More Storms

And not just weather related ones. There’s a political storm underway in this country right now. Smarter people than me can comment of the nuances of the political world. I want to talk about neighbors.

Political tags – such as royalist, communist, democrat, populist, fascist, liberal, conservative, and so forth – are never basic criteria. The human race divides politically into those who want people to be controlled and those who have no such desire. —Robert A. Heinlein

Right now, in my neck of the woods, nature is doing the controlling. Another week of rainy weather brought down a few tons of earth, rocks and a few trees.

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Photo courtesy of Jessi & Bryce, Next Door Lompico.

The county works department has been scratching their collectives heads over this one for a couple of days now. As of this morning they estimate it will take them until Friday (4 days away) to clear one lane.

This is the main road we use to get to town. What this means for me is that I’ll be housebound until it’s open again. There’s a detour, but it’s a one lane road that isn’t in very good shape because of the increased traffic and damage from all the storms. This road also runs through a number of privately owned properties making the extra traffic difficult for those who live there. Which is why I’m staying put. Out of respect for my neighbors.

Neighbors are important in this small mountain community. My husband and I moved here because we don’t want to live in “the city.” We both grew up in heavily populated urban areas and we both grew to hate that way of life. So, as soon as we had the chance, we high tailed it out of there and we’ve enjoyed the freedom living in small rural areas has given us. And I’ve learned the benefit’s of loving my neighbors even when they irritate me.

Granted, we’ve had to deal with the effects of nature’s rage in ways “city folks” don’t and it has been challenging, but if you’re paying attention, there’s a lot to learn from this way of life. One big lesson is that if we don’t work together, look out for each other, we’re going to spend a lot of time sitting alone in the dark.

I’ve lived in cities for a big portion of my life and spent most of that time living in apartments. If we ever had a problem with our neighbors we called the landlord or the police, as the case may be. At school I was taught that if I had a problem with a fellow student, go to the teacher. At work, if I had a problem with a co-worker the rule was to either talk to my boss or HR. I can’t remember ever being told to talk to the person and work things out between us. This is the type of distrust and xenophobia that urban areas instill in its citizens.

It’s a whole different mindset here in Lompico. In this area where we are often isolated from the world, we can’t depend on government agencies or bosses or landlords. Solving problems is up to us.

In the summer our neighbors like to party and play loud music. I’m not the partying type. I’m an introvert who likes quiet and being left alone to do my thing. So, in situations like these I have choice. I can get angry, make a big fuss and demand that they stop making such a racket, or I can close my windows on that side of the house. I choose to close my windows.

Why? Because we’ve taken the time to get to know our neighbors and we’ve become friends despite our differences. Turns out, they’re wonderful, kind people who, if I asked them, would shut the music down in a heartbeat. And when the lights go out they let us hook into their generator so that we can be comfortable until the power is restored.

There is also a group of residents who started a private email forum called Next Door Lompico. During this last series of storms every member posted notices about power failures, downed trees, garbage collection, the landslide, and anything else helpful you can think of. I’ve never met these people, but I will never forget their kindness.

The human race divides politically into those who want people to be controlled and those who have no such desire.

I’ve heard it said that it comes down to people who live in large cities where, out of necessity, everything and everyone is controlled by laws and ordinances vs. people who live in small towns and rural areas where freedom and independence are more highly valued. Based on the red and blue map from this last election, I think they may have a point.

Having lived in both worlds, I think the real problem with our country right now is that we’ve lost the ability to work together as a community. At one time we knew how to do that, but over the years, as the country has grown, that way of life lost favor. I’m not even going to speculate on the why’s, but I do think that until we get that back, until we learn how to talk and listen and work together we’re going to remain trapped under this landslide of division and hatred that has overtaken the country.

 

 

Storm Warnings

We live in a little cabin in the Santa Cruz mountains. As I sit here typing a gust of wind has rushed through the trees that surround our house. Normally, watching the tree tops dance and sway would be nothing more than an interesting diversion. A sensory image to file away for later use. But, this is day 6 of a storm that has added inches of rain to soil still saturated by two storms that passed through just a week earlier. Gusty winds mean more fallen trees and a good chance of more power failures.

