Friday, August 30, 2013

Remembering Seamus Heaney

Three candles that illumine every darkness: truth, nature, knowledge. —Old Irish triad

"Once in a lifetime the longed for tidal wave of justice can rise up, and hope and history rhyme."
                  —Seamus Heaney

I first met Seamus in the early 1980s. I heard him read on KPFA FM—I never could get decent radio signal in Forestville—and I turned it on, only to hear his sonorous voice.

I hopped into my truck (code name: Blue Lazarus) and drove on down to SF (or was it Berkeley?) but the only seat left in the house was right in the front row—and so I sat in it, next to a woman. She patted the seat next to her—said sit. It was still warm.

We got to chatting, she said she was an Irish schoolteacher. I gave her a CPITS poetry book from my CAC poetry residency in Santa Rosa. And so the penny eventually dropped, it was Mairi, his wife. I was sitting in Seamus's recently vacated seat, it was the hot seat. Not many can claim their seat was warmed by the heat of Seamus' bum.

Thus began a friendship that spanned decades—he once sent me a letter from Adams House, Harvard—praising my voice, my long line. Gawd only know what I sent him. A letter I treasured. It gave me hope during a time when no one would publish my work. Too long, too personal, too difficult.

Our paths crossed on myriad occasions. I ran into Seamus again at the Avenali Lecture Berkekey—he always remembered me. Always chatted—sometimes in Irish, as he signed my latest collection of books.

Then I got to spend some time with Seamus at Poetry International encampment during the Summer Solstice in Rotterdam. I told him my grandmother was a Heaney, he laughed, called me coozin, giving me a big smacker. We sang Irish songs, lifted our glasses high.

Most memorable moment: we were stuck in an elevator between floors, a gaggle of poets from around the world—mostly African poets. Seamus  proclaimed that his whiskey flask had sprung a leak, and so we all drank tots from the lid and when it was done, we sang songs and proclaimed ourselves a collective noun. I said: a Genius of Poets. He repeated: almost on the same breath: a Genius of Poets. And so we were, and me, the only woman.

I read that Ted Hughes's Lupercal, spurred Heaney on to write poetry. "Suddenly, the matter of contemporary poetry was the material of my own life." Heaney once said to Sameer Rahim, that "The gift of writing is to be self-forgetful, to get a surge of inner life or inner supply or unexpected sense of empowerment, to be afloat, to be out of yourself.” I am reminded of what Seamus said in an interview, "Each poet is alone with his or her chances at the end as much as at the beginning." – 1996 interview w/ Seamus Heaney

In August of 2006, Heaney suffered a stroke, he said that left him "babyish" and "on the brink." An interesting place to find oneself in poetry. When he was fitted with a heart monitor, Heaney joked, "Blessed are the pacemakers..."

At the end of November, after the memorial readings were done, I dreamt Seamus came to visit, I was sitting on his knee as he reminisced about life. When I grabbed my camera, to take a photo of him, it was full of sand. In this way, I knew he was truly gone. 

Irish President Michael D. Higgins said: " many rights organisations will want to thank him for all the solidarity he gave to the struggles within the republic of conscience." Seamus lived like his poetry, upstanding, forthright, and generous. He was everyman's hero. It was a great honor to spend time with him in Berkeley, San Francisco, at the Marin Civic Center, and Poetry International in Rotterdam—and a few places in between. Seamus was always generous with his time, and always kind.

I didn't know those of us who went to see Famous Seamus every chance we got, were dubbed "Heaneyboppers" but I don't regret one moment of it. He was always seeking that phrase of light. He was my lodestone, my candle of truth, my bearla—my government of the tongue.

After a fall outside a Dublin restaurant, Seamus entered hospital. The newspapers reported that while waiting for a medical procedure, he texted a last message to his wife, Mairi. Noli timere, “Do not be afraid,” minutes before he died. His famous last words, not quite written in stone, but close enough.

May he rest in poetry. Go ndéana Dia fáilte roimh Shéamus, ní bheidh a leithéid ann arís.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Sheep Islands: What about the sheep? Notes on the Voyage of St. Brendan

Saint Brendan & the whale—from a 15th-c. German manuscript. Wiki

There is an Irish oral tradition that the Irish settled in the Faroes, during the pre-Viking era, and the descriptions in the Voyage of St. Brendan, of "insulae" (islands) sounds remarkably similar to the Faroe Islands. There was a persistent belief that islands to the west of Great Britain existed as early as 330 BC.  One fanciful name for those northern islands was Thule, which was "a six days' sail north of Britain, and near the frozen sea."

My Bantry grandmother told me that Irish monks brought sheep to the Faroes, and the toponym, though Nordic, means sheep islands. And sheep islands do figure heavily into the Brendan tales. There are several stories from the Navigatio of St. Bréanainn of Clonfert.

Some say Brendan (c. 484 – 577), was born to Finnlug (Fair Lugh) and Cara of the Altraige tribeof the Ciarraige Luachra, the people of Ciar, who gave their name to County Kerry, on Fenit Island, near Tralee. I don't know if Tralee and Bantry both claim Brendan as he's also Bantry's patron saint. Galway, too clams Brendan. All have one thing in common—they are all seaport towns.

We do know Brendan was a real Irish sailor.His name in Irish: Broen-finn, or 'fair-drop', Naomh (St) Breandán. In Icelandic, it keeps the Latin, Brandanus. 

Brendan was baptized by an ex-druid, Saint Erc of Slane (and Cornwall, aka St Erth), and schooled by Saint Ita, "the Brigid of Munster", or "foster-mother of saints" who had some major goddess qualities.

After sailing around the Irish, and the Hebridean islands, he set sail into the void from Kerry.

Brendan built a currach—a leather boat. The boat frame was woven from hazel and willow wattles, he covered the naomhóg the "little holy one", with cowhides tanned in oak-bark and softened/waterproofed with bog butter. He added a mast and a white linen sail. And he was set to go—with either 14 or 16 of his bestie apostles. It must've been one very crowded, smelly vessel.

The gold Broighter boat is a model of an Iron Age Irish boat from 100 BC, replete with 18 golden oars, rowlocks, benches, a paddle rudder for steering, boathook, a yardarm, tools, and a mast for a sail. “There is also good evidence that they [the Celts] had sails: there is a model boat from Ireland that dates from about 100 BC that has a mast, which could be a model for Celtic boats more generally,” Jennings said. “There is not so much evidence of sails in Norway until as late as 700 AD. It is therefore more likely that these early Faroese settlers came from the British Isles.” —Andrew Jennings, Nordic Historian The Norse word for a ship lung is from the Irish word long." —Medieval Review

Broighter boat,1.Boat hook 2.Mast yard 3.Steering oar 4.Small grappling iron 5.Forked implements 6.Square ended oars 7.Oars. —Wiki

The boat, a votive offering in the La Tene style, was found by two ploughmen near Loch Foyle in 1896; compare it to the 15th c. German drawing at the top of this page.

The Broighter boat Wiki

The Brendan immram Voyage tale was transcribed from Irish into Latin in 800 AD.) Old Irish Immrama (from iomramh-voyage), or voyager stories, depict a hero's sea journey to the Otherworld, (with a Christian overlay); they date to ca. the 3rd c. AD.

The Otherworld is always to the West. Tír na-nÓg (Land of the Ever-young) was another mythical island to the west. Reason enough to set sail—because they were there. In his legendary quest, St. Brendan was seeking the Isle of the Blessed (Saint Brendan's phantom Island), which may have been the Faroe islands.

