elaby: (LotR - Galadriel smiles)
Sunday I woke up with a sort of “nothing sounds fun to me today” feeling, until Rachel remembered that she wanted to go buy some plants for our offices, and I perked up immediately. She convinced me to leave the house without showering first (always a hard sell) and we ended up running ALL OVER THE WORLD and having many adventures.

First, we went to breakfast at the Wooden Spoon, a little local place that serves platter-sized pancakes, only takes cash, and always has a line out the door. Pancakes, waffles, and the restaurant’s signature grilled cinnamon roll were ruled out because of my decision not to eat eggs, and I instead had a large serving of home fries and their homemade toast. So delicious! We spent breakfast talking about Majora’s Mask and our current troubles at Snowhead Temple.

After breakfast, we stopped at Salmon Falls Stoneware, a local pottery studio that makes really amazing high-quality stuff. I won a gift certificate a few weeks ago at the movies (just by spinning a wheel!) for an oil lamp, and we decided to pick it up. The store and studio are mingled: the front shop has the “best” pottery stacked on shelf after shelf, and a door leads to a labyrinth of rooms of less expensive “seconds” (perfectly sound but the designs are sometimes a little blurred) that merge with shelves of unglazed, drying pottery. It’s so much fun to wander through.

We chose an oil lamp (number 531) in “Mountain Berry” and got a bottle of lamp oil with the gift certificate. We also picked out a coffee mug (number 311) in Blue Green Vine and a beautiful little dish that’s not listed on their website. It’s about four inches across and has scalloped edges and a raised image of a teapot in the middle. It also has a beautiful crackled glaze of blue-green glass around the teapot. We’re going to use it as a tea bag/tea ball holder <3

Then we moved on to the main event! Wentworth Greenhouse :3 It was such a glorious soul-balm to be there among the plants, in the warm, moist air. It seemed like there was no one there when we arrived (it was probably around eleven by then and they were open since eight) but ten or fifteen minutes later, the place suddenly FILLED with people. The greenhouse is mostly a gardening supply store but it also has a large display area, teaches classes, and hosts (or used to host?) the local winter farmer’s market, so it’s a big place. The display area has some of the most lovely exhibits. My favorites are a huge urn overflowing with succulents, some vertical wall-gardens with moss and teeny blobby plants, and an entire bed made from live flowers complete with a leafy patchwork quilt and branches for a canopy. They also have finches <3

Rachel and I wandered among the houseplants for a while and I dithered over choices until we found someone to advise us. Since my office is climate-controlled and I sit right near a window, I had a lot of options. I had pretty much decided on one of the string-of-pearls plants (a succulent) when the guy who was helping us showed us over to the ferns.

FERNS. My heart delights in ferns. He said they were easy to care for, so I looked through them and one delicate, bushy beauty with tiny lobed leaves caught my eye. I picked her up and she was perfect. I felt the kind of love one usually feels toward a small furry animal. We explored a bit more (and I chose a string-of-pearls as well) and we found someone to help us pick out the right size pots. We told her we’d be keeping them in our offices, and when she saw my fern, she said, “Oh, maidenhair ferns are probably the hardest ferns to take care of... I’m not trying to be negative, but are you sure that’s the best choice?” I felt like somebody wanted to take my kitten away. Imagine, if you will, a kind gardener looking concerned and a little chibi Katie hugging a plant and screaming “MINE! MY BABY!”

In fact, what I said was that I wanted to try, so she told me all about how to take care of it. I think I have a good chance of keeping it alive from what she said about placement and watering. It’s so beautiful <3

The gardener repotted our plants for us (for free!) and gave us all sorts of encouraging advice about how to take care of them. It was wonderful. I was so, so elated when we left. We decided to deliver our plants to our offices right then so we wouldn’t have to mess around with them in the cold Monday morning. It was a really good idea – we helped each other carry our pots in, and after we dropped them off at my office, we went to Street for a late lunch (a nifty restaurant in Portsmouth that serves street food from all over the world). We shared a vegan bibimbap and some amazingly good curry fries :3
elaby: (LotR - Galadriel blue)
You may remember back in the spring of 2013 how I posted about discovering that a forest I walked through at work had been bulldozed. A happy consequence of this was that because I was forced to find a new walking route, I found another path through the woods that led to a glorious meadow and pond. For a year and a half, I've walked there almost every day when the weather would allow for it. I've watched it move through the seasons and I know it's a place of magic.

On Friday, after a week of rain, I was going stir crazy at work. I went out for a walk in spite of the chill and drizzle.