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But, we’ve been lucky. In other parts of California flooding has forced thousands of people to evacuate their homes. Mudslides and downed trees have closed many roads and a few highways. Yosemite closed due to flooding. And a beloved landmark was destroyed.

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California’s Tunnel Tree, before and after

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So, while we’ve had to “rough it” a bit through an extended power outage and heavy rain and road closures trapped us in our home for three days, we’ve done all right. We’ve kept warm and dry in our little cabin. I stocked up on food and water before the worst of it hit and we were able to cook and boil water thanks to our gas stove. We also have wonderful neighbors who let us hook up to their generator. This gave us enough power to keep the refrigerator, cable, phone and internet on. Without that we would have had no idea what was going on in the outside world. Internet access was limited by the fact that there was no power to my desktop computer, but that’s okay. My trusty old Kindle Fire did just fine. Even if it wouldn’t let me check my email.

My husband did have one bad morning when the power was out. He’s one of those people who needs his caffeine fix in the morning and he couldn’t use the coffee maker. As you would expect, he was a bit grumpy when I got up and hour or so after he did. Fortunately, I found some instant coffee stashed in the back of a cupboard and all was right with the world once again.

And cooking dinner by candlelight? Not as easy as you would think. You can’t tell if something’s burning until you smell the smoke. That or you stir and flip with one hand while the other holds a flashlight.

Then there was the day we were so bored we binge watched West Wing. I loved that series when it aired so my family bought me five seasons worth of DVD sets.

But, the story’s not over yet. According to the weather reports and my window, we still have a bunch of rain and wind to deal with today and some light rain tomorrow and the next before we’re done.

Stay safe and dry out there.

 

 

Mirrors, magic and otherwise

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10th Kingdom mirror of truth

The eyes may be windows to the soul, but the Romans believed mirrors reflected the soul. From this belief, many cultures and people have believed that a soul could become trapped within a mirror. Unless you’re a vampire who has no soul, and therefore, no reflection.

Mirrors have been used for divination, for contacting the spirit world and for repelling curses, hexes and other evil forces. Mirrors are covered after a death to prevent the deceased soul from being trapped inside on its way to the afterlife.

And, of course, we’ve all heard that breaking a mirror brings seven years of bad luck. Did you also know that if a mirror falls and breaks without human intervention that it means a death in the family?

In literature, the use of “magic” mirrors has played with our many folkloric beliefs. In the 2000 television mini-series, The 10th Kingdom, there were traveling mirrors, a truth revealing mirror, a mirror that answers questions (but only in rhyme), a mirror that spies on people, a mirror to help you forget, a mirror to help you remember and a mirror to rule the world.

The 10th Kingdom’s traveling mirror is similar to Alice’s Looking Glass. Young Alice stepped through her mirror and entered the world on the other side. When Virginia and her father jump through the traveling mirror they entered a parallel world of fairy tale.

In The Fellowship of the Ring, Galadriel’s mirror is made of water and can show the past, present and future. And, in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone the Mirror of Erised (Desire spelled backwards), will show a person nothing more or less than their heart’s greatest desires.

In my fantasy suspense series Gemma Leighton inherits a magic mirror that records all the goings on at the huge mansion that is part of her inheritance. But, this mirror can only show what it, or another mirror, in the mansion reflects. In the first book, The Demons We Cherish, the mirror can’t show Gemma who attacked her in the basement because there is no mirror in the room. At one time there was a mirror there, but it broke and was never replaced.

This mirror was created by the first mistress of the mansion, Meribelle Fontaine Bosworth in 1829. Meribelle was a magically aware person who learned how to attract and manipulate the hidden magic in our world. When Meribelle and her husband were scouting land for their new home, she discovered a spring inhabited by Sprites, magical water elementals. Meribelle had her husband build the mansion on this site making the spring the centerpiece of a large indoor atrium. It was the waters of this spring that gave the mirror the ability to record and replay everything it saw.

Now that the holidays are over and the guests have gone home, I will be dedicating my time to expanding the magical world and history of Merivale Mansion with the second book in the series and a short story prequel.

Keep checking in to learn more about Gemma, Meribelle, the Sprites, the Hobs, their cousins the Nains, Breknell the shape shifting raven and Mrs. Landy the ancient spirit guardian.