Half-way to Iceland, the Faroes are the first stepping stone across the North Atlantic. 

St. Brendan described the largest of the Faroe Isles island as the Island of Sheep (Streymoy?) A bay in the southern part of Streymoy, is called Brandansvik (St. Brendan's Bay). His "bird paradise" might be the island of Mykines. There are several Faroe places named after the Irish monks (papar) including remote caves. —Faroe Islands Review History
The Faroes were part of a trade network with Dublin as a hub, and many Irish women made their way there as wives or slaves. DNA analysis shows that 84% of Faroese females are of Irish or Scottish descent. —Faroe Islands Review History
(NB: contrary to modern belief, Irish monks were NOT celebate.)

Northern European settlements in the Faroes have been archaeologically dated to ca. 400 AD. Some 500 years later, the Vikings arrived in the Faroes, enroute to Iceland, and it looks like they may not have destroyed all evidence of Irish settlement in the Faroes. There is malted barley grain carbon-dated older than the Viking era—Barley is not indigenous to the Faroes—and old field systems that didn’t fit into later settlements.

There are also placenames of two Faroe settlements are Irish saints' names (Patrick & Brigit), survive—albeit with a Norse spelling. There might be other embedded Irish words. The Norse who settled in the Faroes were probably Norse-Irish from Dublin, not Norse from Scandinavia.

Medieval chronicler Ari Thorgilsson said Ingólfr was the first Nordic settler in Iceland, but mentioned that "Papar" – i.e. Irish monks and hermits – had been in the country before the Norsemen. He wrote that they left because they did not want to live amongst the newly arrived pagans. Ingólfr Arnarson —Wiki

According to the Færeyjar Saga, an Icelandic Christian conversion story, one Faroe islander was "Tróndur í Gøtu, a descendant of Scandinavian chiefs who settled in Dublin, Ireland." And "Icelanders' own records record that 400 original settlers "with mostly Celtic nicknames" were living in Iceland previous to Norse colonization. (Clements). The significance of that statement is that European settlers were in Iceland and the Faroes long before Norse discovery.

In the 2nd half of the 8th century, Irish monk-geographer, Dicuil in "De menura orbis terrae" wrote of "heremitae ex nostra Scotia" ("hermits from our land of Ireland") living in the Faroes. (Scotia referred to Ireland, not Scotland!)  They lived on the northerly islands of Britain for a hundred years until the arrival of Norse pirates. An Irish nickname of Faroe islanders, Na Scigirí, possibly refers to the Eyja-Skeggjar (land of bearded men).

Dicuil’s geographical book describes islands that aren't mentioned in any other writing of the time:
Many other islands lie in the northerly British Ocean. One reaches them from the northerly islands of Britain, by sailing directly for two days and two nights with a full sail in a favourable wind the whole time … Most of these islands are small, they are separated by narrow channels, and for nearly a hundred years hermits lived there, coming from our land, Ireland, by boat.
Archaeologists now believe Dicui was referring to the Faroes. Faroe or Føroyar means sheep in Norse. When the Norse arrived, there were already sheep there. So, who brought the sheep? The puffins?

Immrama, or voyage stories, are different than echtrae or adventure stories. The hero's faith is challenged—often with a multitude of pagan motifs. In this case, with herds of black sheep and white sheep on a disappearing island shrouded in fog.

THE VOYAGE OF BRENDAN SYNOPSIS (Chapters are relative depending on version,There are over 100 manuscripts of the Brendan story, not counting translations.)

In chapter 8 or 9 of the Navigatio, Brendan's sailors discovered an island of sheep, ate some lamb, and stayed on for Holy Week (before Easter). NB—the Irish celebrated Eater as late as mid-May. Let's just say there was a major difference of opinion with Rome as to when Easter was on the calendar. (In The Voyage of Mael Duin, monks also visited an island of sheep.

The following year, (chapter 14) they returned to the islands of Sheep, Jasconius, and the Paradise of Birds. (So we know there were at least three islands, and lots of birds and whales.) A bird said they had to repeat their journey seven years before they were holy enough to reach the Island of Paradise. They discovered a "coagulated" sea (icebergs?), sea monsters, more whales and fish, an island of grapes, magic (lethe?) water, griffins, seals, otters, an island of angry blacksmiths throwing hot slag at them, and more volcanoes. 

In chapter 28, they returned to the island of Sheep, Jasconius, and the Paradise of Birds, before finding the Promised Land of Saints. They returned home, where St. Brendan died. -Wiki synopsis.

Some excerpts:
Perambulantes autem illam insulam invenerunt diverses turmas ovium unius coloris id est albi ita ut non possent ultra videre terram prae multitudine ovium.  
On the island we found flocks of white sheep—we could not see the land, for the multitudes of sheep. (They sacrificed an ewe lamb. Loaded up the boat with mutton.) 
Sanctus Brendanus illum quomodo potuissent oves esse tam magnae sicut ibi visae sunt. Erant enim majores quam boves. Cui ille dixit: «Nemo colligit lac de ovibus in hac insula nec hiemps distringit illas sed in pascuis semper commorantur die noctuque
Brendan said the sheep were larger than cattle. "No one collects milk from sheep in this island or winter pastures the, they live in accordance with day and night. (So the sheep are feral, and the sailors drink sheep's milk.) They set sail.
Erat autem illa insula petrosa sine ulla herba. Silva rara erat ibi et in litore illius nihil de arena fuit.  
The island, however, was rocky, without grass. The forest was rare and there was no sand on the shore.      —from Navigatio Sancti Brendani Abbatis
So what about them sheep? Small N. European short-tailed sheep, related to Icelandic sheep, not inclined to hang out in herds. Hardy. No birds of a feather flock together philosophy for them.

On medieval maps, Brendan's fabled misty Isle appeared in various locations (including west of the Canaries—the Azores?). And on Christopher Columbus's maps—most notable is Martin Behaim's Erdapfel of 1492—known as La isla de San Borondón or isla de Samborombó. Borondón and Samborombó is St. Brendan in Spanish.

A reoccuring theme of the immrama is that you can't go home again—ever...certainly never to return the same person as when you left. Sort of like going on the Camino. Enlightenment was always sought and invoked on far distant shores. Apparently sheep were also somehow involved. Brendan's Feast Day is May 16. A good day to eat sheep.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

H.D. MOE (1937-2013)

David Moe at Black Bart Poetry Festival


Woke up too early this morning sneezing so hard
I had to back up into a corner in order to stand
or I'd fall down, deliriously weak at the knees.
I knocked out dozens of sneezes back-to-back.
No dainty titterers—these bull-roarers
were capable of nailing my brains to the door,
on the wall, the ceiling, or even the floor.
I snozzled, I drizzled, I snorted water up my nose.
I shoved my nightie up my nostrils to stem the flow.
My uvula flapped like a tiny cartoon punch bag.
I couldn't catch a breath, my heart leapt in its cage.
I wonder if anybody ever died of sneezing.
Cluster sneezes, someone called them.
In Ancient Greece, it was a sure sign of the gods.
Bless you and I am speaking God's truth. Achoo!
During the Middle Ages, life was tied to breath,
to sneeze was to let death in, or out—like a cat.
Ring around the roses, pocket full of posies.
In Asia it meant someone was talking about you.
No posey for remembrance, but a full-on sneeze.
The world must be positively gossiping about me.
Did you know you can't sneeze during REM sleep?
They say your heart stops. They say it's like sex. 
I scream Achoo! I'm knackered by mini -gasms, 
I'm in need of a nap. No proverbial cigarette.
Must be the smoke from the wildfires.
Last night's lightning storm was a real case
for Thor smoking in bed again. I wonder who
the lucky mortal was. Did she go up in smoke?
The air does smell a bit barbequed.
This morning, my blog hit 90,000 readers
Now, that's nothing to sneeze about.