And I found yellow POSTED signs at the gate and all over the trees lining the path to the meadow.

They state, in no uncertain terms, that trespassing for any reason is strictly forbidden. I called Rachel and cried and she comforted me and on her suggestion I e-mailed the local development authority (who had posted the signs) to ask if walking there, leaving no litter and disturbing none of the plants and animals, could possibly be allowed. I thought it was a nature preserve. I haven't heard back -- I probably won't -- but I'm not giving up my meadow without even inquiring.

Luckily, unlike my other forest that was torn down, I have many pictures of this forest path and the meadow. It's a breathtaking place.

Photos under the cut. )
elaby: (Link - Don't stop)
The other day I discovered a series of woodland trails not five minutes away from our house. I'd always wondered what the "Recreational Area" sign behind the skeevy and oft-deserted gas station was all about, and on Monday, while Rachel was at her knitting group, I decided to drive down there and see.

The well-kept dirt road past the sign wound through the woods for longer than I expected, and ended in a little grassy parking lot. A couple of trails headed off into the trees - pine, oak, birch, and aspen - beyond which was a glinting pond. There was a sign that told of a picnic area 0.2 miles away, and rest benches every 0.2 miles until the 1 mile mark at the other side of the pond, in a different town.

It was a glorious evening, mid-seventies and all slanting sun-rays, and so I headed down the path toward the pond. First, I came across this mysterious structure:

Newly discovered park

I have no idea what it is, with its half-turret shape and iron railings around the top, but a curiously symmetrical hole in the wall led away into the hillside.

Newly discovered park

Beyond the structure, the path split, and the way I took came out presently at the water's edge.

Newly discovered park

There were paths all over the place, leading up into the woods, but I followed one by the shore, where birds and dragonflies flew and crickets sang.

Newly discovered park

The land rose sharply on the other side of the path, and there were root-woven staircases that would take travelers up to the forest, where I could see the backs of wooden signs. I climbed up after a ways and circled around to find myself in the reported picnic area. This was one of the signs:

Newly discovered park

The others described the kinds of trees in the area, with leaf-identification charts, and the kinds of fish that could be found in the pond.

While the other paths had been narrow and winding, the main path up here was wide, clear, and level. It would probably be well suited for bike-riding.

Newly discovered park

There were some AMAZING trees - towering pitch pines, wider around than my arms could reach, with furrows in their bark two inches deep. Some were blasted and white, but still standing strong on either side of the path.

Newly discovered park

I turned back as the sun got lower and walked through a shadowy section where rare beams of sunlight shot through like spotlights. I tried to get pictures of them, but they didn't come out well.

I can't wait to go back and take Rachel :)
elaby: (Orange sun through the trees)
I'm sitting in our yard, beneath our crab-apple tree, with a cricket or some other musical insect serenading me from the other side of the flower bed. Today is the most gorgeous day - the sky is a clean-washed blue and it's been unrepentantly sunny, with temperatures in the 60s. I stepped out of the door last evening to help Rachel bring in groceries, and I felt it on my skin - fall coming. This morning, it was even stronger. I thought of pumpkins and drying grasses and tea all the way to work, and at lunch, I went for a walk. I couldn't pass up this beautiful day!

Actually, I've been going for a walk pretty much every day recently. The temperatures calmed down a little last week so that I could actually go outside at lunch without overheating, and on the first day, I walked out to the field behind my office that I discovered after I learned that the nearby woods I used to walk through had been torn down. It's such a haven - the forest path to the field is a green tunnel, carpeted in grass and flowers. That day I stopped by a particularly interesting tree, one that's been broken off about fifteen feet up and is now completely engulfed in leafy vines. My walks aren't very strenuous - I stop a lot to look at things - and when I turned away from the tree there was a huge feather lying right in front of me on the path. It's more than a foot long, brown and white striped, pristine. I picked it up and carried it with me.

Upon stepping into the field, there's a slight rise, and at the top, you can see all the way to the treeline (with the highway on the other side) on the left and all the way across the pond on the right. An enormous bird was winging its way slowly over the trees - a great blue heron - and I heard this sound, a cry, like a seagull, only longer, keener. I thought it might be the heron, but then a hawk swooped up from the forest, and I knew that's what it had to be. It flew over me, circling and crying, so triumphant. I think it may have been a broad-winged hawk, but we have so many red-tailed hawks near my office that it could've been that as well.

