Artwork by Catrin Weltz-Stein

Dream Storm
By Annette Marie Hyder

The snow falls chiming like tiny glass bells,
glitters like tinsel as it touches the ground.
I want to wear antlers and lean into the sound
of your heart like a silver-tongued bugle
calling me to the chase through the glittering labyrinth waste.
My antlers will match your antlers, my hoofed feet your grace.
We’ll gather all the bright things of night;
hang moon, stars, and glass bells from the tips of our tines
to give us the light to chase our dreams down woods sleeping
tucked in with blankets stitched in crystal and cream.
I’ll wear wanton layers of chiffon, I’ll wrap up in pearls.
You’ll wear your smile-like-a-dare and your soft fur.
Our wild hearts will follow desire-dream’s storm.

Lamp-post on the walk home

I love this photo that my daughter took while she was walking home from the bus stop the other evening. It reminds me of the Narnia lamp-post from The Chronicles of Narnia series, by C. S. Lewis and that every day can be an adventure — no matter where you start from, even if you start from the far land of Wal Khome, the bright city of Busst Op.*

Happy Monday!

(I was so disappointed when I finished The Chronicles of Narnia series
because — it was over! I wanted more Narnia adventures and so I wrote them
for myself. Sounds like fanfic, doesn’t it? The stories I wrote for
myself never satisfied me because my stories, at that time, hadn’t
acquired voices of their own with the capacity to surprise me even as
they were being written. No. Those stories waited on me for every word
and I was disappointingly aware of everything at a remove and before it
happened. I just couldn’t get back into Narnia. But I was very young,
seven years old, so maybe that was a factor.)

Excerpt from Book One of The Chronicles of Narnia series, The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, by C. S. Lewis

“This must be a simply enormous wardrobe!” thought Lucy, going further in and pushing the soft folds of the coats aside to make room for her. Then she noticed that there was something crunching under her feet. “I wonder is that more moth-balls?” she thought, stooping down to feel it with her hand. But instead of feeling the hard, smooth wood of the floor of the wardrobe, she felt something soft and powdery and extremely cold. “This is very queer,” she said, and went on a step or two further.

Nest moment she found that what was rubbing against her face and hands was no longer soft fur but something hard and rough and even prickly. “Why, it is just like branches of trees!” exclaimed Lucy. And then she saw that there was a light ahead of her; not a few inches away where the back of the wardrobe should have been, but a long way off. Something cold and soft was falling on her. A moment later she found that she was standing in the middle of a wood at night-time with snow under her feet and snowflakes falling through the air.

Lucy felt a little frightened, but she felt very inquisitive and excited as well. She looked back over her shoulder and there, between the dark tree-trunks, she could still see the open doorway of the wardrobe and even catch a glimpse of the empty room from which she had set out. (She had, of course, left the door open, for she knew that it is a very silly thing to shut oneself into a wardrobe.) It seemed to be still daylight there. “I can always get back if anything goes wrong,” thought Lucy. She began to walk forward, crunch-crunch over the snow and through the wood toward the other light. In about ten minutes she reached it and found it was a lamp-post. As she stood looking at it, wondering why there was a lamp-post in the middle of a wood and wondering what to do next, she heard the pitter patter of feet coming toward her. And soon after that a very strange person stepped out from among the trees into the light of the lamp-post.

He was only a little taller than Lucy herself and he carried over his head an umbrella, white with snow. From the waist upward he was like a man, but his legs were shaped like a goat’s (the hair on them was glossy black) and instead of feet he had goat’s hoofs. He also had a tail, but Lucy did not notice this at first because it was neatly caught up over the arm that held the umbrella so as to keep it from trailing in the snow. He had a red woolen muffler round his neck and his skin was rather reddish too. He had a strange, but pleasant little face, with a short pointed beard and curly hair, and out of the hair there stuck two horns, one on each side of his forehead. One of his hands, as I have said, held the umbrella: in the other arm he carried several brown-paper parcels. What with the parcels and the snow it looked just as if he had been doing his Christmas shopping. He was a Faun. And when he saw Lucy he gave such a start of surprise that he dropped all his parcels.

“Goodness gracious me!” exclaimed the Faun.

* Mr. Tumnus, the faun in the story, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis, mistakes the human girl Lucy’s telling him that she came to Narnia through the wardrobe in the spare room as her having come from the far land of Spare Oom where eternal summer reigns around the bright city of War Drobe.

Sunday Things: Keeping One’s Friends Close

Photography, The Wall, by Annette Marie Hyder

Advice the Autumn Crone Gave Me On Climbing the Wall

By Annette Marie Hyder
(from the Night Fairytales series)

Continued from previous installment.

