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Sunday, July 29

A Naturewalk With the Huntsman

The children in our neighborhood came across a rather large spider yesterday.  They were keen to "squish" it, but I talked them out of it and put it into a large mason jar along with a bit of lettuce stem from our container garden.  After a bit of research I determined that it was most likely a breed of Huntsman spider. 


His leg span was wider than the mouth of the mason jar.

 Doodle Bug wanted to keep the spider as a summer pet, much the way we had kept a pair of female wolf spiders last summer.  We had fed them crickets and watched as their eggs sacs hatched and their babies climbed on their backs.  We soon let them go into my mother's garden and they were on their merry way.  I decided that our Huntsman would not be comfortable in that situation due to his sheer size.



So this morning Doodle Bug and a friend of his went on a leisurely nature walk with me where we let the Huntsman go.   

Doodle Bug saying goodbye.

Our Huntsman is a little hard to see, but he's the leggy grey blob in the grass.

We spent the rest of our walk exploring along side a creek near a cabin we spend the autumnal equinox at most years. 

Ground webs around a telephone pole.

Leaves of a sassafras sapling.

A hole in an old tree that insects seemed to be living in.

Doodle Bug and his friend Jazmine conquering a stump.

Beautiful image of splintered wood.

Noble tree roots.

The kids spent 20 minutes throwing rocks into the creek.

Doodle Bug's back side as he scouted for stones.

Bright red berries.

Doodle Bug throwing a dead branch in the creek.

An odd face in the broken root of a tree.

Large stones alongside the creek.

The kids wasted no time.

Doodle Bug offers "peace".

Berries growing along an old stone wall.

A very hairy plant.

An oddly curved stem.

A ring of moss.

We found a funnel web spider!
Mulberries along the stone wall.

Doodle Bug practicing his swing.

He didn't want to give me a smile... he was playing too hard.

A shady part of the creek.

Beautiful saw-tooth edging on this leaf.

Doodle Bug peeking through a natural hole in an uprooted tree.

We had a lovely time! 


Saturday, July 28

Friday, July 27

Lammas Weekend is Upon Us

Normally our family heads to a park and does a pretty simple cookout for Lammas.  Our ritual tends to be low key and often involves nothing more than wandering the woods looking for wild berries or late summer flowers, being in awe of the natural world around us. 

This year will be different as my fiance works this a six day stretch and rain has been predicted for the entire weekend.  Aside from this life has been pretty busy and I don't see us doing more than perhaps relaxing the weekend away.  Finding out that we are expecting has put us into a happy whirlwind.  :)  We aren't too upset by this as the rain is a much needed blessing and the sun is shining between downpours.

Instead of planning an outing, I am trying to catch up on posts for this wonderful blog.  I hope to post an entry each day through next weekend to inspire families during this season of corn and grain, county fairs and late nights outside with the kids, ripe tomatoes and armloads of zucchini.






Tuesday, July 24

Review: 'Smoky and the Feast of Mabon'

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Introduction

Smoky and the Feast of Mabon is a children's book aimed at Wiccan and Pagan families.  It was published by the wonderful ‘Magical Child Books’ company in Missouri, USA.  It’s a hardback book with 30 pages.  I know that sounds like a lot for a children’s book, but half of the pages are illustrations.  


The author, Catherynne M. Valente, is an old hand in the publishing world.  She has a claim on multiple awards and has been around the globe.  Fiction and fairytales seem to dominate her creative sphere, but poetry is liberally sprinkled in there.  

W. Lyon Martin illustrates this book, which is no surprise to fans of Magical Child Books.  This book is full of mildly abstract watercolor and color pencil imagery.  The palette is based in warm browns and greens, perfect for a Mabon fairytale.  

The Story

One day Smoky is with her mother, preparing the garden for winter.  She is concerned for the dying flowers in the garden and goes for a walk in the woods.  She is drawn to the light of a great feast being held in the darkness.  It is filled with icons of Mabon for most Pagans: corn, bread, stew and pumpkin pie.  The feast is attended by a horde of animals, an elderly god and a vibrant goddess rocking an infant.  The characters begin to feast and dance and hint at the meanings behind the Mabon holiday.  Eventually a stag breaks everything down for Smoky, telling her that “The end of things is really only the beginning!”  The feast ends and Smoky walks home to hug her mother and wish her a happy Mabon.  

Ideology

This book centers on a tale spun by Robert Graves, in the mid-1900’s, wherein the divine masculine energies of the world are divided between the Lord of Winter and the Lord of Summer.  TheFarrars incorporated this idea into the mythology of the Wiccan branch of Paganism in the early 1980’s, referring to the Lord of Winter as the ‘Holly King’ and the Lord of Summer as the ‘Oak King’. 


Although the characters in this children's book are never mentioned by these specific names, the exchange happening between the ‘Old Year’ and the ‘New Year’ at the equinox is identical. 

What I Loved

  • My copy came as a hardbound book with library stitching.  Very durable.  This will take a few generation’s wear and tear.   
  • Smoky and her mother are loosely colored so that ethnicity is hard to pin down from page to page, making this family easy for just about anybody to identify with.  
  • I LOVE that Smoky’s mother is portrayed as a heavy-set woman.  She comes across as real in the artwork, and not as a typical slender, prettily haired filler character.  Smoky’s mother is working in the garden complete with knee-worn blue jeans.  An earthy goddess woman!

  • I also loved that the stag in the story has a giant mane of rainbow striped fur.  Inspired!


What Could Have Been Better

  • The stag’s explanation of the equinox is bundled into a huge paragraph towards the end of what had been a light story up until that point.  It seems random and he rambles, ending a pretty serious load of information with, “This pumpkin pie is so delicious!”
  • The illustration of the 'Old Year' could have been posed a bit differently.  On first glance, it looked to me like the elderly gentleman was aroused instead of mid-stride down the path.  LOL

  • I noticed a single typo [an omitted word on page 22], but no other clerical type errors.
  • There is a foreword on the opening page of the story, a letter written by a community elder from the Memphis, TN area.  She points out an origin of the word ‘Mabon’, which is great for the adults, but then goes on to completely summarize the story and gives away the ending on the very first page!  I feel that this should have been tacked onto the end of the book, not the very beginning. 

Summary

My children love this book.  It is read aloud every year at Mabon, during our annual cabin trip for the holiday.  I know that this is a story that will continue to live happily in the House of Mama Stacey for many years.

Have you read 'Smoky and the Feast of Mabon'?  What did your family think of it?  Feel free to comment below.

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