Terrible beauty

White Crab Spider (Misumena vatia) eating a Small White Butterfly (Pieris rapae)

Crab spiders don’t build webs to catch their prey. Instead, they rely on camouflage and ambush. Cunning, courageous and fierce, they pounce and tackle quite big prey, stun them with digestive juices and then sit and dissolve it.

I was on a leisurely stroll at dusk last night and spotted this on a lavender bush. I dashed home for my camera, got partway back and realised I forgot to take my SD card. The light was fading and I was running out of time.

The barman from my local, who was outside having a fag, encouraged me to go back for it when I told him what I was about to photograph. So I ran back home, up two flights of stairs, grabbed the card and ran back to the scene of the ambush.

While I saw taking some photos, the woman whose garden it was in came out to see why I was poking through her lavender border.

On the way back home, hot and sweaty, I stopped in the pub to show Michael my photo and thank him for encouraging me.  🙂

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Six Towns Held by River Spirit

Dear Readers,
The last time we were on the Road to Oklahoma together was  November.  I’d been struggling to make the gorgets come out right and had decided to focus on another part of the journey. I set about finding the probable town(s) that my Great Great Great Grandfather Pahos Harjo had lived in prior to Removal to Indian Territory.

I ordered a print copy of the Creek census of 1832/1833, which has come to be called the Parsons and Abbott Roll, from Mountain Press.  It is the most comprehensive pre-Removal document, as it was the result of a village-to-village trek on the part of the census-takers, and contains the names of all the heads of households arranged by Creek towns.

By a treaty of March 24, 1832, the Creek Indians ceded to the United States all of their land east of the Mississippi River. Heads of families were entitled to tracts of land, which, if possible, were to include their improvements. In 1833 Benjamin S. Parsons and Thomas J. Abbott prepared a census of Creek Indian heads of families, which gave their names and the number of males, females, and slaves in each family. The entries were arranged by town and numbered; these numbers were used for identification in later records.

A big issue here is that Creek men were not the ‘heads of the family’, the women were.  But this is part of yet another story of patriarchal values being thrust upon Indigenous people.

All of this information is online, but I get fuddled when switching between multiple tabs, and it’s difficult to search through long lists on a screen.  I had a go about four years ago, but it is so much easier to look through sheets of paper.  Information on the internet, great resource that it is, has an ephemeral quality.

My print copy has been transcribed and typed, but here is a glimpse of the original handwritten document.

creek census image

I went through the lists of all of the Upper and Lower Creek towns to identify my Great Great Great Grandfather’s name – Pahos (Pow Hose or Par Hose) Harjo.   Another problem is that the Mvskoke language was not a written language, so there were approximations made when recording people’s names and place names.

I identified about a dozen towns with something close to his name.  Six were in Upper Creek territory and about five were in Lower Creek territory.   The Upper Creeks, unlike the Lower Creeks, resisted colonization in every manner that they could and held as fast as they could to their traditional ways.  They supported traditional Muscogee leadership and culture, including the preservation of communal land for cultivation and hunting and opposed assimilation to the United States culture.   I have several good reasons for knowing that my ancestors are Upper Creeks.

First of all, I know that my ancestors settled first in Tuskegee Town soon after they arrived in Indian territory after they were Removed.  The emigrants tended to settle together and named the new towns in the West after the towns they left behind.   In our homelands, Taskigi was  located in the triangle formed by the convergence of the Coosa and Tallapoosa Rivers.  I found this information on the Dawes Roll (more on this another time).

Second, my Great Great Grandfather was named Tecumseh, after the great Shawnee leader who had encouraged the Upper Creeks to fight against the encroaching United States government into their territory.  In 1811, Tecumseh had begun a pan-Indian movement to throw the Americans out of Native American territories. This led to the Red Stick War in 1813 in which the Upper Creek Muscogee went to war against the Lower Creek Muscogee (who were allied with the white Americans).

Third, my Great Grandmother Malindy Phillips who  was born in Indian Territory in 1878 never learned to speak English, keeping fast to the old ways and retaining her Native language.

So I felt very confident when I identified six possible Upper Creek towns that my ancestors came from.  Still, sometimes I’m often afraid that it is all a mistake.  That I don’t have any connection to the Muscogee.  I think that this comes from the years of shame, secrecy, ambivalence and feeling ‘other and outcast’ about being ‘part-Indian’.  All of those feeling passed to me from my Dad, along with the fact of my Muscogee ancestry.

When I got the font, the font size, the color of ink and the paper just right, I printed off the six towns:  Clewalla,  Fish Pond, Hatchet Creek, Kialege, Oelarneby, Ottise.

Then I broke half in two.  The tears came.  It is true.  We were there and we had to leave it all behind.

I made an altar to hold all of this.

I placed the town names along with some shell squares onto a reproduction of a map from 1816 that the Mvskoke had taken to a treaty meeting.   I encircled them with the red thread of my River Spirit necklace.  I placed a black and a white feather, a paper clay mask and my Dad’s cremation disc on all four sides.  Then l lit a candle.

