A Bummer Unbummered, and Rebummered Again

Went into the full bath Monday night, stepped on the mat in front of the toilet and SQUISHED! — yeah. You’re thinking the same thing I was thinking:  Oh, Ghod, not again. I immediately shifted into triage mode.  No water on the floor and I couldn’t see it seeping from anywhere, but the bathmat was thoroughly soaked and squishy wet.  Grabbed the mop bucket and put the bathmat into it, moved the mat from in front of the sink to in front of the toilet, and headed for the other bathroom.  No wet mats.  Left a phone message on the maintenance “non-emergency” number.

Bright and early Tuesday morning — even before I was up! — here come the short, round, older Hispanic and taller skinny young Anglo maintenance guys.  They search and poke and prod — and tighten down the toilet, which rocked — but could find no source.  They did discover that when you pressed down on the floor in a certain place, water squirted up from between the slats of laminate.  Then Larry the head maintenance guy shows up.  Nobody can find a leak except that when you push in that one spot, water squishes up.  They think maybe it’s left over water from the time the pipe broke at the end of April that has pooled beneath the floor and found a place to come up into the bathmat.  They set a fan on it.  So now I have soggy bathmats, because overnight water soaked half the mat I put down the night before, a bare floor and a fan in my full bath.  Ever try to take a shower with a fan blowing straight on the shower curtain?  Grumble, grumble.  Bummer.

Now that I’m awake, I go boot up the computer and see that I’ve got an email from Amazon with a gift card.  Turns out they’ve settled the antitrust suit with Apple and because I bought ebooks from Amazon, they sent me a gift card to the tune of $48.67 (£32.67, €42.80) as my share of the settlement!  So I bought the last two October Daye  books and the novelette by Seanan McGuire (the last one and the novelette are preorders); the newest book in D. B. Jackson’s Thieftaker Chronicles; a SciFi classic, City by Clifford Simak; and book #2 of Jaime Lee Moyer’s Delia Ryan trilogy. —  I essentially got five books and a novelette for free, which unbummered the day very nicely, thank you.  I had $8 and some change left, but there wasn’t anything I wanted that was less than $13.

2016_06_23-01So Tuesday night after knitting group, I go in to the full bath and press on the spot to see if water still oozes out, and yep, it still does.  Then I notice a slightly darker place on the little “litter catcher” mat in front of the cat box which is in the hall closet.  I flip the mat over and there’s a wet spot on the underside.  I mutter a few words of Anglo-Saxon origin, go pelting into the half bath, flip back the toilet mat, and there’s another damp spot.  These are the same three areas where water leaked before when the pipe in the wall behind the toilet got a hole in it.

2016_06_23-03I leave a message for the maintenance people on the non-emergency line, and start pulling up the bathmats in the other bathroom, moving out the little night stand, and taking the picture* off the wall that covers up the access panel (see above).  Then I go move the poop box and the fat(cat)boy’s food into the office, take out the box it sits on and the vacuum cleaner, and everything else in that closet (at right) and haul that into the living room.

Wednesday morning, I get up and wait for the maintenance guys to come.  About 10 o’clock, I decide to call the office and ask if they got my message.  No, they didn’t.  I told the manager what the message was, and within about 10 minutes, here they come.  I have left the little mat that goes in front of the toilet in the half bath in place so they can see where the wet place is, and I show them the mat from in front of the poop box, and remind them that these were the same three areas that had water when the pipe in the wall got a hole in it.  Off goes skinny Anglo to get the rotary saw.  So, now I’ve got two men in my half bath watching a third one sawing through the patch in the dry wall where the pipe broke last time, and Larry the head maintenance guy discovers the clamp is loose.  He tightens the clamp and they move the fan from the full bath to the half bath. I suggested that they get an access panel and put it where the hole in the wall is, which they think is a great idea.  They’re going to see if they can order one that small.  Even if they can’t, I think they should still put one in, even if they have to make a pretty large hole to do it.

Just as a side note, these apartments were built in 1970, when they were using metal pipes instead of CPVC like they do now, and our water here is hard as a rock, and tends to corrode the metal pipes, which is what caused the pipe to leak in the first place.  In order to truly fix the pipes, they would have to replace them.  In order to do that, they would have to jackhammer a hole down through the concrete foundation and run new pipes not just from my apartment to the water main but from the apartment upstairs, too — not something you want to have to do while there are people living in the apartments, especially the downstairs one, especially since neither of the bathrooms in either apartment would be usable for the duration.