Monday, August 19, 2013

Macury Retrograde


What's my status? Facebook has the temerity to ask about my status. What's on my mind? Does it really want to know? It is an it, you know.

Instead of posting the usual Facebook platitudes, this is my reality sandwich. A dubious long-winded nerd-joy story that probably only three master guru nerdlings in the world—like Piet Bess, Chris Devine and Micaela Wall—will fully appreciate. Maybe Brian Wimsett too—but he's a PC guy. Apples and oranges.

I can see your eyes glazing over now. It's OK, you don't have to read this. (Hint: skip the parenthetical techno-speech parts to speed-read this piece). You don't have to read it all, just because I feel compelled to read everything in front of me, then write about it. Call it OCD. Or maybe it's Stockholm Syndrome. I've bonded with my captive imagination.

What's my status? After last year's colossal Mercury Retrograde, which was my Macury meltdown during tax season, when my elder iMac went kabloom! after a series of power outages, is shaken. (Ask me how I found out that my three-prong surge bar plugged into old wiring dating back to the 1920s, is not grounded). I refused to freak out, and I Carried On. Stiff upper lip, and all that. (Insert Blondie's One Way or Another earworm here).

My main Mac gurus (and suppliers of broken Mac bits), Piet & Micaela know how I've been nursing that old 2005 PPC iMac, with its lovely screen, for years. Lovely matte screen. Lovely. No reflected glare. Perfect for editing photos. When the iMac became long in tooth, most sensible people would've upgraded. No ifs, ands or buts. It's gonna gitcha gitcha gitcha.…

(How far behind the technological times am I? Let's just say that yesterday, I nostalgically fired up my old 1995 PowerBook which sported the first Motorola PowerPC processor (PPC). That's pre-G3, pre-G4, pre-G5. Who even remembers back that far? FWIW: it's  s l o w.  My PPC iMac was the last G5 ever made. A terminal case, yes, but it could also run the Paleolithic OS 9 software in Classic in emulation mode. OS = Operating System.)

(Those G3 and-G4s were cool dual-boot crossover Macs. They could run OS 9 and OS X software. The Neolithic OS X flavors 1-3 all allowed full OS 9 boot up. OSX.4 (aka Tiger) was an emulation version, it ran OS 9 in Classic mode. Unfortunately the emulation, or Classic mode is not good enough for my picky SCSI Nikon slide scanner, so I keep a working G4 with a SCSI card handy too.)

(Apple upgraded the PPC Mac line with the Pentium Intel core processor in 2006 with the Intel Core Solo—then the Intel Core Duo. The confusingly-named Intel Core 2 Duo replaced the MacBook 1, leaving bewildered Mac users to ferret out whether they had a 32-bit or a when-I'm 64-bit Mac. Is that an Intel 2 or the Intel 2-2? Macs in tutus? Leaping leopards with spots on top!)

(Apple also tossed out the lovely matte screen for a shiny new, highly reflective shiny screen. Emphasis on shiny. Collective shrieks abounded as myriad Mac users who upgraded to the newest iMacs and Mactops, saw, instead of their own photos onscreen, their own faces reflected back at themselves. Added a whole new dimension to being able to see yourself. Some hackers who hadn't seen themselves in decades, fainted.)

(In this convoluted tale of woe, even code names and big cat OS's don't help much to keep it all straight, but here's an OS X 1-9 list, in case you were dying to know: Cheetah/Puma (aka OSX.1), Jaguar (OSX.2), Panther (OSX.3), Tiger (OSX.4), Leopard (OS X.5), Snow Leopard (OS X.6), Lion (OSX.7), Mountain Lion (OSX.8). OK, so pumas and mountain lions are the same catamount. Catty circular filing system?) Here kitty kitty kitty.

(What's next, saber tooth tiger? Smiledon? That's one hell of a cat box to consider. No, for the next OSX reiteration, it looks like we're goin' surfin', dude. Coming soon to a Mac near you—Mavericks (OSX.9). Everybody's gone surfin', surfin' Californi-ay. What's with the surfin' USA bit—can one surf anywhere else in the USA? Surfin' Kansas-eye-a cornfields in August doesn't quite cut it. OK, so there's the Oregon and Washington coastline—but that's Bill Gateslandia. No little cute Macs on surfboards in that neck-o-the-woods.)

And yes, I was still using Tiger until last year. I girded my svelte money belt, I stuck with Tiger, the last PPC operating system (OSX.4). I cobbled on, using obsolete hardware while others upgraded (to the Intel Core Duo, Core 2 Duo, Core i5, Core i7, and Xeon processors) until there was nowhere else left to go. Tiger, tyger—your stripes of mourning, your markings of gold no longer burned bright in the forests of the night.

Are you glazed over yet? (Did you remember to skip the parentheses?) Well, by this point, I admitted defeat: my old software was defunct. Legacy doesn't even begin cover it. Speaking of Smiledon, Tiger (OSX.4) was so long in the tooth, it was positively geriatric. Hold that Tiger. It's dead dead dead. Mummified. Fossilized, even.

But I kept on keeping on, tweaking and flogging Tony the Tiger, using crazy workarounds when all manner of hell arrived, carrying its latest updated techno-snafu in a hand-basket. My new Macury Retrograde nemesis was the birth of iCloud and the dual deaths of iDisk and I did not go gentle unto that good night. Nor could I migrate my accounts over to iCloud with Tiger or Leopard.

I hate technological obsolescence. I only buy refurbished Macs and I keep them alive way past their kill-by date. (Maybe I should switch to Dell. They die early and often.) When the PPC iMac hard drive died right after the warranty ended, I carried on. No problem. I just booted the iMac off an external firewire drive. Ditto with the optical drive. (Opening the last PPC iMac is a nightmare—bent credit cards are involved). External was cool. Safe computing, and all that.

Besides, everything was backed up on DVDs and three external hard drives. Or so I thought. FLW. What could go wrong? But you can never be to rich or too thin or have enough back-up hard drives.

I was locked in tighter than a tick in last decade's technology and the only way out was through—if I ever wanted to surf the net and read my email again. It was time to upgrade, in a big way. My browsers no longer worked, Adobe Flash abandoned us (alors, no more CSI?), I couldn't access my Mail, thanks to the new iCloud upgrade. Blah-blah-blah. I was in upgrade denial for a decade. But I digress. (What else is new?)

Movin' on, I got a Craigslist special—an ailing, headless first generation MacBookPro (MBP's code name: Santa Rosa) with—shall we say—issues? The Craigslister said he was a musician but I think the no-longer-20-something guy used the MBP for a skateboard as it was seriously bent, in need of a backlit screen, an optical drive, speakers, a software upgrade to OSX.6—and some serious autobody work. We ran it through its paces, I mentally noted all the work-arounds I'd have to implement. Doable.

This MBP was not a unibody model—it came apart. Cool! If I can look under its hood, I can fix it—but I was playing poker. You know, The Girl Card. I don't kno-ow.... Skateboard ManDude, seeing my hesitation, dropped the price some more and threw in an extra MBP carcass and innards to sweeten the deal. Sold!  I'm, sure he whispered Sucker! or Old Fhartette under his breath as I left. (I forgot to mention I'm in my 6th decade, but I don't look it. He, on the other hand....)