That day I heard frogs jumping into the pond. I saw a thousand butterflies (yellow ones, white ones, brown ones, and flocks of tiny pale blue ones). Grasshoppers scattered like raindrops. On the way back through the forest, I found one half of a tiny white eggshell, speckled with black. It's on my altar now, with the feather. That night, I dreamed of sailing in a little wooden boat, and a female osprey flew beside me, so close I could stroke her back. I could tell she was female because the females have brown markings on their white chests that look like a necklace.

The next day, when I went back, I watched fish swim around in the pond. And on Friday, I went back again, and everywhere I looked, something moved out of the corner of my eye. At first I just thought they were grasshoppers, but I would see one land and then bend down to get a closer look - and nothing would be there. This happened over and over, and I walked down by the lake again and wandered toward where I could hear some water-birds playing, flapping their wings against the surface. I swear I saw a gray frog (gray like granite, not any color I've ever seen on a frog before) jump from the path into the grass at the edge, but when I looked closer, there was nothing, not a stirring. Something that big would surely cause movement in the grass as it scurried away, right? On my way back at the pond, I heard birds chirping - it sounded a bit like a cardinal I saw there today - and I looked and looked, but couldn't see them. This isn't unusual, but the unusual thing was this: I heard the same chirping coming from a clump of tall grass right near the path, and I went over to look inside. It sounded so close - right under my nose - but for all my tentative poking and moving aside of sticks, there was nothing in there. The chirping continued, though, and I was afraid I would hurt whatever it was or startle it, so I moved away, and then I heard the chirping above me - across the path - in this part of the sky and then that - right over my head, like it was circling me, but there was nothing there. I told Rachel about it later, and she was like "The faeries sure had a good time with you today!" And I went "...Oh." Suddenly everything made sense!

Today I brought them a little piece of bread in a heart-shaped milkweed husk that I picked up in the area last winter. I put it by the clump of grass and thanked them for playing with me. Funny how I spent my childhood desperately searching for some sign of faeries, and it's only now that I'm an adult that I'm really getting to know them.
elaby: (Droplet trees)
Most importantly, I am happy beyond measure that DOMA was declared unconstitutional yesterday. In many areas of my life, I'm very optimistic, but I honestly never expected this to happen, even though I recognize that the country has been moving in a very promising direction. Those who want to deny same-sex couples legal rights, in spite of their utter irrationality, have always seemed to hold so much sway over public opinion and our laws.

Not now. The first thing I saw was a jubilant tweet from [livejournal.com profile] twelvepetals, and I thought "No, she must be talking about something else…" And then Rachel e-mailed me in all caps and size 80 font, and I swear I couldn't stop grinning (or focus on my work) for a good long time. It's hard at my job to know who I can talk to about this - everyone is accepting of me, thank goodness, but they all have different political opinions and I didn't want to feel alienated by anything other than utter excitement. I settled on one of my coworkers, a woman who I know has dated women, and we squealed over instant messenger for a while. Later, one of my other coworkers got a work-related e-mail regarding DOMA (I work in insurance) and was like "What's this DOMA thing?" A chorus of "I dunno" rose, and I skipped over and told them. They were all very happy for me :)

I still can scarcely believe that my marriage is recognized by the federal government. When I think about it objectively, how sad is that? I'm shocked at the reality that my marriage - proof of which I have in actual paper form, from the town hall and everything - is now considered to exist by the federal government of my country.

As usual, [livejournal.com profile] mermaiden says it best:

Marriage doesn't fix anything, and at the same time, it begins to fix everything. I have been the victim of hate crimes, almost every single one of my queer friends has been the victim of hate crimes. By being seen as equal by our nation, the tide of hatred MUST begin to change. This isn't about marriage, and it never WAS about marriage. It's about the dignity of a human being. By being afforded equal treatment by the country in which we live, it sets the standard for how we should be treated by everyone else. When we were second class citizens, stabbing a lesbian was something that happened all the time, in ways you never heard of (I never reported the hate crimes committed against me...want to bet how many others haven't, or have but got nowhere?), but as the tide of the very basis on HOW WE ARE TREATED changes because we are recognized as EQUAL, everything else will begin to change.

I've found this page very useful in both understanding a post-DOMA country and in seeing just how many of my rights were limited or utterly taken away by this awful act: http://www.freedomtomarry.org/resources/entry/after-doma-what-it-means-for-you

Second, I wanted to share some of the things we did last weekend when Rachel and I went with Rachel's mother to Errol, NH, the area where Rachel's parents and grandparents grew up.