Now, the plug in the half bath (there’s only one) is controlled by the light switch, which means when you turn the light off, it turns the plug off, too.  This gives me the choice of  turning the light (and the fan) off when it’s time to go to bed, or leave the light (and the fan) on and trying to sleep with light bleeding around the bathroom door, or option #3, running an extension cord from a plug in my bedroom under the bathroom door so the fan can continue to run even with the bathroom light off.  I go with option #3

2016_06_23-02So, this morning, after I put all my bath mats back in the washer (I must have the cleanest bath mats in the complex), I got out some of my Lily’s Sugar and Cream cotton yarn, like I was using to make baby bibs, and decided to make a Cobblestone Pie headscarf out of some of it.  I’ve got three balls of hot pink and three balls of purple and white variegated, which ought to be enough to make a headscarf out of each color.

I have some long straight size US10 (6.0 mm) metal knitting needles, but the ends of the needles tend to hit against the arms of the chair when I knit with them, which is annoying.  I’ve got some size US10 metal circular knitting needles but only in the 16-inch and 36-inch lengths.  Alas, the scarf ends up being 21 inches wide, which makes the 16-inch length too short.  I went with the 36-inch circular needles, but they’re at least 20 years old (I had had them for at least 10 years and probably longer when I moved 2016_06_23-04to the duplex in 2001).  The plastic connecting bit is stiff and sproingy from being curled up inside the package, it’s way too much needle for the project, and the sproingy bit keeps getting in the way, which is annoying.

Circular knitting needles aren’t that expensive, and yesterday was payday, so I went on Amazon to order a 24-inch long set of US10’s, which I don’t have.  I found a pair for $10 (£6.71, €8.79) and I could get Amazon Prime shipping on them. When I went to check out, they ended up costing me $1.83 — I thought I could only use the gift card for ebooks.  Apparently, I could have used it on anything, but what I most likely would have bought with it was books.  Ah, well.

About the middle of July, I’ll have to start rereading the October Daye books, as the latest one comes out in September, and the novella comes out August 2.


*This is a poster I got while I was stationed in (West) Berlin in the 1970’s.  It’s the famous bust of Queen Nefertiti, which is in the museum there.

Rendez Vous

Oh, did I have a dream earlier this morning.  It was a rather long and involved dream that happened at night and there were burglars and some man whose house I lived in, and a bunch more stuff that I don’t remember, but then …

I was in a room that was like the bedroom in the duplex where I had my office, only it wasn’t.  This room was cluttered and piled with things and all disorganized like I was either cleaning it or rearranging it.  This young man (not the one whose house I lived in, but he had been in the earlier part of the dream) and I were doing something that involved computer printers.  He was trying to convince me that we should get married because we liked so many of the same things and I was like, “whatever…” and not really paying any attention to him.  Then this cat walked out onto the floor and it was a black and grey stripped mackerel tabby.  I suddenly recognized it, and I said, “That’s Jett!” (who has been gone since 2009).  He heard his name and came up to me.  I reached down to pet him, and he was as real as real.  I said, “I’ve got to find my camera and get a picture of him.” But it was so good to see poor Jett again.  He was like he was when he was young and healthy and not all skinny and dull-coated from diabetes any more.  I picked him up and held him in my arms and loved on him.  I was holding him and loving on him and looking for my camera but couldn’t find it.  And then Gobi (who has been gone since April of 2015) walked out from under some furniture.  He was right at the age when his beautiful long coat had just finished growing out, and he was all white and splendid with that great brush of a tail. I put Jett down and started petting Gobi.  And then there was Stormie (who has been gone since May of 2015).  I wanted so bad to get my camera to take a photograph of them to prove they had come back, but I just couldn’t find it.  I picked up my baby girl and was loving on her.  I was carrying her around loving her the way she liked best, looking for my camera, but then I looked down and she was a different cat, a little male with longer fur that was black with white under its chin and down its belly, but still small and delicate like Stormie always was, but that was OK.  I was loving him and went into the room in the duplex that I used for a bedroom, and into that bathroom, both of which were dark and the bathroom was knee deep in water because part of the the floor was missing.  Still couldn’t find my camera.  I wanted so desperately to photograph them and prove they had returned. It was so miraculous to hold them again and be able to pet them. I was still holding this one black cat, who periodically kept changing back to Stormie, and now I was in this building that was like the entry foyer of a school, and over in the hallway, there were two all-white half-grown kittens scampering and chasing each other off up the hall.  I thought, “Those are the next ones.”

Then the dream morphed as dreams do, and I was driving over this really narrow road under this gothic tracery design of black and peach-orange that swirled and twisted, which was what I had to navigate by to keep the car on the road, but it kept twisting and turning in a very psychedlic way, and then the alarm went off.

It was such a magical dream.  All my babies came back to me (except, oddly, Sister, who was the first one I lost and who has been gone since 2004).  I’m sobbing as I type this.  And, of course, it’s Father’s day, and he has been gone since September of 2014.