I saw the inner beauty and retro potential of SkateboardMan's sleek aluminum technological castoff. I needed a 64-bit Intel Core 2 Duo to access my locked-up emailbox which was being held hostage in the iCloud as and iDisk were phased out as in hunted down to extinction. Dead as Tiger. Or Smiledon. Oh, and I forgot to mention, my iCal, and  iTunes access was also now tied up in this iCloud Celtic gordian knot conundrum. Not exactly knockin' on heaven's door, iCloud was cumulous gift that kept on giving.

The price on SkateboardMan's ManBookPro was right. Half of what others were asking for their equally thrashed old MBPs. (What's with all these Craigslisters with over-inflated egos, selling obsolete crappalola for more than direct Apple refurb prices anyway? And the snide "don't waste my time, don't lo-ball me" sign-off, as they try and low-ball you. Yeah, right.)

Luckily, this 2nd generation MacBookPro in a basket also came with spare parts—another 2 g. MBP. What's not to like? I can do this. FLW. It was fast and sleek but it wore Leopard spots (OSX.5). I also needed the last cloud cat, Snow Leopard (OSX.6) upgrade in order to access the rarified air of the iCloud. And this somewhat elderly MacBookPro had the right tutu to dance with iCloud. I was pirouetting with joy.

I rolled up my sleeves, ponied back my hair, scraped off the thrashed music stickers, and got to work. We had beauty. Well maybe, in the eyes of the beholder. It looked pretty sick. I hammered out the frame. steelwooled it, and got everything connected up, including all the hard-and software workarounds. I loved my new MBP—and was it fast. That 64-bit intel processor ran smoke rings around my elderly 2006 Macbook. (And Rosetta emulation let me run all my old Universal software—but OS 9, and PPC OSX Tiger software was X'd out.)

However the iCloud was calling. Or, lack of iCloud access was raining on my parade. Time to upgrade, to bring in another cat: the Snow Leopard, so I could access my email. An easy upgrade. Right? Catch a cloud leopard by the tail. Not. More like a cat tail caught in the door. Or cat-o-nine-tails flogging me.

Let's just say that the online Apple software (OSX.6.8) update hung. Things went further south—thanks to ATT throttling my DSL speed to near-zero. Not good to have flailing DSL when you're in the middle of an online software upgrade. Suddenly my easy-peasy itty-bitty cloud cat OS upgrade install was a victim of Macury Retrograde on steroids.

So when things went really south, and my new MBP was an inert pile of metal, I tried to move on with my creaky vintage white plastic first generation 2006 Intel MacBook (which doubles as a lapcat, it runs so hot).

But the plot thickens in this comedy of errors. My two trusty back-up drives (done this one before), and my shiny new Plan C Seagate GoFlex PC wifi drives were attached to my MBP when I was upgrading the software on my MBP—what could go wrong? Never dawned on me to disconnect them.

What could go wrong? Lockdown, that's what. Little padlocks on all my files. And little padlocks on all my back-up hard drives. Permission denied. Did I mention Mac(f)ury Retrograde? Add some PC crossover issues into the matrix with the Seagate GoFlex drive.

Poof! Now, I had no software, no files, no back-up files!—and then I found out the hard way that TurboTax needed Snow Leopard. Lordluvaduck, I'm fckd. Haunted by cloud cat spots. So, I went to Starbucks wifi and upgraded to Snow Leopard on the elder Macbook. Pieceacake! Sideways progress. Did I mention that TurboTax also needed a 64-bit processor (this info was not posted on the box because...?) Poor old plastic MacBook with its obsolete 32-bit processor. Foiled. Again.

So it was back to getting that aluminum MacBookPro up and running, or nada. I tried every trick in the book—I was locked out, it was hanging, mid-install. And ALL my back up drives: plans A, B, & C were inert lumps of cybercoal. Moral: NEVER leave external drives attached when doing a software upgrade. Never. TLN (too late now) was the new motto stamped on my forehead.

I was also trapped in some kind of weird install hell without access to a working backlit screen, let alone, a blue screen of death. Did I mention the MBP was not only sans functional computer screen (the backlight was out); it was also sans working optical drive—so a DVD disk install (the normal method) wasn't an option. I was running out of workarounds.

No battery, no screen: so dragging the MBP down to Starbucks wifi wasn't even an option. Flashlight held at just the right angle in a dark room to see the shadows of install icons was my workaround.

Another TLN moment: My big Apple monitor and DVD player both needed working software to run. Detail. I found this out the hard way. By this time, I hated Snow Leopard. Endangered species or not—I wanted to shoot the damned occluded cloud cat.

So, 24 tiny screws later—trying to find a screwdriver that small was another dubious joy, I managed to yank the bleeping stalled MBP hard drive out, and I stuck in my original old MacBook Tiger drive. (Remember that 32-bit part?) Shockingly, the tiny 2006 Apple drive (why I yanked it in the first place was its size) worked.

But it was still no dice for all my now padlocked back-up hard drives with no Permission Access. And of course, my last ace card, my PC-flavored Seagate GoFlex wifi time machine back-up drive with ethernet, treated me like an evil hackster because the software, the hard drive and Mac no longer matched up. More like having a joker card up my sleeve.

So, I cloned the working Snow Leopard OSX.6 from my white 32-bit MacBook hard drive to a new hybrid SSD hard drive from OWC. I popped the cloned hybrid drive into the MBP (23 screws later—I only lost one screw, but I was already so screwed—what's one more/less loose screw?)

Surprise! The cloned SSD hard drive fired right up. It worked—despite a 32/64-bit software differences of opinion. It was cool, it was quiet, It was also 500 GB big. You can never be too rich, thin or have a hard drive that's too big. I was in. Or up. Or something. I had access to the iCloud, my email, and TurboTax now loaded. Sweetjaysus! It worked. The MacGawds must be smiling on me. What about all my backed up software, and files? Argh! Still padlocks on everything. But my Can Do attitude was in tenacious Ramboverdrive.

I eventually resolved the back-up drive lockdown with the help of MacWorld's Chris Breen, and an app called BatChmod—l also learned lots of other batty & bitchin' stuff I would rather forget. Padlocks begone. I could open all my back up drives. Permissions (mostly) restored.

But alas, I wasn't out of the cyberwoods yet. As I rounded up my orphan files and poems, I discovered my old Word 5 files turned into rogue Unix files when I joined this decade's operating system. No way to access them. I tried everything. Try not to panic. All my old writing. All my old photos. No no no no!

(Dear Readers of this blogged down bloggybit (all 218 of you know who you are… Whoa Nellie, now it's 493 readers? Really? Who are all you people? Or is this sudden readership shunt the work of busy web spiders? Vampire stats feeling a little peckish, or what? And, no, I haven't visited my own blog THAT many times. Not even during rewrites. Besides, Blogger doesn't count my visits.)

I was gonna say …take a breather. Or better yet, run out of the room screaming from this Mary Roach styled techno-rant—while you can. I would love to offer you cyber chocolate kisses or Irish coffee lattes for getting this far. Really.

Maybe it's more of a  Myles na gCopaleen than a Mary Roach tale. All part of the Irish postModern contunuum. Sorry, no sexy bits ahead, but old fharts are involved. Read on, if you dare. Time to take the earworm DJ down another notch: rock-a my head in the bosom of migraine....)


