When I was Five

When I was five we left the farm.  We left the green screened in porch where my grandmother and I would sit on the porch swing and sing Home on the Range.  We left the magical lightening bugs that hovered low in the tall grass of the front lawn that decorated an occasional jar for a night before being released the next day.  We left the Walnut trees that were home to playful squirrels and the strawberry patch that my grandmother and I raced through to see who could pick the most strawberries in the shortest amount of time.  We left the walking sticks that sheltered on the porch screen during rain storms.  We left the old chicken coop which was now a home to a wild array of ferns after becoming an unintended green-house.  We left our dog Jenny, a sweet collie/border collie mix that had been friend, nurse-maid, and protector since I was born.

That was the hardest part for me, and I had difficulty understanding the logic that Jenny would not be happy in a place like the Southwest with its heat, stickers and dirt: it would have been a miserable experience for a farm dog with a heavy coat who was used to the independence of a country life to have to live in such a contrasting environment in a small apartment, regardless of the love shared between her and her family. And so we left, my grandfather driving my mother and myself to New Mexico where hopefully the higher elevations and drier climate would improve my mother’s health and allow us to have a new start, just she and I.

The drive was long and I remember asking whether or not the hills we passed were mountains.  For the most part, they were just that, hills.  I also remember nick-naming the trucks that would whiz by us on the highway.  The small ones I called “meanies” and the larger ones “loudies.”  I have no idea how I came up with those names, but I still remember them for some reason.

I remember playing with the toys by grandmother sent with me for the trip.  One was a plastic Pluto (the Disney dog) that would jump around when you pressed the plastic button.  Another I remember, was Mr. Potato Head.  Grandpa had to use his pocket knife to widen the some of the openings for his body parts because they were too hard for my little hands to push in the nose, lips, etc….

I don’t remember the day we drove into Farmington, New Mexico.  I remember very little of it; we stayed there only a short time before moving on to Santa Fe.  What I do remember is the stickers that deflated my Hoppity Horse, the land lady’s sons’ who would give mom and I rides on their motorcycles and the really cool slingshots that they played with. Santa Fe would become the home of my heart.

Santa Fe had MOUNTAINS.  The sleepy little Spanish town sat at the foot of the Sangre de Cristo Mountain, part of the Rocky Mountain chain.  When I lived there in the 1970’s, Santa Fe  had not yet been “discovered”  by those who would later coin the term “Southwest Chic” and drive up the property values while commercializing that which made Santa Fe what it was, that sense of old worldliness and otherness that made it so special.  I feel lucky that I knew it before.

In Santa Fe, I would go to fiestas and parades on the downtown plaza, eat at the Woolworth’s counter, stroll in front of the Governor’s Palace with Native American artisans displaying their crafts on blankets.  I would watch the burning of Zozobra, “Old Man Gloom”, in the Fall and hunt for and eat roasted piñon nuts.  I would go on walks in the mountains taking in the crisp clean air filled with woodsy scents.  My grandparents would eventually leave the farm and move to Santa Fe, living in a modest home on a quiet street, making my little family complete.  The farm was where I was born, Santa Fe was where I began to really grow.

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Shield Maiden

Shield Maiden

by Amy C. Evans

Shieldace

She sat quietly, her silver threaded hair flowing, her green gaze entranced, watching the follies of those who have been tamed, who never in their life took a chance, who settled for the mundane.

She has walked a difficult path and has known pain and failure and battled hard, her light against the darkness of a world unbalanced and cold.

There have been times when she has fallen, felt shattered and forlorn, but off the ground she has risen, her soul intact, her heart scarred, but not hardened and broken.

Willing to stand with the weak, the freak the disenfranchised. Those who do not fit into a world grown intolerant of all who do not conform; of those who still dream dreams, and with an altruistic vision imagine, a time when all are accepted, no matter their creed, no matter their reflection.

She is a shield maiden like those who came before, she fights for those who, not unlike her, have been told they are not the norm, they do not fit in, these outsiders, these wild things, the ones who refuse to be anything other than who they are.