But the fat(cat)boy has discovered that his bowl is empty and he is convinced that he will starve to death any second now, and life goes on.

Apropos of Appliances

My mom’s washing machine has been acting up for the better part of two weeks now.  It won’t let go of the lid unless you unplug it from the wall and plug it back in.  Unfortunately, in order to reach the plug, you have to move the dryer.   This Wednesday was the last straw.  She had to move the dryer three times to “reboot” the washer so she could finish doing laundry from my cousins’ visit (sheets, towels and pillowcases), and then right before the final spin of the final load it quit on her and she had to wring out a load of bath towels by hand and then hang them out on clothes hangers on the patio until they dripped dry enough to be put into the dryer.

My mom is rough on washers.  This is the third one she’s had to buy since we moved into that house in 1961.  They just don’t make things like they used to.  (She’s only on her second dryer, though, which she had to buy in 1981.  It’s still working fine, however.)

This washer is only 18 years old and you’d think she would have called a washer repair guy to come out and take a look at it when it started acting up two weeks ago, but the washer is a Kenmore (read “durn, new-fangled contraption”), and she’s never liked it.   Apparently, having to move the dryer and un-/re-plug the washer every time you want to wash a load of clothes is one thing, but having to wring out a whole load of towels by hand is outside of enough.  Wednesday, she went out and bought a new Amana washer and dryer.  (She wanted them to match.)  They were not in stock but will be delivered.  She got a good deal on them.

My two first cousins and my first cousin once removed (the older one’s daughter) had come for a visit last week.  They drove over from Dallas Wednesday week ago to visit my mom.  That Thursday, they (and my mom) drove over to visit another cousin and his wife and her mother in Capitan, New Mexico, gambled at the Inn of the Mountain Gods (owned and operated by the Mescalero Apaches), and came back last Saturday via White Sands. Then last Monday they went to Palo Duro Canyon on a day trip.  They left Tuesday bright and early to drive back to the younger cousin’s house in Dallas, from whence the other two will fly back to Pearland so that my 1st cousin removed x1 can get ready to go on a trip two days later. (For those keeping score, my 1st cousin removed x1 is the sister of the daddy of Miss Raelyn Rose, of knitted baby clothes fame)

Of course each cousin and my 1st cousin removed x1 has a smart phone, which they played with constantly.   When I saw this Arlo and Janis comic strip this past week, I sent it to my mom.

Arlo and Janis

My mom informed me that the younger of my two cousins wrote on her Facebook page that she wanted to be just like my mom when she grew up.  Sez my mom, “At 70, I hope she does it soon.  Ha.*”  My cousin is the one who’s 70, not my mom.  My mom is 91.

* “Ha.” is momspeak for “LOL”

Early May in Charleston, South Carolina.

2016-05-06-01 Francis Marion Hotel CharlestonThis will be a picture heavy post, and I apologize in advance for the slowness of its loading.

This spring, from April 29th to May 6th, my mom and I took a trip, spending 4 nights in Savannah, Georgia, and three nights in Charleston.  We flew home from Charleston on the afternoon of May 6, but that morning, I took a little jaunt on my own from where we stayed at the Francis Marion Hotel (at left) to visit the Edmonston-Alston House, which overlooks Charleston Harbor and Fort Sumter.

Screenshot_2I had my route all planned.  It was a gorgeous day, I had my running shoes/trainers on, my map in hand, a good breakfast under my belt and fresh batteries in my camera.

We were staying in the oldest part of Charleston which is located out on the point of the peninsula between where the Ashley River flowing south of the city joins the Cooper River which flows north of the city.  Their confluence forms Charleston Harbor.  Of course, on one of the several islands in Charleston Harbor is located historic Fort Sumter.

I took King Street south, which was mostly high-end shopping — clothing, antiques, and what have you.  I found nothing photo-worthy until I hung a left onto Broad Street where I found much of historic interest.

2016-05-06-02 Dr. John Lining House (c 1715)
109 Broad Street, Dr. John Lining House (c 1715)
2016-05-06-03 Barber Shop on Broad Street
102 Broad Street, Dr. Henry Frost’s house built in 1844 now also houses a barber shop

A note on the architecture here.  This style of house (above) is called a “Charleston single house.” It is quite common in Charleston, and dates from the 19th century.  The house sits perpendicular to the street, and the door you see on the street does not actually go into the house, but into the porch under the balcony (which Charlestonians call a “piazza”) where the true front door into the house is located.  Typically, the side facing the street is only a single room wide, hence the name.  The house would be built along one edge of the lot leaving room for a carriage way to the stables and outbuildings behind the house.  Most of these houses no longer have outbuildings and have converted the carriage way to a little garden area or patio and replaced the carriage gate with a wall along the street to shield the garden and house from street noise.