Here's the bite: my laissez-faire approach to upgrading software just got up close and personal. All my old writing and my MA and MFA research files and writing were meticulously filed, archived, and DiskDoubled in Word 5 docs, and/or old AOL memo format—both completely unopenable under Snow Leopard.

Many of my 1980s files were at least 5 motherboard generations removed from cyber reality. I used AOL instead of the grandfather of TextEdit? Really? What was I thinking? I'm from the if it ain't broke school. Define broken. Duct tape and bailing wire are my friends.

Feeling like Arthur Dent at the end of the universe, in need of a strong cuppa tea and a wet towel, I kept at it. Time to go retro on the earworm: Sweet dream are made of these. Movin' on. Hold your head up! I remembered that I had them backed up on DVDs! Yes, Virginia there is a Plan Z.

But those back-up DVD files also morphed into gray Unix files with evil green lettering. OMG, it's the feckin' OS.6 software. I've been hung out to dry by a catty Snow Leopard. Will I never be able to access all my old writing, photos, and art again? Decades of poetry and news stories, Gone. I mourned. I raged, I gnashed my teeth. Then I got mad. I got even. Surely there was a way around the problem. So many technological barriers to overcome. The solution came to me—I kid you not—in a dream. Poof! I had a plan.

So, I resurrected my neighbor's old 2005 PPC Mac tower, it fired up like a champ after sitting in the closet for ages. I CCCloned most of my old iMac OS.4 Tiger hard drive (in this case, 5th time's a charm) onto it. And it fired it up: voilà! I now have access to my OS 6-9 files. (Short version of story). I can run OS 9 under Classic mode in Tiger. PPC was the last Mac chipset able to this particular pony trick. And Tiger was the last OS to support OS 9. See how antiquated I am? See my stripes? Hear me roar!

So, I've got OS 9 running on Tiger and hooked up to a Visio widescreen TV—curious admixture of old and new technology colliding—they're playing nicely. Chris Breen would be proud of me. And now I just might be able to access my Seagate GoFlex wifi drive. A whole lotta good that particular purchase did me. I should've stuck with Apple's Time Machine—but I thought I was saving money. Yeah, right. Gonna kill it (sing: kill it kill it kill it, then erase it. Erase erase erase it.) That is, if I can remember the bleeping password. Anyone want a Seagate GoFlex wifi drive gone rogue?

As I reacquianted myself with my archived writing (DiskDoublr behaving nicely) I now get why I left all my writing in Word 5, rather than bringing them into the 21st Century. Should I mention that Word 5 docs open blazingly FAST? Microsoft failed big time with Word 2000, 2001, 2004, 2008, etc., upgrades, etc., ack, ick, is all I can say. Bloatware galore. Sluggards all. I won't even mention Windows. Nothing rhymes with orange.

Last night's Tiger breakthrough came at a price: replete with another colossal kablam! This is where I came in. Loud fhart noises. Kablooey and kablam are not sounds you want to hear around computers. Not too sure what the explosion was—a surge bar overload? Electronic burp? One external speaker quit on me—a Jerbil woofer subfhart? I'm sure I'll find out the ramifications later, but hey, I'm in. I'm all in. Another set of problems to solve. Another day, another night to redo those taxes the IRS lost, yes, lost—twice (another story).

So, it's been a long learning curve, the old PPC iMac with its lovely matte screen was sent out to e-waste pasture—fixing blown power supplies and capacitors is way beyond my paygrade. As Chris Breen so sagely said to me: "it's time to practice Catch and Release on that old iMac. It's served you well and you've certainly gotten your money's worth out of it."

Infomercial: Because I was working with the Mac platform, I was able to creatively problem-solve, and rescue old files. I did not give up the ghost, or chalk it up to PC hell, and move on, abandoning old files—which is what most people are forced to do.

What's my status? Red-eyed and rather cranky.

You shouldn't have asked. But hey, I have a workaround: I can now open some of my old locked "Unix" files.

And Facebook won't let me post my status? What's with that? Where's the Dislike button?

More Mac-related blogs:

On iClouds & Motherships
Lloyd Reynolds' Calligraphic Legacy
Dear Google, Using Blogger is a Painful Experience

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Bagged Mice

Why I bag the dead mice and pop them into the trash before somebody comes along to eat them is because they're probably pickled in poison. My neighbor feeds the birds—I mean she really FEEDS the birds gallons and gallons of birdseed falling on the ground which equals an exponential summer explosion of mice and rats.

At first I thought it was cute. All the baby mice playing on the picnic table. Until they moved into our cottages. Our manager thought otherwise, and squirreled D-Con poison traps under all the houses. This resulted in little mice staggering out for a drink before death. Mice who never drink water, dying of thirst, and arsenic, bleed to death, but the poison is still lethal—in mouse corpse form. We also have rats, cats, raccoons and 'possoms. So I bag the pickled mice. Ziplock snack bags make the best body bags. 

When the mice move in, at summer's end, I tend to go crazy popping them off with flipflops, or batting them to left field with long paper tubes—screaming some form of ju-jitsu, hairy-carrying on like a madwoman. They get into the house and chew chew chew paper. Then poop poop poop everywhere. Books, manuscripts, art., nothing is sacred. I use the old-fashioned snapping traps. No poison. Now my nights are filled with the sound of castenet-snapping mouse traps.


Carolyn Forché once said:
You must always be at the ready,
each day, every day, always be
at the ready, and wait for it—
wait for the muse to come to you.
I've spent ages waiting & it seems
nothing happens. Empty bowl.
I've no idea where writing comes from,
mostly from random Facebook posts
these days. No social media angel,
the muse doesn't visit often, usually when
I have some deadline, like taxes,
but when she does, it's like riding a rocket. 
I hold on for dear life, wrestling with language 
in all its wartiness, and hope it resembles 
something like the inner music in my head.


Saturday, August 17, 2013


        Beidh ceol, caint agus craic againn
                —for Tom Sharp

My grandmother was always after
telling me stories about the coelacanth.
Irish words, she said, the singing fish
as she parsed it with her Gaelic dictionary,
with its cover and frontice pages missing.
Burned in the kitchen fire, she said.
What she saved—was not the kitchen,
but the book. It was a key to her lost world.
She told me the old fishermen stories
of prehistoric singing fish caught
in deep water nets off Béal Feirste.
No matter that coel means hollow
and akanthos means spine.
It was all Greek to her: Ceol agus cant.
Yet her translations were more accurate:
the fish did sing of lost worlds, other eras.
She was always after telling me stories like that—
transliterating an older music into my mind.
All that ceol & craic, I had no idea
I was growing up, lost in the music
between tongues.

Published in Bay Area Generations 15, Nov. 24, 2014


               —for Michael Ellis

I tossed a dead mouse into the trash.
A found mouse this time, 
no mousetrap, but poisoned, I'm sure. 
A case of arsenic and old beads. 
Thousands of miniscule meat-ants 
clustered in its fur like jet-black beads, 
redolent of Victorian era purses. 
Group mind logic at work: 
the ants were quilted into its fur,
dozens to each cluster, 
shining with faceted light.
The mouse was bejeweled in death, 
until I moved it—an explosion 
of raging ants, a black tide 
embroidering my hand.


Michael Ellis says they're Argentinian ants, part of a 560-mile long colony that stretches from San Diego to San Francisco "bringing me diamonds like candy...." Will the arsenic kill them?

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Petrified mouse

I'm nauseous after finding that errant dead mouse. The trap worked, but something fell over it and I didn't realize it had worked. Other than the smell.