Why should I believe the great wolf that he was supposed to accompany me? The Autumn Crone had said nothing about him and his simply knowing about her and the advice she gave was no voucher either. For all I knew, he could have eavesdropped on our conversation and subsequently eaten the Autumn Crone up like the wolf who ate the grandmother in the old wives’ tale.

But I subscribe to the old adage of keeping one’s friends close and one’s enemies closer. So, I decided to allow him to accompany me. Better to
have him where I could see him — at my side — than lurking in the
shadows at my back.

I waved the little dragon goodbye hoping that Gnar hadn’t noticed that the dragon had given a present to me. He had brushed up against me and plainly, purposefully, left two of his shining scales clinging like burrs to the fabric of my tunic. I removed them at once and put them in my hip bag. I know that dragon scales can be used for many things and was not about to pass up such largesse.*

Irritatingly, Gnar had taken the lead position and was doing so in the very direction that I wanted to go so that I had no choice but to follow him. As I watched the plume of his tail precede my progress I noticed too the way that the path I wanted to follow was becoming harder and harder to stay on. I had read that the path I wanted would be obvious in its being lined with stones embedded with red and golden leaves, stones that shone glassily and gave the appearance of walking on water — an uninterrupted stream — beneath the trees. But the path was proving to be like a stream in that I was having difficulty in keeping my feet. After many stumbles and near falls I finally spun (gracelessly) in a full circle and landed on my knees. “Great Wolf!” I called out as his tail waved like a victorious flag far, far ahead.

“Is someone calling me?” his voice came floating back. “I wouldn’t know unless they called me by name.”

“Gnar!” I called wondering at myself in calling for another in need. I think it was out of vexation that he was so far ahead of me.

“You called?” he said. He was by my side so quickly and unexpectedly that I let out a little shriek.

“Yes.” I said. “How is it that you are having no problem with this path and are so far ahead of me?”

“I am glad that you asked.” he said. “It is just one of the many wonderful gifts of being a great wolf that we great wolves have these.” Here he lifted one of his paws and casually displayed a long sharp claw that looked like a thorn, a white thorn that shone beneath the trees. He retracted it as I watched and then he lifted each paw to display a matching claw-thorn before relaxing beside me, me still down on my knees. Now that I was on almost eye level with the path that looked like a stream I could see the holes that he had punctured and that marked his progress sharp and clean.

“Well?” he said, interrupting my train of thought as to what I might have on my person or in my hip bag that might serve me as his thorns did him.

“Well what?” I said.

“Do you or don’t you want a ride?” he said as if he had already asked this question and perhaps he already had because I was finding myself oddly affected by the path, I was feeling inexplicably disoriented and weak.

“I do.” I said. “And I thank you, Gnar. Will you help me to my feet?”

“Here,” he said, crouching down on all fours and then laying down by my side, “use my fur to pull yourself onto the saddle of me.” He said that in sardonic way that made me laugh despite the circumstances.

Did great wolves purr? Because that sounded suspiciously like a deep purring sound coming from Gnar as we made our way along the path. That rumbling was the only noise that I heard other than the sound of his claw-thorns as they punched holes and left a trail that would be easy to follow — if you knew what to look for. The holes were like reverse pebbles of the kind that the little boy in the tale left to find his way back out of the forest.

By now you will have surmised that I know a great deal about old tales, folk tales, forgotten lore and abstruse knowledge. This is true. But all of the learning that I had acquired up to this point would not have been enough to get me through this part of my adventure. I found it quite humbling to be being ferried across the miles on the great wolf’s broad back.

I was humbled but that is not all. I was becoming increasingly alarmed as I fell into the deeps of what felt like some sort of enchanted sleep because the back of the great wolf on which I was sprawled continued to broaden and I swore as I fell in the midst of soft fur that he got larger with every four steps that he took.

To be continued.

*What can dragon scales be used for? They can be smithed into invincible armor if you have a large enough collection of them. They are perfect scrying mirrors if you know the right spell. Used as an ingredient in any spell that calls for them they prove their additional usefulness in that they can be used again and again — as long as you remember to retrieve them — kind of the way arrows can be reused (only these darts are much more dear).

Three things to remember about dragon scales: 1.) Unless they are freely given there will most certainly be a curse accompanying them. 2.) Even if they are freely given they should be treated and handled with caution and respect. 3.) And if you are stupid enough to ingest them whole, well the world has one less fool to countenance.