Charleston was founded in 1670, and you can see the stages of adaptation of the 18th century “head-on” Georgian style imported from the cooler, temperate climate of England (see below) to the “side on” style of architecture (above) as a response to the very much warmer, downright swampy climate of South Carolina.  The day I took my little hike, May 6th, it was 90F(32+C) by noon and the humidity was in the 90% range. Fortunately, there was a light breeze.

Palmetto trees (Sabal palmetto) like the excellent specimens seen above and below are an indigenous species to the state.  In fact, South Carolina is known as “The Palmetto State” and features the image of one on its State Flag.

2016-05-06-04 Meyer Peace House c 1783
96 Broad Street, Meyer Peace House c 1783
2016-05-06-05 Dr. David Ramsey house built between 1750-1775
90 Broad Street, Dr. David Ramsey house built between 1750-1775
2016-05-06-06 Charleston Federal Courthouse
85 Broad Street, U.S. District Courthouse, a “double building” built in 1795 by merchant Josiah Smith

You can find more information on the preceding five buildings here.

2016-05-06-07 St. Michael's Church
74 Broad Street, St. Michael’s Episcopal Church, built between 1751 and 1761.  George Washington sat here in 1791.
2016-05-06-08 Blake Tenements built between 1760 and 1772
2-4 Courthouse Square (between 82 and 84 Broad Street) Blake Tenements built between 1760 and 1772.
2016-05-06-10 Confederate home for mothers, widows and daughters of confederate soldiers
60 Broad Street, Confederate home for mothers, widows and daughters of Confederate soldiers, founded in 1867.

2016-05-06-10a Confederate Home damaged in earthquate of 1886The Confederate home was “Ruined by the earthquake of 1886, and restored by the people of the Union, 1887.”  The “great earthquake” was estimated at 7.0 on the moment magnitude scale and occurred at 9:50 p.m. on 31 August, 1886.

Many historic homes dating to that period and before have “earthquake bolts” — iron shafts run through the masonry to tie opposing walls together.  These earthquake bolts provided enough structural support and reinforcement to enable many to be spared demolition due to earthquake damage.

2016-05-06-11 Daniel Ravenel House built between 1796 and 1800
68 Broad Street, Daniel Ravenel House built between 1796 and 1800.

You will note that this “Charleston single house” still has the carriage way that leads to the still extant out buildings behind the house, although there is no longer a gate.  If you enlarge the picture by clicking on it, you can see that a hedge separates the carriage way from the front porch of the house.  Again, the street door does not go into the house proper, but onto the porch.  This property has been owned by the same family since 1710.  The original house on the property burned and was replaced by this house in 1796.  More than ten generations of this family, including the current resident, have lived on this property, most of them in this house.

2016-05-06-12 The old Exchange and Provost dungeon
122 East Bay Street, The old Exchange and Provost dungeon, built 1767-1771

Now we come to the intersection where Broad Street “T’s” into East Bay Street, and a right turn is called for.

2016-05-06-13 Courtyard of Deas-Tunno House built about 1770 89 East Bay Street
89 East Bay Street, Courtyard of Deas-Tunno House built about 1770.

This charming house had a wrought iron gate (below) and window insets with window boxes full of colorful flowers.  I had a peek (and photo) through the gate at the courtyard within (above). This house has no piazzas, so in this case you can see where the actual front door of the house is located

2016-05-06-13b Deas Tunno House Front Gate 2016-05-06-13a Deas-Tunno House window boxesAt Water Street, East Bay Street becomes East Battery Street, and I have nearly reached my destination.  East Battery Street overlooks Charleston Harbor and, ultimately, the Atlantic Ocean.

2016-05-06-30 Carriage Tour on East Bay StreetOne can hire a carriage for a guided tour of Old Charles Town, but I preferred to travel by shanks mare.

2016-05-06-14 Porcher-Simonds housebuilt in 1856 selling for 4,150,000

29 East Battery Street, Porcher-Simonds house built in 1856, remodeled in the 1890’s when a second portico was added.  It has a wrought iron gate and a black and white tiled entry portico.

2016-05-06-15 Gate Procher-Simonds HouseThe Porcher-Simonds house was remodeled in the 1980s into three condominiums.  This delightful property in full view of the bay is for sale and can be yours for a mere $4,150,000.

At last! Here I am. 2016-05-06-18 Edmundston-Alston House Constructed 1825Edmondston-Alston House, Charleston, South Carolina, June 12, 2012.jpg

Photo CC Wikipedia Creative Commons

The Edmondston-Alston House.  It was constructed by Edmondston in 1825, in the typical Charleston single house style.   Edmondston was forced to sell the house due to bankrupcy owing to the Panic of 1837.  Below is the original front door located in the typical location in the middle of the porch under the piazza.  If this door looks somewhat the worse for wear, that is because it is original to the house, although it almost blew away in a hurricane!