Adventures and pictures beneath the cut! )
elaby: (Clover - Rainbow)
Lately I've become obsessed with birds. I've always loved watching them, but not until I read Molly Beth Griffin's Silhouette of a Sparrow (BRILLIANT, by the way) did I realize that I could actually transform this interest into a pursuit. The lake by my office is home to dozens of bird species, and they visit the maple tree by my desk's window all the time. On Wednesday, I picked up the National Geographic Field Guide to the Birds of Eastern North America, and on Saturday, I bought a modestly-priced monocular. Already I've found that the little black birds that live in our trees are common grackles, mixed with some red-winged blackbirds and house sparrows. We've got robins and chickadees and mourning doves, and today, Rachel and I took our bikes to Fort Foster so Rachel could bike around and I could look for birds. I didn't have much success in the marsh - the birds there are too well-camouflaged to make out - but I did see some interesting sea birds that I couldn't identify in my book. They were ducks, I think, judging by their shape as they bobbed out in the ocean by the edges of some small islands. One was all black except for a patch of white either around its neck or on the back of its neck and a white stripe on its wings. The feathers on the back of its head came to a point. The other duck I saw was all white except for a black cap and black wing-tips, and maybe a black tail. I couldn't find either of them in my book :\

It's so fun and relaxing to look for them. We took a snack of fruit and cheese and crackers and ate them sitting on a bench, when Rachel got back from her bike ride and I got back from huddling behind some giant rocks on the beach to watch the ducks out of the wind. I have a journal that I'm writing down all of my sitings in, and notes about the birds to help me look them up later. I'm really enjoying it <3

Sentinel

Apr. 17th, 2013 07:31 pm
elaby: (Half Acre - Crack the sky)
I guess it's a lesson that things change, and it can be sad when they do, but sometimes the change makes room for loveliness. I haven't walked down to where my forest used to be, near where I work, since I discovered that it was torn down. Instead, I went looking for the rumored path around the pond behind my office building, and I found a new kind of forest - different, but still beautiful.

There's a dirt service road near my parking lot, and halfway down that, a gate into the woods. This is no towering, shady, cathedral forest. It's open and light - full of vines and fluttering leaves instead of sheltering pine boughs and violets. I've seen a pretty brown butterfly several of the days I've walked there, and today it didn't avoid me, but flew close and settled on the ground for a while to let me watch it. Through these woods is a field, stretching from the barely-tree-masked highway to the brambly edge of the lake. The wheel-tracked, overgrown road climbs over the crest of a hill and winds down behind the lake, where it disappears into another airy wood. Today I went on an adventure down to the lakeside, away from the road, where there were patches of tiny purple flowers that smelled amazing, like basil or oregano.

Monday, when I went walking there, I passed by a tree in the woods that looked like none of the others. This is a young forest, with tall, slender trees, and in the midst of all of them is a thick and blasted trunk, broken off forty feet in the air, with dry white-gold wood showing through where the bark has been stripped away. It's imposing; it commands respect. Another smaller but similarly scarred and broken trunk stands by it, and several dried logs lay near its feet. Among the wispy young trees, it looks like an ancient warrior. I call it the Sentinel.

On the way into the woods Monday I picked up a rock from the road, a shimmery gray piece of stone that had the same sheen as charcoal. I thought I'd bring it back and put it on my desk, but when I left the woods and walked back toward the main road, I knew with blinding certainty that I needed to give it to the Sentinel. I turned around, went back through the gate, and picked my way through the woods until I stood beneath it. There was a rock there, in the sunlight, and I spotted it from a way off and decided to place my rock there. When I got up close, I saw that a perfect O of lichen was growing on its surface. I left the stone in the center.

It was still there, today. I wonder how long it'll stay there.
elaby: (Droplet trees)
Yesterday I went for a walk at lunch, and I discovered that a forest I used to walk through when I worked at our old building has been torn down.

I felt like I'd had something stolen from me. It was almost unrecognizable - there's literally a pile of dirt where there had been woodlands before. The frame of a building stands on a section of it now, just I-beams and supports and guys in hardhats yelling "Below!" to each other as they throw things to the ground. While walking, I'd seen the corner of this frame over a line of trees close to the main road, and I went to investigate.

Let me tell you what it used to be like. I have no pictures - all of the ones I took of it were on my old cell phone - and I feel like I should memorialize it somehow.

When I worked at the old building, I used to walk a loop (more like a square) at lunch. My building was on a cross-street between two more well-travelled roads, and I'd walk down one to the closest cross-street. I work in an industrial park that used to be an air force base - Rachel was born there - and nowadays it's a patchwork of huge buildings with manicured landscaping and overgrown forests where deer and turkeys live. Roads that used to lead to military housing now disappear into the woods, leaving behind stepping stones of asphalt.

