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The Return

Oh, oddlings. Where do I start?

I’ll start in April, when Bubo and I decided to hike up the mountain and see what exactly this mud season Vermonters talk of is all about. Chilly and damp, the day was perfect for an explore. I packed my satchel with essentials (journal, vole jerky for Bubo, ginger candies for myself, the hammock sack, and Great Uncle O. Underhill’s book of poetry), strapped on my exploring gear (a hand-crafted combination of spelunking and mid-century lumberjack gear), and off we went.

After nearly half a day, I decided it was time for a rest. The forests positively bloom here in the Green Mountains and I was overwhelmed by the growth coming through after such a magical winter. Having spent so many springs in New York, one gets a bit underwhelmed by the majesty of the season. But out here in the wilderness, it’s breathtaking. We found a delightful tree – strong limbs and boughs for my hammock sack and for Bubo to nestle into – and up we went. My hammock sack is an invention of mine – imagine a combination hammock, tent, and cocoon. Perfect for resting in a tree, above a swamp, or on board an old sloop winding its way down an ancient river. Nestled quite comfortably with new green buds sprouting and a chill air whispering, I began to read Great Uncle O. Underhill’s poems aloud.

This, it seems, is where I made my mistake.

I had no idea that Underhill had been dabbling in natural magic, and that his poems were part art and part incantation. Clearly I could have prepared myself better had I known. I could have prepared all of us.

Instead, I read some delightful poems about trees and mountain energy and I remember nothing else until a few days ago when I awoke completely refreshed in a forest I did not recognize. Partly because the forest has grown and blossomed so transformatively that it seems like a different forest all together. And partly because the tree in which I was so delightfully ensconced seems to have moved to the other side of the mountain. Bubo and I spent about a day getting our bearings and shaking off the moss that covered us. (There is one leaf that seems to be growing from just below my elbow and I’m keeping it to study.)

It took us a good three days to make it back over the mountain and back to the house. Which is in a shambles.

Oh, my dears. What a strange few months it’s been. The house was left open (I am guessing from my relatives appearing for the usual Summer Solstice celebration and not bothering to clean up or close the doors) and mud, rain, and wind have pummeled the building. Not to mention what I can only assume was a band of drunken fisher cats, judging from the damage to the drawing room and the decimation of the laboratory and herborium. I have much work to do. I also have a wealth of questions for my Cousin Cate, our family witchcraft expert, and just as soon as she returns from her trip to the Southeastern United States, I will be able to ask her about the poems Underhill wrote. I am wary to even crack the book again.

So that is my explanation for my absence. I apologize for my prolonged silence, though, clearly, who could have foreseen this? (Aside from Underhill, who is still missing.)

And I shall be busy rebuilding this house, repairing these rooms, and re-filling them with marvelous finds.

Thank you for your notes (there is nothing like a pile of mail from friends upon one’s return, no matter how odd the trip) and rest assured, I shall not be reading any more of Underhill’s journals aloud.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, there appears to be a black bear in my garden and Bubo insists I repair her turret first so that she can refurbish her nest to her liking. You’d think she’d lend me a bit of slack – I don’t see a family of hummingbirds using her beard as a nest.



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April Fool’s Day

The origins of this day of pranks are largely unknown. Some theorize that this ersatz holiday evolved from the change to the Gregorian Calendar. Some postulate that the day sprang forth from a collective case of Spring Fever.

It doesn’t matter how it came to be, I’ve never been a fan.

Unfortunately, it seems, this house quite enjoys April Fool’s Day. It has been perpetrating pranks all morning. First, the hallway floor kept tilting ever-so-slightly so that walking from my bedroom to my study was quite a feat of balance. The fire keeps spontaneously sparking and then snuffing itself, and whilst my bacon was cooking on the stove, the cook range decided to turn itself into an enormous metal turnip.

The only person enjoying these escapades is, naturally, my brother Mordecai, who turned up late last night in the midst of rain and wind. Mordecai is quite the merry prankster and each year manages to plot elaborate pranks. I fear that a combined pranking team of Mordecai and this house will extract the limits of my patience.

Bubo, of course, has even less patience for pranks than I do. She left quite early this morning and can only assume she’s halfway up the mountain, napping quietly and undisturbed in a tree. I’m jealous, naturally.

Happy First Day of April, my friends.

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dumpster duet2

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Lupercalia, Tranquility, and another Mouse

Ah, Valentine’s Day. A day of kissy-faced fealty, bitter compatriotism of the solitary, and rampant emotional eating.

I took a lovely morning stroll along the Huntington River with Bubo and marveled at Mount Mansfield. I do believe Great Great Uncle O. Underhill knew a thing or two about serenity; this land does quiet the storms of the mind.

It also makes Bubo a good deal less cantankerous, which is miraculous and delightful. She’s still a curmudgeonly thing, but with a twinkle in her eyes.

Scholars have long bandied about the origins of the modern Valentine’s Day; clearly man has not been handing out chocolates and greeting cards since the beginnings of time. There is a good deal of debate about whether or not Valentine’s Day has anything to do with the ancient Roman festival of Lupercalia; some scholars assert it is a natural explanation, and some argue that the only thing these two celebrations have in common is the date. Never-the-less, I find Lupercalia fascinating.

Celebrated during the Ides of February (the 13th through the 15th), Lupercalia was a pastoral festival to avert evil spirits, purify the city (Rome), and celebrate fertility and health. The Luperci (an order of Roman priests) would start the festival off by gathering at the Lupercal  cave, where Romulus and Remus (the founders of Rome) were suckled by the She-Wolf. (Some claim the She-Wolf’s name was Lupa.) The Luperci would sacrifice goats and dogs, for fertility. Then, after rituals and a meal, the priests would make crude whips (thongs) out of the sacrificial animals’ hides and then run through the streets, striking anyone they met, especially women. And the women would line up to be touched or hit with these thongs, believing this act would increase their fertility and would make childbirth easier.

The goat-skin was called februum and the month during which this Lupercalia festival took place? Februarius. Have you connected the dots, m’dears?

This purification and fertility festival was important to a land full of shepherds, dependent on their flocks and their own fertility, as they were.

I’m sure things got rather raucous. I can’t imagine a gaggle of mostly naked men running pell-mell through the streets whipping people (mostly women) with februum being anything but raucous.

I am content to spend today quietly. I have just uncovered Uncle Underhill’s stash of field journals and I intend to spend the evening reading in front of the fire with a glass of port and my best owl.

Below is a photo of another field mouse. This one Bubo claims was too sweet and so she did not snatch it. There was some discussion of my wrapping the little thing in bacon. Bubo, wouldn’t you know, is on the hunt for umami.

Quite the model

Quite the model

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