2016-05-06-23 Original Front door Edmundston-Alston HouseThe house was bought by Alston in 1838.  He remodeled it and added a new front door facing the street (see below), as this wealthy rice planter used the ground floor as his business premises while his family lived on the top two floors.  The house has remained in the Alston family line ever since.

2016-05-06-19 Front Door Added in 1838 Edmondston-Alston HouseAlston added a “piazza” along the street front side of the house which is not connected to the side piazza, and which is reached through the triple sash windows.  The sills of these windows are at floor level.  One raises the two lower sashes to the top and steps through.

2016-05-06-20 Edmonston-Alston house gardensThe house is beautifully landscaped and has a lovely little garden.  The house was set back from the street with the wall placed at the property limit, which curves to follow the street.

2016-05-06-24 Bench for rocking baby Edmundston Allston HouseThis bench on the front porch is fitted out so that a woman could sit out doors to sew, read or do some other housewifely chore in the cool breezy shade and rock her baby or young child at the same time.   2016-05-06-28 former slave quarters and blacksmithy Edmundston alston house now apartment of present ownerThis is a view toward the back of the house.  The outbuildings and slave quarters have been remodeled into an apartment for the current owner of the house.  Behind the tree is the old black smithy.  This area was part of the private portion of the house and is not accessible to the public.

2016-05-06-27 Door Second Floor Piazza where General Beauregard watched the shelling of Fort SumterThis is the door out onto the second floor piazza.  On April 12, 1861, General P. T. Beauregard gave the order to commence the shelling of the garrison at Fort Sumter, and it was from this piazza that he watched the bombardment.

2016-05-06-25 R to Left James Island, Container ship, Fort Sumpter, Fort Moultrie
Click on the picture for an enlarged view.  Along the horizon are (right to left) James Island, a container ship, Fort Sumter, and Fort Moultrie.  Confederate batteries were situated on James Island at Fort Johnson.

The above photograph was taken from Gen. Beauregard’s vantage point on the piazza of the Edmondston-Alston house.

Alas, photography was not permitted inside the house (What a surprise!).

It was now time for me to retrace my steps and hie me back to the Francis Marion Hotel where the tour bus was to take us to the Charleston Airport.

2016-05-06-32 George Chisholm House built in 1810 flying the US and SC flags
39 East Battery, George Chisholm House built in 1810, flying the US and SC flags.

I call your attention to the sidewalk which is made of flagstones.  A lot of the sidewalks in this section of Charleston are made like this, rather than of concrete like I’m used to.  Over the (literally) centuries, they have settled unevenly and needless to say, one has to mind one’s footing to avoid the frequent trip hazards. Shortly after I passed this point, I made a friend . . .

2016-05-06-33 a furry friendOn the way back up East Bay Street, I met a family out having a local tour guided by — a buccaneer!  This little glimpse up East Bay Street shows why this portion of it is called “Rainbow Row.”

2016-05-06-34 a buccaneer leading a tour group down East Bay Street2016-05-06-35 People's Office Building erected 1910-11 Charleston's first skyscraperOn the way back up Broad Street, I took another photo op — a stone leopard.  One of a pair outside the People’s Office Building, built in 1910-1911 at a cost of $300,000.  At 8 stories, it was Charleston’s first skyscraper.

Checkout time was 12:00 at the Francis Marion.  Although I was a minute or two late, we had brought our luggage down after breakfast and checked it at the desk.  I reunited with my mom in the spacious, beautifully appointed (and airconditioned!) lobby of the hotel to await the arrival of the bus to take us to the airport.  After hiking approximately 3 miles at a fairly steady clip, I was ready to sit down!2016-05-06-01b Interior Francis Marion Hotel LobbyI’ll leave you with a parting shot of some furniture porn from the hotel lobby, complete with antique transferware.

2016-05-06-01a Interior Francis Marion Hotel Lobby

A New Liaden Novelette

Signal boosting here:  For all you fans of the Liaden Universe, Sharon Lee, Steve Miller or all of the above, there is a new Liaden novelette called “Wise Child” which is available to read for free on Baen Books’ website.  If you Facebook or Tweet, please click the like buttons if that is your preference.   If you like this novelette, or if it piques your curiosity, there’s lots more where it came from.


The Crystal Stars

Alas, Mag Challenge is “on the back burner for a while.”  I miss it.  I’ll just have to challenge myself, then, I guess. . .