Lauren Boyd McLachlan said At least it is not the days of olde where you'd keep it in the event of tooth ache... and apply it to your tooth! 

Toothache? Is that what I did wrong, forgot to apply dead mouse to it instead of getting my crown filled? Would've been a lot cheaper. I do have an earache. Awoke at 3:30 with an earache. Allergy gone awry with a vengeance. I yawn & try & pop my ear but no relief. Think it's a virus declaring itself.  Took Sudafed at 5 AM—just now getting some relief. But SO groggy.

Maureen Carden said One time we found a mummified rat hung up in the coils on the back of our old refrigerator. Our mummified rat looked like it had been there for a long time. We never noticed any smell. I was never one to spend much time dusting behind the fridge which was in the house when we moved in. Rat could have been there then. Ick.

Dusting behind the fridge is SO overrated. The mouse wasn't the only thing that was petrified. I wasn't about to reach in and grab the live trap. I dumped out all the other drawers but not that one as it's so big. Nuking drawer now. Still nauseous. Need a brain windshield wiper to erase the memory of daid dried mouse.

from a Facebook post, added 8/19

Trompe l'oeil giraffes, La Franchi's Nicasio Cheese Co., (photos)

Double take: a painting of two giraffes on a piece of plywood nailed to the side of the barn, a kind of tromp l'oeil to make it look like the opening goes through to the other side of the barn—replete with rafters.

Other side of La Franchi's Nicasio Cheese Co.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Drawing—Early Memory

I was barely four, and my mother was making Christmas cards—India ink line drawing of glass ornaments—one broken one. I watched transfixed as an ordinary black line on cream paper transformed into something magical, something I already recognized, a broken Christmas ornament. When she added the yellow mirroring inside, the globe shape came alive. It was magic. I was drooling on the table. And on the cards too apparently, because the spell was broken when she pushed me away and told me to stop drooling on them. Then and there, I fell in love with the power of contour line. I said I was going to be an artist too when I grew up. And so it happened. I haven't stopped drawing since.

Note to Molly Fisk on Painting

I can never copy anything over again in art, per se—I get bored, and lose focus—but I can create a series just fine. Each one, a variation on a theme. Consider it an exercise to paint in a series. More room for exploration and experimentation. Best words in art are: what happens if…?What's cool about the serial approach to painting is that you get lots of pieces of art (in your case, many small canvases), and loads of room to experiment. And you can work on several pieces simultaneously. One painting can set up or dry while you take the new idea to the next level on the next piece, and so on. I sort of enter into a trance state when I'm doing silk, or wet pastel series. It's like dancing with your art. The rhythm of the gleaners in the field.

No Mouser, Jack

Ceilidh the young Siamese-tabby spent the other morning diligently staring and chatting at the bottom of the file cabinet. We took out the drawers, found nothing of interest—other than the usual odd lost things—so, that's where it went! No errant lizards. Eventually she was rewarded for her vigilance: a pink-eared field mouse staggered out in circles from under the cabinet, cute as a cartoon cutout.

With a spectacular leap, Ceiildh caught the dazed mouse, but then the marmalade cat, Jack stole it out from under her in midair. Then he brought the mouse into the living room to share his new toy with us. 

I have been bringing him new catnip and feather toys in order to make friends with him—he's very shy. I am clearly a danger. Not a certified petter. But he's thawing—I'm the bringer of toys. It's taken several weekends to convince him I've no plans to eat him. So he shows his appreciation by playing with his new toys.

Jack and Ceilidh waiting for the feathers to make a run for it.

Jack sat on the carpet and put down his new mouse toy to check it out—but it up and ran away on him. The perplexed look on his face was priceless. I laughed so hard, he got upset and lost track of the mouse.

Then my cousin Sinead leapt off the couch screaming like a banshee: get the mouse! Get the mouse! Jack, don't let it get away! as it made for the stairs, then it headed for the gap under Dave's bedroom door. Not a good outcome. He'd be really pissed off if a mouse moved in. Luckily, the bathroom door was wide open. Sinead headed them off and chased them both into the bathroom. 

Then Sinead threw a growling, hissing Ceilidh into the bathroom for good measure, and blocked off the bottom of the bathroom door with a towel. The bathroom was now the designated cat dungeon of shame. The only way out was a coup de grâce. Like that was going to happen.

But the field mouse must've escaped down the drainpipe hole in the sink cabinet. No other exit was possible and clearly the cats didn't eat him. Two confused cats now think the bathroom is possessed, or Sinead is. Or maybe both. Sort of like vacuum cleaners. Very bad objects.

Ceiildh spends her time hunting for that lost mouse, and mewling forlornly all over the house while Jack, the bum, keeps berzerking up and down the extra tall deluxe cat tree—nearly capsizing it. Some sort of a killer victory dance. 

Jack's a bit of a blond on a good day—he's not very clear on the subject of cat-and-mouse. He fetches his toy squirrels and catnip spider and brings them to Dave ever so nicely, chases feather wands, drags the big blue feather duster upstairs to attack and thump it like a mighty lion, blue feathers everywhere like pieces of fallen sky—but clearly, he's no mouser.

Jack, clearly he's no mouser. Not jack.
Ceilidh is inconsolable in her grief—somehow she knows that she's missed out on that big primal first kill. Bugs don't count anymore. Better luck next time. Hopefully she'll know what to do. Jack, well, he's another story. However, our feet poking out of beds in the middle of the night are fair game. And they must be punished.

Ceiildh = Caylee, means a party in Irish.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Recycling old Macs

Fired up some of my old PPC PowerBook Macs languishing in the closet. Two out of three chimed right up. One went murf? (A bad battery). Love that startup chord. Reminds me of a nerdy Star Trek convention. Gawd. I can't believe I lugged them around for grad school. They were old in 2000. Off to e-waste they go. Sad, really. The PowerBook 5300 was designed between 1993 and 1994 under the codename M2. Release date August 25, 1995! The newest one of the lot, MacBook's ancestor, the PowerBook 1400 was from 1996!  Works fine, but is a little slow. OS 9! Wow! Will the battery recharge? They're far too old to recycle. No one wants them. Hence, e-waste (the guy I met on Craigslist—from the Uhuru Alternative school stood me up). I must say that the new-to-me MacBookPro is one sweet Mac! I now have a headless 2007 MacBookPro (screen backlight inverter is out—I’m too lazy to replace it tho I do have the part—he sold me a spare MacBook for parts). I’m using it as as my main desktop, sans screen, with an Apple LCD monitor. The MacBook Pro, though only a year older than my iMac and MacBook is amazingly fast, considering its age. Last owner was a musician, who blew out the speakers and he must've skateboarded with it as it's pretty bent up. But I've workarounds for daid optical drive, etc. Only thing not working is the mike in. But the price was beyond good! My old 2006 MacBook is way slower—but I extended its life with a solid state drive and more memory nicked from the iMac—about the only thing I could salvage. The MacBook is very zippy now. But it runs hot. At least it's a MacBook—meaning it’s portable and I can take it with me on the road—even though the optical drive is unreliable. I tend to keep my Macs running decades past their expiration date. Neil gets all my fixer-upper Macs. Right now he’s using a sweet iLamp, a discard from my “Mac wife,” Piet Bess who is even more resourceful than I am when it comes to fixing obsolete Macs. I replaced the optical drive—nightmare to get everything back into that half Wilson ball. When I replace my 2006 MacBook with a newer one, Neil, and eventually Piet will inherit it. Keep it in the family. It killed me to put my old big screen PPC iMac in the e-waste pile—it had a blown power supply (a series of brownouts were not kind to it), as it had the best matte screen ever. Photos looked fantastic on it. There was no salvaging it this time. Blown capacitors—way above my pay grade. I will surely miss it, but I won’t miss all the old PowerBooks. The guy eventually came and took three boxes of Mac goodies and software away. All the old PowerMacs and PowerBooks will be pressed into use at the Uhuru alternative school for Black kids. Passing the favor on, Star Trek style. Beam me aboard, Scotty!