Sunday Things: Super Typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda in the Philippines

A survivor cooks dinner in front of his damaged home in the village of Marabut, Samar Island, on Friday, November 15, 2013. Photography by David Guttenfelder

Hail and Fire
By Annette Marie Hyder

“This is the worst,” Cardenas said, taking a break from fixing a piece of damaged furniture. “We’re both victims and rescuers.” *

A hard rain pelted this island
and left a hard rain of bodies
littered on the ground
like a residue of frost
or even more — like hail.
Those bodies fell
like hail
in that they hurt and destroyed things in their path —
hearts like hopeful green shoots of grass
were pummeled and bruised as the hail came down
and families shattered like car windshields,
where the hail struck,
cracking from the center of loss
and  spider-webbing outwards.

Destruction was sown like dragon’s teeth
with sorrow cropping up like a million opportunistic
branches of creeping devastation cane.
And it seems like the only thing of good use against this
is fire. Fires crackle, as fires do, by shacks
as well as in the oil drums of many hearts
with the power to cleanse and clear the way
for — truly — I know not what.

I only know that there is much to do and grieving too
is part of the task at hand
as the wind sends smoke signals to those who are left behind
telling them to depart — whispering of
a mass exodus and many mass graves
and hail and fire and the way
that a path opens up for the feet of the weary
to follow each one their way —
a bitter hard path if they depart
and a hard bitter path if they stay.

How to help

Want to know how you can help the victims of Typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda? Here is a link to an ABC News article with tips on best practices when sending relief: The best ways to help victims of Typhoon Haiyan

*From “Typhoon Haiyan: More cadaver bags sent to Philippines as toll climbs to 3,633 dead”
By Jethro Mullen

What Friday told me about princess slippers

“Cinderella” by Catrin Welz-Stein

Princess Slippers and Friday’s Story
As told to Annette Marie Hyder

Friday told me a story in which shoes were paramount. Their importance was not diminished by the sheer number of pairs in the story. There were many kinds and there were many styles and there were, most importantly, a pair of princess slippers.

One minute Friday told me the princess slippers were made of glass and the next she said they were fashioned of fur. She mentioned velvet, silk, and satin. She digressed to talk of precious metals — of crithril, silver, and gold. She described delicate high-heeled slippers made from fragile autumn leaves and embellished with shiny polka-dotted red ladybug wings in the same breath as she hinted at shoes that chimed with each step as if a finger were being run around the rim of a crystal glass.

I interrupted her story to ask what the point of it all was? What does it matter that there is a penultimate pair of shoes (whose very description varies from story to story and indeed — even within the story she was telling me) whose perfect fit must be realized? Is it to groom the listeners of the story to learn to need to fit a certain shape or expectation? I did not like the thought of that at all.

No, Friday told me, and with this I can agree: the reason there is such a fuss made of finding the right fit — shoe and foot — is to illustrate the point and teach the lesson that there is a perfect expression of fit for form and that the princess (the central character in the story) need not lop off a toe, slice off a heel, to conform to the perfect shoe. She would be true to herself and by not altering herself to accommodate a certain predetermined shape or form she would find the right fit — slip her foot into the shoe — glass, fur, ladybug-winged or chiming with each step — and find the greatest fulfillment from being herself.

The princess slippers are for self actualization and finding oneself — not for conformity. The princess in her story kicked up her heels and put to use the old adage, ‘if the shoe fits, wear it’.

Excuse me while I go get my boots.

Happy Friday!

There is scholarly debate as to what type of shoe was described in the original French version of Charles Perrault’s Cinderella story. You can read a brief overview of the history of the debate at Curiosity.com, Did Cinderella really wear glass slippers?

And here is a link to a most interesting article from The Atlantic, Do Folktales Evolve Like Biological Species?

En noir et blanc

Audrey Ann Smith, eating oysters at the telephone company’s year-end oyster feast in Coral Hills, Maryland with her mother-in-law, Edna Elanor Smith. (Late 1950’s) Copyright Audrey Ann Ruff

Sometimes I wish I could walk through the day as if I were walking through a black and white photo or film — wear a coat with the collar turned up around my face, cast my eyes down, looking mysterious in doing something as simple as eating raw oysters at an outside table — at a remove from the familiar by the peculiar glamor of scenes cast in old-timey-movie-star filter.

And yet, at the time the black and white films were being made and black and white photos were being taken, life was being lived in full-on color. Even the people leading the artful lives we see captured in cool, glamorous black and white moments were not so much living those moments as we see them but really making and becoming art in the simple exercise of being as they were being photographed.

And then there is this, “A photograph is not only an image …it is also a trace,
something directly stenciled off the real, like a footprint or a death
mask” — Susan Sontag (1933-2004, American writer and political activist)