1216944f5ff1441ed8fa0a239ccbfc47The Crystal Stars


Gianni passed from deep, dreamless sleep to wakefulness in the twinkling of a star. The darkness was as still, as deep, and as silent as stone.


Without thought, he rolled out of the cocoon of warmth within the heavy woolen covers, off the thick felt pallet where he slept, and onto the cold stone floor.  He put out his hand, found his robe and shrugged its fleecy softness over his bare skin.  Through total darkness, he walked barefoot across the ancient stone floor in the direction from which the call had come.

The chamber in the students’ hall at Cho Oyo where he had been living for the past eight and a half years was cut from the living stone of the mountain.  It was a simple, windowless cube 9 feet on a side.  If he took more than two paces in the direction he was walking, he knew he would reach the chamber wall, but he trusted and without pausing, he took a third step. What should have been cold, hard, unyielding stone was nothing more than cool mist.  He took another step, and another, through cool, vaporous, utter darkness that bore the scent of cold, rain-wet stone.  He was aware of the lofty wool of his robe, the mantle of his hair falling into ringlets over his shoulders and down his back, the cold, damp stone beneath his bare feet, the misty air heavy with the smell of rain on raw stone.

As he walked, the darkness relented slightly and a pinpoint of light appeared in the distance.  It grew larger as he approached it until it became a glowing orb of moon-white light lying on a floor of deep grey slate.  Beside it sat an ancient woman in a brocade robe of midnight blue chased with silver embroidery along the closure flap and around the collar and cuffs of the full sleeves.  Her right foot was up on the seat beside her, and her outstretched arm rested on her knee.   Her neck was encircled by a succession of longer and longer necklaces strung with large beads of turquoise, amber, and silver.  On her wrists she wore large silver cuff bracelets studded with turquoise.   Heavy pendant earrings set with turquoise and golden lumps of amber hung from the long lobes of her ears.  She was tiny, elfin, and her wispy, pearl-grey hair was bound up into a topknot.  The passage of countless smiles had left deep ruts around her mouth and the corners of her bird bright eyes were crinkled with laugh lines.

He had never seen her before, nor had he any idea who she might be.  Still, he bowed to her respectfully, and as he did so, he noted that on the floor in front of her was a large brass bowl full of pure white sand.

“They tell me you sing very sweetly,” she murmured, and unseen spaces soaked up the soft sound of her voice.  “Will you sing for me?”

He bowed in assent.  “What shall I sing?”

“Your favorite song.”

That made him smile. A breath in and out to prepare the chest, a second breath to refill it, and then he began to sing a song first sung in the dark caves of earth deep in the womb of time.  He had a clear, light tenor, with a tone as pure as an organ pipe, and he had been trained in the art of singing in vast, stone spaces.  So attuned was his ear that he remembered the sound of his own voice when he had spoken just now and what the space around him had done to it and, without thinking, had modulated his singing to fit that space.  He launched each ancient phrase from his throat and let it soar out into the empty, stone-shaped darkness.  He has loved the song since his mother first sang it to him as a babe in her arms, this queen of songs, with its odd melodic turns, and arcane intervals of pitch, this hymn to the Mother who is the Gateway through which the soul comes into the world. He sang it once, for the joy of singing it, a second time for the joy of hearing the sound of it, and one time more for the thousands of threads of memory it set thrumming in his heart.

“Ah, I thank you for giving me the pleasure of hearing you sing,” her soft voice whispered.  “It is my favorite song, too.”

“Thank you for giving me the pleasure of singing it for you,” he replied, and meant it.

He was convinced now they were in some sort of large stone chamber or cavern within the mountain itself  However, Cho Oyo was not only a school and a temple, but also a place of retreat.  He had heard that the old ones came here when the years of the world began to weigh too heavily upon them.  Perhaps she was such a one.

The soft sssss of scales on stone, shadows shifted, and he realized that the glowing orb had begun to roll slowly away.  A large claw arrested it. That was when he realized what she was sitting on was alive.  And scaled.  A cold chill puffed through him. When he looked back up at her, the corner of her mouth was trying to wriggle free and curl upward.

“Have you learned to form crystal yet?” She asked then, glancing down at the bowl of sand on the floor between them.


“Will you make me a crystal chime?”


He knelt to do so.  The bowl was heavy with sand, and the metal was cold between his hands.   He placed it before him and slipped his hands up his sleeves, settled himself, brushed a tendril of power across the sand, found a single grain and melted it.  Carefully, he selected another grain and another.  With careful brushes of power, he grew the droplet of molten quartz a few grains at a time.  When he had enough, he began to modulate the heat to let the crystalline lattice  form and a shard of crystal began to take shape.  The quartz in the sand was not completely pure and he had to pay close attention to snatch away the impurities — bits of iron and crumbs of manganese — lest they warp the lattice he was building. It was as much an exercise of concentration as it was an exercise in the skillful manipulation of power.