Thursday, August 1, 2013


The Mórríghan, my namesake, dressed as a crow was calling outside my window at dawn: it's Lúghnasa! Or maybe it was Lúgh's raven. I couldn't see it, I was trying to sleep. The bird didn't really caw, it was more like a bark: get up you lazybones. I pulled the pillows over my ears. It kept barking. (I was up all night listening to Dick Francis' Even Money. It takes longer to listen to a book than to read it. And I can never put a good book down.)

Only the male crow sings. It's a rather mournful little warble. This one was barking orders outside my window like a drill sargeant. It could have been a raven, but ravens in Oakland? They are deep-voiced. Croak, the raven, evermore? Let's just say corvids were involved.

OK, OK, I'm up. Got it. It's Lúghnasa. (No, not the band). I can't climb the highest peak, nor dance, nor even circle the proverbial well—not with this torn knee. Yesterday I cleaned house for the first time since I was injured in March, and am paying dearly for it. But somehow the body keeps time with tradition, despite the century one is living in. About the only thing up for dancing today, is my imagination.

Sometimes The Mórríghan, the Great Queen, is called the phantom queen, or the war goddess. Or "Morrigu" for short. She's an ancient triune goddess land/ soverighnty. As in mother of the gods. Some say the Welsh Morgan le Fey is a cognate of the Mórríghan (or Morrigan), others say no FN way—it's a case of bad linguistics.

That little fada (accent) on the first syllable, mór changes the meaning of the word from sea—mor, muir, mer—(or horse—but I really don't see how anyone can get "horse" out of itto—great, or big—as in The Big Kahuna.

My Welsh friend Mábli named me The Mórríghan in grad school and it stuck. I miss Mábli, living far awa' in Stornowa'. I know, Maureen is supposed to mean little Mary—but I fancifully said that's a Christian overlay for a name already in Irish mythology. And so, The Mórríghan moniker stuck.

Maíriín is Maíri with a diminutive ending, -ín, or in English: Maura + -een. Like Colleen: cail + în. You're probably thinking Maureen sounds nothing like Mórríghan. Welcome to Irish 1A. That -gh in the middle of Mórríghan is silent, more of a swallowed y sound. Like a gulp. Call this an exercise in false etymology, or maybe a bad case of vivid poetic imagination.

About the only thing that warring camps of Indo-European linguists do agree on is that  = king/queen, or soverignty. The rest is up for grabs.

Then there's the thought that Mor-ríghan is cognate with Morgan idea, with no fada, as in the sea. This is where it gets tricky. She-of-the-sea, my old boyfriend, climber-poet Edwin Drummond (aka The Human Fly) used to call me. Great big sea. (No, not the band). Fanciful wordplay drives linguists to drink, but if you're an IE linguist, where consonants count for little, and vowels count for nothing at all, any excuse to drink is probably good. Or if you're a poet. Besides, who wants to be called Biitter Herbs anyway? Just don't call me Battleaxe.

You're probably wondering what all this has to do with Lúghnasa, or August 1. I'm wending my way there. Never could think straight, so it's widdershins for me. My thoughts travel at the speed of Celtic knots. Or maybe I'm bird-brained from being wakened at dawn.

The crow is one of the Mórríghan's animal personae, a shape-shifter. Not only was she a triple goddess—there's fierce debate as to which three goddesses—she could turn into an eel and a wolf as well as a white, red-eared heifer (OK, so that's four critters—which goes against the Celtic trinity thing).

But in Irish literature, The Mórríghan was most famous as the scaldcrow, or raven on the shoulder of CúChullain's corpse—he died, strapped to a menhir on the battlefield in the Táin Bó Cúailnge while she ate his guts. She is the Irish goddess of war and fate. The washer at the ford, she ordains who will live or die on the battlefield.

Those two had a serious love-hate thing going on. Cú should never have spurned The Mórríghan  when she offered herself up. (She had this re-virgination land thing going on too). You know what they say about a woman scorned. Kick that up a few notches when she's an cougar sovereign goddess—and mother of the gods. Besides, Lúgh was Cú's father. So, I'm sure there was another interesting triangle going on as well. Welcoming them home with open thighs, and all that. Let's just say she's complicated.

Lúgh too had a thing about those corvids—oracle ravens. You know, the ravens at the Tower of London? No wonder the Romans had to bury statues of imperial Roman eagles there. To break up the juju. Some say London is Lugh's city, Lugdunum. Did the ancient Irish distinguish between ravens and crows? They're both Otherworld carrion birds. Some IE linguists claim that the Gaulish lugos (Lúgh is a cognate) means raven. Or maybe it means *lug as in oath, pledge, or in Proto-Indo European it could mean *leuk (light). Or maybe it's wordplay with ravens. —Check out Lugh - in Mary Jones dictionary.

The Hound of Ulster's man-handle was CúChullain, but his baby name was Sétanta (sé as in Sidhe?). There was something odd about his birth(s): unseasonable snow, birds, twinned colts (making it a triad birth), maybe some kidnapping or infantacide. Let's just say he-who-was-to-become-Sétanta, then CúChullain, died more than once, and Lúgh had to stick the kid's soul back into Deichtine's womb all over again. (Deichtine was sort of like the Welsh Arianrhod (silver wheel) and her magical sons: Dylan Ail Don and Lleu Llaw Gyffes. All these multiple virgin births. I'm sure their Facebook status is set to: It's extremely complicated. Monks trying to shoehorn Irish mythology into Biblical shoes.)

So when the Mórríghan was calling me nine times outside my window at dawn, in a place where crows don't normally visit—it got my attention. Made me realize it's a feastday. A crossroad of the year. I thought about baking some sodabread to celebrate the great wheel of the year. Not that I actually did anything, other than attempt to write this blogín.

The other ancient  Irish feast days are largely forgotten—but everybody knows of Hallowe'en, or Samhain. Then there's Imbolc (first milk) and Beltane (Bel's fires). And Lúgnasadh. Or Lúghnasa—its Christian frock is the harvest, or first-new-grain-loaf festival, aka Lammas Day. Technically, Lúghnasa began yesterday, as Irish days, like Hebrew days begin at dusk.

Today is the feastday of the god Lúgh Lámhfhada. And whenever you begin invoking the old Irish gods, they all want to come to the party. And young Lúgh, a bona fide member of the Tuatha Dé Danann, was the young rising god, a real party animal. 

Lúgnasa is the half-way mark between the summer solstice and autumn equinox. The word is a combination of Lúg (the god Lúgh) and -násad (which is an assembly, or gathering). His handle, Lámhfhada means long arm. God of all arts, he was really good with his, er… spear. (See also pan-Celtic god Lugus, and Welsh counterpart Lleu Llaw Gyffes, "The Bright One with the Strong Hand.")

Lúgh (modern: Lú) founded the Óenach Tailten (the ancient Irish Olympic Games—similar to the Greek Games) as a funeral feast for his (foster) mother Tailtiu, queen of the Fir Bolg. Royal
fosterage was a big deal in ancient Irish mythology—it built alliances between clans and tribes. Foster children had mixed allegiances—to their foster families, and to their blood kin. 