It hurts, I hurt.    I want to be mistaken so I don’t have to feel the loss.  Loss is too inadequate a word.  It is a tear, we have been torn.  Ripped open and ripped apart.  It hurts to rip it back open and it feels clean.  It feels quiet and still.  It can heal now.

It can heal now.

River Spirit holds the towns and the ancestors left behind and our journey.
River Spirit washes away the pain.
River Spirit cleanses the wound.

For my exhibition, I made a mixed media piece comprising all of these elements.

Six Towns Held by River Spirit, mixed media, 30 x 40cm

By the way, I did not use my River Spirit necklace in this piece.  We went for a walk in early February, along the river which flows just outside of Moretonhampstead.

I gathered several piece of river drifted wood and used one of them for Six Towns.

 

October morning

A waning sickle of moon
and a bright morning star
herald the dawn.
Jackdaws play along the horizon.

I love this time of year when we slide slowly and gently from the bright days of summer into the enveloping dark.

In spirit

What a weekend this was.

Friday was an important anniversary, which I always mark.  January 20, 1980 is the date that my mother, Nell Rose Schwakhofer née Martin died from cancer. The easiness or difficulty of this day depends on where I am in my inner world and can be impacted by the Zeitgeist.

This year, I found myself wondering what her response would be to the US presidential election and today’s inauguration. I didn’t have the privilege of continuing my relationship with her into my late teens and into adulthood, but I have many memories of her response to the world.

When I was about 5 and carelessly repeated derogatory slang words to describe African American and Hispanic kids, she gently and firmly corrected me.

When my big sister, at age 17, became a feminist, wore jeans to her high school graduation and started calling herself ‘Ms’, my mom supported her.

My mother Nell was opposed to California Governor Ronald Reagan for his violent crackdown on student protesters at UC, Berkeley, for his ‘welfare reforms’ which punished the poorest people, for his anti-environmental policies, ‘Once you’ve seen one redwood tree, you’ve seen ’em all’. and for his contradictory ‘pro-life’ and ‘pro-capital punishment’ stance.

In 1973, when she had gone back to college (at the age of 50) she came home wearing a black armband in support of the fledgling American Indian Rights Movement.

She was a supporter of NPR and public television.

When she became too unwell to work, our family had to rely on Medicare (which the incoming administration wants to slash) to pay for her end of life care.

I am so proud of who she was and the values that she carried out into the world,and instilled in me.

As I do every year on this date, I went out and bought some roses to arrange next to a photograph I have of my Mom.

jan-201

I also planted some narcissi bulbs into some Victorian terracotta pots I have in a pretty French wire basket.  I felt good to put some living things into some earth, in anticipation of their growing and blossoming.

jan-202

Saturday January 21st was a day filled with women and men, across the world, marching for equality, diversity, social justice, inclusion and many other things dear to many hearts.

My husband and I had intended to drive up to Bristol and join in, but that morning, I awoke needing the comfort and security of Home.  I was really torn, but in the end, I paid attention to what I needed.  I made a donation to Planned Parenthood because women’s reproductive rights is one of the things that I would march for.

I was there in Spirit, along with the millions of women and men worldwide who are standing up for a positive way forward.  I felt my mother’s spirit too, very close by.

Silver service

I have a cool Facebook friend who recently shared a beautiful silver vintage dress and described it as a  “fine china and heavy silverware kind of dinner dress”.

dress

I have a non-vintage silver dress which is very similar and her words just stuck in my mind and captured my imagination.  I stopped at the Exeter Farmer’s Market last week with the intention of buying some fish.  I bought a couple of beautifully filleted pieces of Dover sole from the Gibsons Plaice Fishmonger stall.  We decided to make a  fine china and heavy silverware kind of dinner.

Just in case you’ve arrived looking for the recipe, here it is up front.  I find it irritating when I’m searching out a recipe and have to read through a bunch of superfluous stuff to get to it.

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Baked Fish Filets with Mushroom Stuffing

  • 4 large Dover sole fillets, skinned
  • 5 fl oz (150 ml) milk
  • lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon double cream
  • salt and freshly milled black pepper
  • 8 oz (225 g) dark-gilled mushrooms, finely chopped
  • 1 oz (25 g) butter
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 level tablespoon finely chopped parsley
  • 5 fl oz (150 ml) dry white wine or cider
  • 2 level tablespoons plain flour

First of all melt half the butter and all the oil together in a pan and fry the onion gently until soft and golden.

Add the mushrooms and cook until all the juices have evaporated and the remaining mixture is a dryish, spreadable paste – this will probably take about 20 minutes.

Remove from the heat, season with salt, pepper and nutmeg, then transfer all but 2 tablespoons of the mixture to a basin and mix with the parsley.

Next cut the fish fillets in half lengthways and spread an equal quantity of the mushroom mixture on the skinned side of each piece. Roll up the fillets from the head to the tail end and place closely together in a baking dish.

Pour in the wine or cider, place a piece of buttered silicone paper (parchment) directly on top of the fish and bake in the oven for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, melt the remaining butter in a saucepan, blend in the flour and cook for 2 minutes, stirring continuously. When the fish is ready, transfer it to a warmed serving dish, using a draining spoon; cover and keep warm.

Now add the cooking liquid to the butter and flour mixture, beating all the time to get a smooth sauce, and also blend in the milk.

silver service8

Then bring to boiling point, stirring all the time, add the remaining mushroom mixture, season with salt, pepper and a squeeze of lemon juice and stir in the cream.

To accompany the fish, we made mashed potatoes w/ double cream and butter and buttered, steamed spinach with fresh nutmeg.  Ladle the sauce over the fish filets and et voila!

silver service9

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Now back to the superfluous stuff.

We’ve been buying silver plated Old English and Dubarry flatware here and there over the past few years.  It mixes and matches very well.  We recently inventoried it to see what the gaps are and if any of it needed to be replated.  Steve wore his special anti tarnish gloves.  He is natural born butler at heart!

silver service1

We have the capability to host an elegant dinner party for twelve at any given moment.    However, this little dinner party was exclusively for a party of two.

silver service4

We used Dubarry flatware which combines Baroque and Asiatic influences to strike a beautiful balance between intricate detail and straight lines.  First appearing in the early 18th century, its inspiration lies in the elegant furniture of Thomas Chippendale.
Blue twill place mats, cream scallop edged dinner plates, white flax napkins and silver napkin rings completed the elegant table settings.

silver service7

We opened a bottle of 2014 Sancerre from our most recent Fortnum & Mason Christmas hamper that we’ve been saving for such an occasion.  Here Steve’s sommelier duties came to the fore.

silver service3

silver service6

And here is the dress.  I bought it a few years back for my 50th birthday party from Jigsaw, one of my favourite places to shop.  It is elegant, very comfortable and makes me feel like a Greek goddess.  It isn’t really ombre, but looks it when it catches the light.

silver service2

I’d also picked up a bouquet from In Bloom Devon which sells flowers grown in a Devon field, entirely without the use of pesticides and artificial fertilizers.  There are no air miles except for the ones traveled by the and bees and other pollinating insects who love visiting the flowers.

silver service5

For dessert, we stayed local.  Homemade meringues from West Country Meringues, organic double cream from Ashclyst Farm Dairy and strawberries grown at Balls Farm, Exeter.

silver service10

silver service11

Eton Mess

We didn’t really have a proper silver service but it would be really fun to do one day.  Silver service (in British English) is a method of foodservice. This usually includes serving food at the table. It is a technique of transferring food from a service dish to the guest’s plate from the left. It is performed by a waiter using service forks and spoons from the diner’s left. In France, this kind of service is known as service à l’anglaise (“English service”).  There’s a guide here.

silver service12

Hearing the cries of the world

I’ve been feeling many different emotions in response to all that is happening in the world.  The recent violence in Germany, France and America, and the political situations in the UK and the US.  I was especially upset about the killing of an elderly priest in Rouen.  I’ve lately felt quite overwhelmed and as though I would like nothing more than to retreat from the world and build a hard shell around me.

I woke from a dream the other morning in which I had just finished drawing a portrait of a young man who was dwelling with me. I beheld this young man, paid witness to him and captured his likeness. Next in the dream, I was about to draw a picture of Kuan Yin.

Dream figures reflect our inner state and the outer world. Many of our young men are not well fathered, nor well mothered nor held in the fabric of the world. Some of them are doing really horrendous things. It must be so difficult to grow up into manhood. I know how trapped and diminished girls and women can be by society’s definitions and roles for us, but it is no easier for boys and men.

Kuan Yin goes by many names. She is an Eastern goddess of Mercy and Compassion who hears the cries of the world. Compassion means ‘to suffer with’.

When I woke, I felt a softening and the ability to hold a lot of conflicting and difficult thoughts and feelings with love.

I felt at peace after being visited by the promise of Kuan Yin.  I found a few different images of her online:

Guanyin Bodhisattva

Guanyin Bodhisattva

Kannon (観音)

Kannon, (観音

Kuan Yin_chinese

Kuan Yin

Tara

Tara

This morning, I woke with the dawn and sat up in bed and made the drawing that I was about to in my dream last week.  As usual, different than expected elements always appear.  The earth is in the lower left hand corner and a dragon appears to  encounter the world.  This isn’t an evil presence, however.   The dragon, an ancient symbol for high spirituality, wisdom, strength, and divine powers of transformation, is a common motif found in combination with the Goddess of Mercy.

kuan yin

She Hears the Cries of the World, Staedtler-Triplus Fineliner pens, 25 x 25cm, 2016

I saw a friend last week who has a very similar resonance to me, and it was good to share and reflect together.  She currently has a very spiritual response to life, but said that when she was younger, she had a very political stance and wonders if she will take that approach again.  I think that many people are concerned about the state of the world and are wondering what response is needed.  We can choose to hide away, tune out, become politically active, write and speak to others about our feeling and thinking responses to events.   For myself, I don’t know if I will take a more active response, but for now it is enough to hear and acknowledge the cries of the world.