It took him well over a hour to form a sliver of carefully faceted crystal about five inches long, but when he finally let it grow cool enough to handle, he was pleased with its shape.  He pierced the end of it, pulled a hair from the back of his head, and threaded it through the hole. Holding it by the hair, he let it dangle and pinged it and discovered it to be slightly off pitch.  Frowning, he shaved a microlayer of crystal from each facet and pinged it again.  It took him several adjustments to get the tone just right, but when he was done, it pinged a  perfect G four octaves above middle C.

He pushed the bowl away, rose to his feet, and presented the crystal to her.   She picked it up by the hair he had strung it on, and held it dangling before her as she studied it intently. The light from the glowing globe on the floor speckled her with rainbows.

Quite abruptly, she tossed the crystal up, caught it in her hand and flung it toward the ceiling.  He followed it with his eyes as it arched up into the darkness and saw, to his surprise, the upper darkness was perforated by myriads of twinkling pinpoints of light.

“A worthy addition to my collection,” she said then.  A single crystal pinged a high G into the silence.  A moment later, a shimmer of crystalline pings swept down from the ceiling,  Not stars, then, but hanging crystals, more than a thousand of them, gently chiming in the breath of a breeze that sighed through the vast, empty darkness.  The random beauty of the sound  made him laugh with wonder and delight.

Cho Oyo is the only place on dry land where nine leys come together.  Their children have come here to be taught for millennia and Tsong Xap has taught more than a thousand of them.

The heavy wooden sanctuary door groaned on its hinges as the old monk pushed it open. Before the Goddess’ great stone presence, is a nonagon 27 feet across demarcated by iron bars set flush into the living rock of the floor and aligned so that each of its nine corners marks a ley.  At its center is inset a nine pointed star of iron at the spot where they converge.  This morning there was someone standing atop the star, looking up at the ceiling and laughing quietly.  Tsong Xap recognized the torrent of dark mahogany curls even before he was close enough to see the face it mantled.

Giannangelo di Ludovico Buonarotto Simoni was the name this man child had been cumbered with.  His face was famous because another angel stole it and put it on a statue, and in the contrariness of genius, the expression that this other angel gave it was not the one of wonder and delight that softened it now, but the grim determination of a man with a rock in his hand, who knows he can hit whatever he aims for, and has just bet his life on it.

The next instant, Gianni realized he was not where he was an eye-blink ago.  Inexplicably, he was now in the sanctuary, and his teacher was standing in front of him. “I think I was dreaming,” he murmured, blushing.

The old monk suppressed a smile with some difficulty.  This was not the first time one of his students had awakened to find they were not where they were when they went to sleep.  Cho Oyo was an old, old place rooted deep into the earth, a place of vast power, a place where the line between dream and reality had a tendency to become hazy.

As they stood there facing one another, the great World Bell that hung at the heart of the temple tolled its single sunrise note. The sound of it sailed out across the air like ripples across a pond.  When the surface of the world was still once again, Tsong Xap said quietly, “Breakfast with me on the terrace and tell me of your dream.”


My Cousin Has A Leak At Her House Now

Unfortunately, the leak is in the Brazos River, which has jumped its banks.  There is flooding in that whole area south and southwest of Houston.  She lives near Rosharon, TX, which is right on the Brazos.  My mom talked to her tonight and I talked briefly with my mom afterward.  She said my cousin said her house is now on an island.  She has been fortunate so far, though.  Many people in that area were not so lucky.  There are flooded homes and trailers all over, and a lot of people have had to be evacuated.  Many of the people in the rural areas down there raise cattle including my cousin. and they have had to be rescued.  I hope my cousin hasn’t lost any of her cows.  Mom didn’t say.  This cousin is the younger daughter of the youngest of my mom’s 3 sisters.

Screenshot_4The Brazos is a long ol’ river.  One of its headwaters, the Salt Fork of the Brazos, starts way up here, just outside of town.  Another, the Double Mountain Fork of the Brazos, is about 40 miles southeast of us near Tahoka.  The 45,000 square mile watershed the Brazos drains reaches clear into New Mexico, as you can see at left.

Right now, at Rosharon, the river is at 52.35 feet, according to the Screenshot_5National Weather Service.  Flood stage is 43 feet.  Major flood stage is 51 feet.  The recorded flow currently in the river at Rosharon is about 80,000 cubic feet per second, so it’s a big leak.

We’ve been having rain all along its watershed, as well as all through East Texas, and there has been intermittent flooding in and around the coastal plains where Houston is for months now, including flooding in Houston itself.  We’ve even had some flooding way up here   Playa lakes here in town were overflowing last week.  There’s one over by me.  I’ll have to go check it out tomorrow morning.