Cian of the Tuatha Dé Danann was Lugh's father, and Ethniu, daughter of Balor, of the Fomorians, was his mother. (Or Lugh had three fathers, or was born three times, or was a lone surviving triplet—Balor drowned the others.) Got that? There's a test at the end, should you ever get to the bottom of it. I would imagine most of you are stark raving by now—with all those pimpley hyperlinks screaming: pick me, pick me!

So, we have three conjoined Irish races: Tuatha Dé Danann (TDD), and some Fomorians from under the sea (making Lúgh a half-god), with the Fir Bolgs as his foster parents. Add fosterage with Manannán mac Lír at Emhain Abhlach (Anglesey) too. we're not to sure what mythical race he was, TDD? Manannán arms Lúgh. So, Lúgh has three fathers, and/or is triplets, or was the product of a triple birth. Good old Indo-European threes. Surely that was significant. I said, it's complicated. Gawd, I need a drink.

Lúgh's poor foster mother Tailtiu, died of exhaustion after clearing the plains of Ireland for agriculture. Not too sure what all the menfolk were doing when all this was happening. Sitting on their keisters swilling heather beer in yon bonny glen? Apparently clearing the fields was women's work—even if she was the queen. What's with that? Master and commander?

So Lúgh of the Long Arm threw his foster mother Tailtiu the mother of all Irish wakes, or funeral feasts—if you must. The first Óenach Tailten, or Áenach Tailteann, was traditionally said to be held at modern Teltown, County Meath. Telltown is a corruption of Tailtu's name. It's also the seat of the early Uí Néills, so locating it there is a dynastic thing. Turf wars and all that. They later footed the bill for the See of St. Patrick at Armagh and took on some retroactive airs.

The Óenach Tailten Games were celebrated as late as the 18th century and included feasting, fighting and fecking. Or the ritual sacrifice of a white bull, heavy athletic competitions, handfasting, dancing, pilgrimages to the top of Croagh Patrick and to holy wells (Brigid, the beer goddess and the hearth is invoked), and the ritual cutting of the first harvest grain—with August 1 as the epicenter. 

Surely you didn't think these parties lasted only a day, did you? More like a month and a day. Takes about a week or two to ease into it. Like poets arriving fashionably late. Then, it was party like a rock star for another week or so, then nurse the hangover. Willow bark tea was as good as it got for aspirin.

See, when the Games were gussied up and Christianized, the sagarts had to make the festival fall on a Sunday to make things work out right. Eddie Stack mentioned in his blog that July 26 was Féile Lúghnasa. It's a movable feast—whatever it takes to make it to fall on the last Sunday in July.
One time it was held at around 200 sites, nearly always remote, inaccessible places that were on heights, or near water. The festival was dedicated to Lúgh, the young and most brilliant god of the Tuatha de Danann. Lúgh was the god of light, god of arts and crafts, father of inventions and the likes. It was he who saved the harvest by vanquishing Bal, the sun god who was in the process of scorching all the country’s plants and crops with relentless heat.  —Eddie Stack 2010
Lúghnasa is ancestor of Aonach an Phoic Puck FairDomnach na bhFraochóg, or Bilberry Sunday. (AKA frachóg, whorts, or heatherberries. In our family, August is also the opening day of huckleberry season. My grannie would take us up the ridge at Tomales Bay to check on the bushes. Just to make sure.)

The Áenach Tailteann is also the ancestor Games of Scottish Highland Games—as they too were traditionally held in August. 

Lúghnasa was once called Dé Domhnach Chrom Dubh, or Crom Dubh Sunday—he was a bent/crooked dark fertility god, said to reside in a cave at the crest of Croagh Patrick. But Christianity banished him as an evil one.  Another permutation of Lúghnasa is Domhnach na CruaicheReek Sunday, or Garland Sunday, is the day 30,000 Irish lemmings crawl up Croagh Patrick on bended knee. Or blindfolded, or both, while praying all the way up with myriad jaysusmaryanjosephs. Not me, my knees will never kneel again. Though I do prefer to walk barefoot.

Pilgrims climbing Croagh Patrick on "Reek Sunday," part of the festival of Lúgh since ancient times. —Wiki
Lúgh Lámhfhada was also the patron god of cobblers. Thought I'd throw that one in for free. The thought of shoes at a time like this tickles me. I can't bend down to put on my shoes. Besides, the closest I got to a holy well today was the shower. I was circling the drain. Does dyeing your hair count as pilgrimage?

So you had a few goats, some old and new, toss in a bit of the living and the dead, and the dead coming back to life again—what more could you ask for? An "A" party list.

Lá Fhéile Lúghnasa Sona Daoibh!

Sweeping the floor

About sweeping that kitchen floor—let's just say, I'm easily distracted. Call it ADD syndrome or short attention span. It began innocently enough last week with a light sweeping, then some damp mopping. Within the realm. Then I scraped off some white paint. OK. 

It's an old house from the 1920s, and the fake brick tile from the 1970s is crumbling at the seams. So I spackled some holes, it was whitey-white, so then I faux-painted the patches. 

I'm dangerous with paint. I start out all precise and neat, call it anal retentive, a dainty little patch job. Then something comes over me and gears shift. Vroom, I'm off! I become a demented Jackson Pollack with a paintbrush in hand. The graffiti tags on the bookshelf I just scored? No problem. Faux wood grain coming up. That hole in the wall that I keep trying to kill because it brings out my inner spider killer? Spackle (or toothpaste) is good.

It's a good thing I'm wounded, or I would've tackled rotted bathroom too. Turns me into a rather addled cross domestic war goddess. Moving the piano across the floor didn't help either. 

Since I can't bend my knee, getting down to floor level is an act of gravity—as in prostrate. Cross-legged is not an option. So I have to keep my leg straight out in front of me. It's a formidable barrier. I'm flexible, but not that flexible. Getting back up off the floor is a journey involving anti-gravity prayers and curses when those AG prayers don't hold. 

What possessed me to clean house, other than an acute attack of ADD, was that I could smell Autumn in the air, even though it is still July. Something about the changing light invokes an inexplicable sadness, or melancholia as the fall approaches. Or maybe it was the odor of dead mouse.

So as I was cleaning house a little here, a little there—oh, shiny! What was I doing? Takes me ages to complete simple tasks. I was dying for a cup of tea. The pilot light blew out on the stove. Hours later, I've dismantled the entire stovetop and counter, scraped off a decade of grunge from under the burners. Cleaned the greasy spice jars too. Tea? What tea? Can't reach the oven unless I use a chair and there's only so much I'm willing to do. 

I've been flopping down like a a fish and rolling about like a drunken narwhal to get from point A to B, while swearing like a sailor. Rearranging my computer space with all the plugs on the floor (and in tight corners) involved a lot of groveling and snorting of dustbunnies. 

My physical therapist said, So don't clean house! Like that was an option.

But there's only so many months you can go it alone before the floor turns to foot-velcro. It all began when a mouse left turds on the breadboard. That's a call to war if ever there was one. Traps, poison, shoes—I'm a shameless hunter when it comes to mice. 

I think a mouse died under the sink (good old D-con makes them thirsty so they seek out water.) but I can't get down on the floor and under the sink with my leg out in front of me like a freakin' log to check it out unless I lie flat on a skateboard. The dog pose is not an option.

Don't even get me started on the fridge. It's jealous and wants my attention too. I know this because it pees on the floor.

A link: