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Saturday, October 31, 2015


Disclaimer: At this point in my life, I do not celebrate holidays as such. I have nothing against celebrating them, but maybe I did it for so much of my life that now I'm holidayed out. They are an excellent excuse for getting together with family and friends and that's about the sum total of my interest in them. Maybe someday I'll get back into the holiday mood.

moon photos from our Tucson home looking toward the mountain
Samhain (pronounced sow-in), October 31st, is the Celtic festival of the dead, and it explains many Halloween traditions. Because it is right before All Saints Day and at the time of the Mexican Day of the Dead, its rituals have been mixed with Christianity and paganism (as are many of our holiday traditions). I've read examples of how some put up altars to their dead family and friends-- not as a seance or to bring them back but to appreciate who they were and how they still love them. Such an altar can be created with photographs as well as objects connected to them. 

For those with a supernatural, paranormal interest, this is a time where supposedly the living and dead are closest together, where the barrier between them is thinnest. Anyone interested in connecting with someone on the other side, this might be the night for it. 

In a simpler, more nature oriented way, it is regarded as the end of the harvest and the beginning of winter. I get the pumpkins, with the end of the harvest, but how did black cats get associated with Halloween? From what I can tell, it does not go back to the Celtic festival, but may relate to when witches were regarded as evil, and some believed they could shape-shift into black cats. Hence a black cat might be a witch, I guess. 

 our two black cats on the bed in the trailer on our way down

Some, of course, regard those beauties as bad luck. Personally, having had many black cats through the years, I regard them as good luck. The sloe-eyed one is Raven and the more masculine appearing one is Blackie.

I actually wrote about Samhain in my fourth Oregon historical, the one due out December 21st. The hero had a Scottish ancestry and grew up in the South where often there have been interesting mixtures of cultural traditions. It seems sad to me that so many of our holidays have reverted to commercial interests, and their spiritual origins have been lost.

The following is a snippet from that book, Love Waits. Keep in mind, this is  before the final edit; so might change a bit. It doesn't matter who the characters are as it's about a tradition that has been long forgotten-- most places.

   Belle headed back down the hall and looked in on Rand before she went to the children’s rooms. The girls were already whispering and so she opened the door without knocking. Jessica seemed enamored of whatever Laura was telling her. She looked up at Belle. “Samhain,” she said. “That’s what it is next week. Did you know that?”

   “No, I did not. What does it mean?”

   “It’s when we play games and bob for apples, and something Uncle Jed called Puicini. It’s kind of fortune telling. Do you think that’s bad?”

   Belle smiled. “Not at all. How do you play it?”

   “You are blindfolded and then there are four saucers in front of you. They are moved around. The one you choose is what your next year will be full of.”

   “And the saucers are each?

   “Earth, water, beans, and money. I guess we all want money as not sure what the others would mean.” Laura grinned. “Uncle Jed said they do this from where he came. It’s a nighttime game. He said sometimes even with fireworks. I haven’t yet gotten to do it but they said we will.”

   “It sounds like great fun especially the bobbing for apples.”

   “It might be pagan.” Laura’s face took on a worried expression.

   “It doesn’t sound like that,” Belle said as she helped Jessica out of her nightgown and into a dress. “It sounds like it is nature oriented. Working the earth and it yielding all you wanted, would be like a garden. The water would be maybe a trip.” She smiled as she considered other options. “Or enough rain to keep the land good. Beans would be food, and of course, we know what money is, don’t we.”

   “He said they sometimes decorate for it too. It’s also about the ones who... went before us. Kind of, I think.”

   “Then even better.”

   “Except, he said sometimes there are ghost stories,” Laura said. “That might be scary.”
Ghosts might be scary, or then again, it might just be what is. This could be a night to think about that... 

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Lands of Fire

Because, our Tucson house is a mix of being used by us and vacation renters in the winter and spring, getting here always involves making it ready for the first to arrive after we leave. Whether we will be continuing the vacation rentals is uncertain for assorted reasons. We are doing some serious thinking about whether we can afford to keep it if we don't rent it and yet renting it has increased complications. By the time we leave, we should know.

One of the big things with which we had to deal was the swimming pool. We considered having it removed when we saw the water had turned green, and the experts said it would take draining, scouring, and then refilling. Nothing cheap. The problem is neither is removing it, and it would cost us value if we did that on the off chance we wanted to sell it in the near future. So we have to pay for all that water, but not much you can do about any of it. The photo alongside is after the pool guys scoured it. It is nine feet deep at the farthest end. It had a diving board which we removed. Currently we are filling it... yes, it's costly but we alerted the Oro Valley water company so we won't also have a fine for overuse of water. They do understand this problem. Some pieces I read said these pools should be drained every 3 to 5 years... uh oh.
As an upgrade, we decided to buy a 55" HD TV. We had been thinking the entertainment center made that impossible except now there are metal bracket hangers and... The box where the TV used to set is turned into a shadow box for one of my sculptures and also would be a spot to showcase cut flowers.

Of course, we have had to test out the set so we can write instructions for the renters... I like it so much and am now thinking of a 60" for the Oregon house. They have come down in price as constantly they are bringing out some new, fancier version that is more money while last year's models are less than the first color TV we ever bought-- years and years and years ago.

Anyway we are here, enjoying the desert as it's particularly lush this year due to rains that lasted (and are still lasting) longer than usual. Wildflowers are  blooming. 

Because I have a new historical romance coming out November 5, Lands of Fire, it's particularly nice to be here now as a reminder of all I and my characters love about the Sonoran Desert. This book has the most, of any of my books, about what the desert means to those who live close to it.

For those who have no clue what that means, here are some photos of what we have been enjoying as we go for desert walks. Right now I am slowly reconditioning myself to walking farther. I am soooooooo out of condition. There is nowhere I'd rather be doing the walking as the desert feels so alive right now-- especially where the streams are full of water that much of the year, they don't have.

I will be writing more about the next book. I have something on my Rain Trueax blog that illustrates the timeline I use for these books. When you write books over a period of years, it's helpful to write down the characters' birth dates and places. 

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

settled for awhile

While for some travel means notches on a post where they have one more place they have seen, for me, it's about returning to places I love and want to know more deeply on a soul level. I could spend years on a creek and never truly know it, which is true of a marsh, forest or sandy shore. Nature is always changing and to be somewhere long enough to know it is like being with another person long enough to know them. It doesn't happen quickly. It requires time and being there in seasons.

A couple of years ago I made a video for why I love Tucson. I might choose to do a new one someday. Things change every time I come here-- a fact that I bemoan when it's a lovely stretch of desert being bulldozed flat for housing. But life is that way-- nothing stays as it was no matter how we might sometimes wish it could.


The drive down was stormy with weather more like you expect during the monsoon season. It made it interesting and a constantly changing sky. I kept trying to get a lightning shot, but no luck. Blink and it's gone but we saw some wonderful bolts-- more appreciated when not on the highway and heading straight toward them.

On some stretches of highway, the drivers were crazy as they passed when there was no reason to do it, with a sign telling them the passing lane was within sight. I am not sure what that kind of risk taking is about as they force other cars off the road for some kind of adrenaline rush or is it rage? 

I suspect a lot of people use their vehicles as a way to show their rage. Insane? You bet, but unless there are a lot of police, and on most stretches we never saw a patrol car, some will always push the limits. The trailer tows well but when it's windy, it can't safely go as fast, as a small car.

At night, our Wildcat makes for a cozy secure place to sleep even when the thunder and lightning crash overhead. We appreciate the small cabin feel more than the cats who hate travel with a passion. Never do we start a morning when they aren't hiding to avoid their travel boxes. For safety's sake, they have to ride in the truck with us.

When our kids were small, we pulled a 15' travel trailer on this route. Those days we stayed in places like rest areas even knowing there might be some risk. We were young and strong-- not to mention had less money for the fees at RV parks. Sometimes, it made for interesting overnights. I'd say the most scary was when a Kingman, Arizona service station said we could spend the night at the back of their big lot. We were all settled in when we heard a train coming fast. We knew if we had pulled too far back (we'd had no idea a train track was there), it was too late to change anything. It rumbled past safely beyond us. Those are the moments you know it could be all over in an instant. 

Today, we stay in KOAs, Good Sams, state, or federal parks. I can't imagine sleeping in a rest area and not sure if that's due to us being old folks now or whether it's more predators roaming looking for the easy mark that someone old might appear. With this trailer, we've stayed a few places that seemed less safe (not this trip) but never chosen, only when there was no option, and it was too late to go beyond. We try to plan it so that doesn't happen. 

Whatever we might think about it, cats don't like travel. They don't want a change that they didn't choose. It takes awhile for them and us to relax after a long drive like that. The sunset last night was a help with that-- along with a glass of wine and sitting out on the patio and seeing the cats explore their yard (Ranch Boss got up the extra fencing to keep Raven from flying out). We've had several lightning storms since we arrived and it's humid with the storms coming up from Baja. Definitely a different October.

We are here to do some upgrades on this house, which we call Casa Espiritu. The big question has related to its swimming pool. The pool came with the home when we bought it in 1999. We never wanted it, but we did want this stretch of natural, beautiful desert. This year, with the pool, we either must have its surface restored or it demolished and replaced with a possible meditation garden with hot tub. The thing is it's rented this spring with people where we advertised the swimming pool. The decision on its removal will likely be put off until next year. Having it reconditioned cannot.

The last photo was taken with my new laptop. I almost didn't try its webcam as they are usually horrible. This one has amazing detail and color. I didn't adjust the photo to make the white walls less green mainly because the skin tones are so good. I am standing in front of my desk where I write when here. Soon on the opposite wall will be a big screen TV, which I am much looking forward to as watching movies is one of the things we enjoy in the evenings.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

on the road

traveling... some good experiences... especially up at Tule Lake National Wildlife Refuge and Lava Beds National Monument with lava caves, history, birding in sage and juniper country. Here are some random pics and when I get stable somewhere, I'll explain more about what they're about. Great stories in this country.

Currently in Beatty where we woke to thunder, gusty winds up to 40mph and rain. not sure when we will then be able to leave since we are pulling a vacation trailer-- no fun in wind.When it quiets down, guess we will head for Vegas and maybe beyond--depending on the weather.

Thursday, October 01, 2015

Fall is in the air


It's fall-- it's fall. 
A glorious time of year 
when the birds and bees 
gather the last of the season's bounty.