Screenshot_6All this area south and southwest of Houston is low-lying coastal plains and prone to flooding.  It’s also rainy and humid there, oddly enough.  (Some of my uncles used to farm rice in that area.) The Brazos flows into the Gulf of Mexico at Freeport which is down at the bottom of the map.  Rosharon is where my flooded cousin lives.  Richmond was where the first video was taken.  I’ve got relatives in Pearland, Galveston, Alvin, and all through that area, and a blog friend in League City.  The thing that is most concerning is that it is still raining down there.

In other news, we’re going to be on the road again in the fall, it seems.  We’re planning a short trip to Round Top, Texas again.  I’ve got to call in the morning and see if I can’t get us reservations at the Gate House again, where we stayed before. My cousin from NM will be going with us, and he wants to stay there (he’s the son of my mother’s oldest sister). More on that later.



Things and Stuff, Redux

I’ve been knitting, and writing knitting patterns, and pottering, and catching up on my TV watching.  I did manage to wash two loads of clothes as I was binge-watching NCIS. . . .  I’ve got a pair of headphones and a really long cable I can plug into my TV, which conveniently has a headphone jack right on the front, so I can watch TV late at night and hear the sound when there’s a fan running, or the washer or dryer are running, without having to set the TV volume on stun.

As we are heading into the heat of summer, I am shifting toward nights, when I can watch TV without the hot air pouring off its huge cathode ray tube causing the AC to run like a hamster in a wheel all day, resulting in an electricity bill that’s higher than giraffe’s ears.  Also the clothes dryer puts out a lot of heat, and the dead of night, when it’s coolest, is my time of choice to run the dryer as well.  Also if I need to work (and I need to if I want to pay my car insurance), during the night is when it’s quietest.  Thumper, the 4-year-old boy who lives upstairs, is asleep and I can hear myself think.

2016_06_03-01Tuesday, I started this pattern in some Red Heart Unforgettable Petunia yarn and it’s coming along nicely.  I’ve been knitting while watching TV and I keep paying more attention to the TV than I do to the knitting, messing up, and then having to rip out a bunch.  2016_06_03-03However, so far, so good.  I’ve decided it will have tassels at the corners, which are, as you can see, all ready to go.  It’s a pretty combination of colors, I think.  I like the colors available in the Unforgettable yarn.

I got that little bowl at Pier One and it’s just the right size for computer knitting.  I usually work out my knitting patterns while sitting at the computer.  I’ll have a Word document open so I can write down what I’m doing, but edit and change easily if I need to.  (That’s Tazo’s Irish Breakfast Tea in the glass, BTW, although it could easily be Harvey’s Bristol Cream.  I have a bottle stashed away . . . .)

I’m also using the same Unforgettable yarn in a different color (Tidal) to do the Diagonal Dance scarf.  It tends to be a little on the fuzzy side, though, and I always end up with some fuzz in my mouth for some reason. 2016_05_28-01 I finally got around to putting all my bathmats back down (and folding and putting away my wooden drying rack).  Never mind the cold floors under bare feet, but particularly the half bath was too echo-y.

Haven’t gotten around to my vacation photos yet, but I’m finally getting around to putting up some photos I took April 6th of the prairie dog (Cynomys ludovicianus) town in the vacant lot behind the VA clinic, and some wild flowers in the area.

2016_04_06-03 2016_04_06-01This is not out on the outskirts of town.  (In fact, it’s about 3 minutes from where my mom lives.) There are built-up areas on all four sides of this large vacant lot.   And where you find prairie dogs, you often find these guys:

2016_04_06-13They are so well camouflaged that I didn’t even realize there was one out there until I got home and was processing the photos.  Athene cunicularia hypugaea — big name for a bird that’s smaller than the prairie dogs whose abandoned burrows it uses for its nesting sites — a great adaptation for a bird that makes its home on the treeless expanses of the Great Plains.  The burrowing owl is the “underground owl” from which this blog gets its name.   The “dogs” have a right little colony going.  I counted at least 10 burrows.

2016_04_06-11At 6 days into April, the grass was beginning to green up, and there were wild flowers blooming:

Huisache Daisy (Amblyolepis setigera)
Prairie Fleabane (Erigeron modestus)
Spiny Aster (Machaeranthera pinnatifida)
Spiny Aster (Machaeranthera pinnatifida)

The wild flowers of the Great Plains are, like most of it’s wildlife, small and unobtrusive.  The blooms of the Prairie Fleabane are about the side of a nickel.  The Huisache Daisies are about the size of a 50-cent piece, and Spiny Asters are about the size of a quarter.