The street with the forest-that-used-to-be is called Oak Avenue (ha ha oh god). I would turn onto it from the main road, which is open to the sun and wind and is lined only with equidistant saplings and a blindingly white sidewalk. Oak Avenue was like walking into the wildwood in comparison. The sidewalk turned to crumbling black tar (where there was a sidewalk at all) and pine trees - immense, towering pine trees - met far overhead to create a cathedral-like tunnel. It was overwhelmingly green and cool, the only shady place on my walk and a haven during the summer. The sidewalk was on the left side of the road, bordering a wooded area filled with more pine trees and a few oaks. There was a considerable amount of open space in it, and I think there must have been small buildings there once, because concrete foundations could be seen half-covered in leaves and blankets of orange pine needles. The whole area was sheltered by trees, though, I remember it as a slightly mysterious sun-dappled place where history lay just below the ground's surface.

There, another horseshoe-shaped street looped up the side of the hill up which Oak Avenue runs, its start near the bottom and its end near the top. This street was named Pinecrest Terrace, and it's fitting that it no longer exists. I never used to walk up Pinecrest Terrace, which brings me to the second reason this turn of events disturbs me. Near the curve in this road was an abandoned water tower - and when I say I never used to walk up this road, I mean that I walked up it once and never did again. To say that the area around the water tower is creepy is a very big understatement. As much as I want to be able to sense things that aren't part of the physical world, I find that I'm a bit dense in those areas; this place is a great big exception. I explored it once, and what I found beneath that water tower was bird feathers and a feeling of intense loneliness and the distinct impression that someone was going to drive up in a black car and dump a body there. I made the mistake that day of trying to walk back to work through the woods on the other side - much denser than the woods that were cut down - and it was right out of Hansel and Gretel or Red Riding Hood, complete with the assurance that something was measuring me up for a sandwich. I have it from several different people - independently - that the area made them uncomfortable too.

And now they're building on top of it.

The woods that are cut down now, my pine trees with the carpet of leaves and needles and acorn caps and violets beneath them, were always a calm, protective barrier between the sidewalk and the water tower. I would greet them as I walked beneath them, sometimes touching their branches, and they gave me their tree-gifts of sharp sunlight on their needles whenever I needed something beautiful. It's transformed now, even the land heaped and churned and flattened beyond recognition. They left three or four of the oaks - one in particular near the road is bare and beaten and has broken branches hanging high in its limbs, like they'd been tossed up by a tornado. Rachel suggested we bring it something (and bomb the place with wildflower seeds later, once the construction is over). I'd like to do that; it looks bereft.

I felt sick when I saw it, dragged down, drained. It must have been that way all winter. Since we moved buildings last fall (and after I broke my ankle), my few walks have taken me in a different direction, and I never even knew it was gone. I'm glad I visited it so many times before it was torn down, but now it's so barren, like it was never there. The only thing I can do is write about it and share a little bit of what it was like with you.
elaby: (Vocaloid - Miku Luka kiss)
I had the urge today to make a Post Full of Cool Things, so I hope you'll find some of them enjoyable :) This is a taste of the things I've been amusing myself with on the internets lately.

1. I started another blog! It's called Tea Under the Pine Boughs and it will be (most likely slowly) filled with articles I write about Victorians, pictures of mori girl fashion, faery things, and probably, knowing me, Vocaloids. Right now it's just got an introductory post of sorts about why I can't get enough of those wacky Victorians. I intend to use it for more professional writing, which is not to say that it'll be very professional. It'll probably just have more themed content rather than rambling about life, which is what this journal is for :)

2. Speaking of Vocaloids. Have some!

This song is Akatsuki ("daybreak") Arrival by Last Note and features some of the most human-like Luka and Miku I've ever heard. ALSO I TOTALLY SHIP THEM. It's implied to end in tragedy, which is only what you can expect from a Vocaloid romance song (but could we have some happy lesbians sometime, plzkthx?). The video's pretty good, too, and it's subtitled very well.



3. Mori girl style is so appealing to me because it portrays an antique feeling while still looking comfortable. Mori style is elegant, so girls (and boys!) who wear it look dressed up but not formal. It's inspired by fairy tales and woodlands and cottages and going out into meadows in the early morning with a woven basket to gather flowers.

Here are some of my favorite mori girl images that I've found around the internet, mostly on tumblr. )

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