Her head unbowed, her strength renewed she wipes away her tears,

Her shield of faith banishes all her crippling fears.

Her eyes flash fierce, her resolve restored,

She will always and forever be an untamed wild elemental being, gypsy-footed and free.

A myth and a lore? No, she is real.  She is you.  She is me.

Not Sleep

I could not understand where my shirt went and why I was in public topless.  I desperately searched for something to cover myself up with.

Suddenly I found myself in a large building with a group of people.  Outside was a large dinosaur stalking us, busting it’s head thru the the walls.  All I could think of was finding the basement because I knew we would be safe there; it would be deep enough and strong enough to withstand any kind of attack.

Now I am in a tunnel.  I knew I had to use it to reach the dense forrest at the end of it to be safe from some unnamed terror that was propelling me into flight; the fear was all consuming.  I needed a forrest that was so immense that I could just disappear.  

Next I was back in high-school.  I could not understand why I was having to go thru that special kind of hell again, when I had already graduated and gone on to earn university degrees.  For some reason I feel like a fraud and that I have to repeat high school in order to feel real.

Then I woke up, but did I really sleep?  They say you dream when you sleep but I disagree.  Dreaming is NOT SLEEP.

Autumn Falls

Autumn is my favorite season.  I love the soft light, early days and the feeling that everything is slowing down in a world that is more often than not fast paced and busy.

Autumn is when nature prepares for a long sleep until it is awakened by windy spring days.  It is not a death like some think, but a hibernation.

In preparation for this long slumber, we are treated to a pallet of  infinite variety as leaves turn brilliant shades of amber, yellow, scarlet, and orange and the scent of earth and mulch mixed with the first wisps of smoke from long dormant fireplaces create an intoxicating woodsy scent.

Apple picking and pumpkin carving fill the days while hot cider warms you on chilly evenings of star gazing as Orion once again strings his bow.  This Autumn we were even treated to a lunar eclipse of a super blood moon just days after the autumnal equinox.  A beautiful red ball decorated the velvet sky; it is predicted that this visitation will not repeat itself until 2033.  Such treats should not be dismissed for it is in these fleeting moments that we are reminded of how small we are in a large and complex universe of which we ourselves are a part of.

Half-eclipsed super blood moon over the Santa Catalinas, Oro Valley, Arizona

And you know what?  I like it that way.  Chief Seattle mused that “Humankind has not woven the web of life. We are but one thread within it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves. All things are bound together. All things connect.”
In Autumn, in the mellow light that blankets the daytime and in the hushed blackness of night with its storyteller constellations it is good to be small, and connected and bound to one another.

Living in Amber

Sometimes I feel like I am trapped in amber, frozen and unable to move forward or backward, always fearful that the choices I make may be the wrong ones, forgetting that it is a choice to not make a choice as well.  Ah, you have to love the irony of it.  Always trying to do what is right, whether for yourself or others, but getting trapped in that special purgatory that is indecision and fear.  So what is the solution to this conundrum?

Taking a chance.  Scary for sure, but chances and change means you are living. And you cannot truly live in amber, a state of suspended animation, for very long without ceasing to live at all.

It is time to let go of negative self talk and the “I wishes” and “maybe someday” or “hopefully one day.” Hedging your life away results in stagnation.

Time to start that novel, take that class, talk to that person you have been to shy to introduce yourself to.  Time to be true to your authentic self, the one that has been fighting to be free since you were an unfiltered child who believed in yourself and had no doubts about what you could do or be.  What happened to that child?  I know that mine is still there and often speaks to my adult self.  I miss her but my grown-up side tells me to let her go, but I can’t because I know in my innermost being that that child I was is my hope, my future and who I am.

It’s time to listen a little bit better and start acting instead of dreaming.

The Night La Llorona Chased Me.

As a child growing up I spent a good part of my time in the then sleepy Spanish town of Santa Fe which sprawls at the base of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains.  I was five years old when my mother and I first arrived.  We lived right next to a graveyard but this never bothered me.  What did bother me was when we moved to an apartment that abutted an arroyo.

Arroyos were dangerous, especially during the Southwest monsoon season when flash floods could occur without warning.  But I was not afraid of the arroyo because of flash floods.  I was afraid of it because of La Llarona, The Crying Lady. All my friends and I knew that you could not play outside after dark, because if you did La Llorona would steal you away.  La Llorona had once been a beautiful woman with a couple of children.  She had fallen in love with a handsome man who rejected her.  In her anger and sadness she threw her two children into a river.  Once she realized what she had done she ran after them, trying to save them, crying out “mijo, mija” but she fell, hit her head on a rock and died and her children were lost. Now she haunts the night looking for her lost children and if she sees a child outside with no grown-ups she will snatch that child to make it her very own.  If you are lucky enough to get away from her, her handprint will be burned into your skin.   There are many different tellings of this legend throughout the Southwest and Mexico.  This is the one that I remember the most.

The night she chased me I was asleep and I could feel this horrible fear come over me, and there she was, standing in my apartment, her hair long, damp and straggly. I knew she wanted to take me away so I ran all over the apartment with her chasing me.  I was headed to the bathroom when my grandmother opened the door to the apartment and La Llorona disappeared.  While this was surely a nightmare it has stuck with me for nearly forty years. I ended up sleeping in the hallway near my mother’s bedroom instead of my room. I always felt a little sorry for La Llorona who just wanted her children back but, I never forgot she was the one who drowned them.  I realize as an adult this is a lesson to children to obey their parents and not be outside after dark, but back then, and sometimes even now, I think back to the tale and my nightmare and wonder.

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Adventures in Cryptozoology: Today’s Topic: Wild-Men, a Wookie’s cousin or missing link or perhaps a collective ancestral memory? You decide.

          One of my favorite shows as a kid was “In Search of……..”  Hosted by the late, great Leonard Nimoy.  I would sit captivated as he took me around the world to Atlantis and the Bermuda Triangle, to the Himalaya’s and the elusive Yeti, and to explore the depths of  Loch Ness Lake looking for a strange aquatic animal nick named Nessie.

I still love these types of shows.  I love the idea of mystery and that there are things that we cannot explain away scientifically or otherwise.  And how boring that would be if we could.  As human beings most of us, I think, are innately curious about our world and beyond, but our day to day struggle to meet work deadlines and family obligations does not allow us to go in search of these mysteries for ourselves, so maybe we can be armchair explorers and talk about the creatures that could fill up a cryptozoologist’s  dictionary.

One of the most famous in the United States is that of Big Foot and other wild-man like creatures depending on where you live.  There is Sasquatch, ( http://www.bigfootinfo.org/ ), the Skunk Ape,  http://extra.heraldtribune.com/2014/08/08/legend-skunk-ape-floridas-stinky-mystery/ , and the Loup Garou ( http://www.mythicalcreaturesguide.com/page/Loup+Garou ) .

Many of these legends have been around for centuries making one wonder what has made them continue to exist in the modern world?  How can such a creature escape capture and elude researchers?  Are they that wily, that intelligent?  Are they part of an earlier evolutionary tract that did not go extinct but managed to survive in the wild and learned to avoid its human cousins?

Part of this puzzling phenomenon that leans me towards believing that they exist or have existed is that you hear of similar types of creatures existing in other parts of the world.

In Russia there is the Wild Man, http://www.animalplanet.com/tv-shows/monster-week/videos/does-a-wildman-inhabit-russian-forests/ , and we cannot forget the Yeti  http://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/dna-study-shows-yeti-is-real-sort-of–and-oxford-scientist-prepares-expedition-to-find-it-9577991.html 

Has anyone ever encountered a creature like Big Foot?  What are your theories and thoughts on this subject?

Feel free to suggest other topics regarding the are of cryptozoology for us to discuss and explore and share any experiences you may have had.