The Egg and I

I am sitting here this afternoon watching, “The Egg and I” with Claudette Colbert and Fred McMurray.  I love this movie and had not seen it in a very long time, until I got it for Christmas.  I have watched it many times over since then.

I grew up in the country.  Some people cannot appreciate farm life.  Some people don’t like the thought of chicken poop and dirt.  I happen to like it and miss it.  I have been transplanted to the city.  Atlanta, to be exact.  There are days that I get very homesick for the solitude of country living.  I miss getting stuck driving behind a tractor rather than caught in traffic.  I miss riding a tractor versus a car….and there is something to be said about the feel of driving a pickup.

The country affords kids a chance to do things that city life doesn’t.  Growing up, I wasn’t a bad child….but I was very very mischievous.  My mother told me the other day that my great nephew is just like me….they might had better watch out.  I simply took the time to enjoy my surroundings and many of the animals around me.

I remember visiting my grandma’s house when I was just a young fella.  She still had an outhouse.  Nobody liked to use it, but it was the only bathroom.  I enjoyed that outhouse….it was the source of many afternoons filled with laughter and exercise for me.  That old outhouse had a hole in the wall real close to where the seats were located.  As a matter of fact, the hole was just below seat level.  I loved catching green snakes or any other kind of critter I could get my hands on.  My aunt, at some time or other during visits to grandma, would have to go pee and I was typically camped out behind the outhouse waiting with the critter du jour.  My aunt was not a small woman at all and I would wait to hear the wood groan under the weight of her substantial rump and then I would feed that green snake up through that hole.  As soon as it was in a good ways, it would inevidibly send its forked tongue toward her butt.  She would jump up screaming and chase me down the hill with her pants down around her ankles……I laughed the whole way.  I got many a swatting for that, but it was so very worth it.

I also learned the value of not peeing on an electrically charged fence on that farm.  I was standing at the entrance to the back pasture and had to go badly.  I had no clue that the fence was charged.  So I did what we boys always did.  I took it out, and started to pee.  I was knocked so far back after the electricity travelled up the stream of urine.  It was worse than any groin kick I have ever experienced.

As I got older, I had learned to love working with the chickens and goats and rabbits.  The only thing I never grew to love was when I worked the pig farm one summer.  Really kind of took away my taste for pork for a while.  That is as much as I will elaborate on that.

Pop let me buy my first chickens when I was sixteen or so.  I chose Ameraucanas or as they are commonly called, Easter Egg Chickens.  I had twenty one chickens in my flock, including a rooster.  I loved going out in the morning to gather eggs.  It was always blue, green, or pink eggs….I never knew until later that the color of the chicken’s earlobe determines the color of the egg.  Most of my chickens were pretty tame and would come to me when called or follow me around the coop.  Most of them…..except that rooster.  That rooster was the meanest thing I had ever met.  I got spurred more times than I can count.  Sometimes I dream about what it would be like to have a small flock in the courtyard…..but I guess the neighbors in the other apartments might not like it as much.

Springtime with the chickens was always my favorite…..the time for chicks.  I loved watching the hatching.  All those fuzzy little boogers peeking their little heads out of the shells for the very first time.  I loved going to visit the brooders and teaching the little ones how to drink for the first time.  Watching them change on a daily basis was fascinating…seeing the down slowly replaced by feathers, watching the combs grow out, and seeing what colors the chicks would become. It was incredible seeing what nature could do. 

Yes, I fell face first in chicken poop more than once….but back home they used to say that the smell of chicken sh** “was the smell of money.” I didnt so much like that smell of money.  I miss having fresh eggs. 

I can relate when I see Fred McMurray’s face when he talks about the chicken farm and gets all doe-eyed about it……I do miss my chickens.

For the Love of Frisbee

Every year around the 4th of July, we make a trip to my parents house in North Carolina.  For some reason in 2005 we were later than normal making the trip.  It ended up being around the second weekend of the month.  My dad has always been a big animal lover, so whenever I go home, it is an opportunity for him to show off his animals to me….no matter how many times I have already been introduced or spent time with them. 

This time the trip took a little different turn.  My dad wanted to take me and Jay to visit with a friend of his who used to be a chihuahua breeder.  He had since decided that there was no sense in breeding and was having his animals spayed and neutered.  In the process, he missed two.  The female was a spunky little black, tan, and white pup and the male was a little firecracker of chocolate and tan.  What resulted in these two tornadoes meeting was a litter of 5.  Two grey and tans (blues), a chocolate and tan, and two black and tans.  Jay and I took a look into the box that they were in and of course we were drawn to the fattest little grey one.  Little did we know that we would be discussing whether or not he would be coming to Atlanta with us.

Jay and I talked alot that night.  I had wanted a dog, but had always had australian shepherds.  I didn’t think I was ready for a small dog.  I did not want to have to learn the “small dog shuffle” when walking. I decided it was not the thing to do at the time.  Little did I know that Jay had other ideas.  I was told on the way back to Atlanta that Jay had already committed to the man to get the puppy and had paid for him.  It was for my birthday which was only a couple of weeks away.

Jay and I tossed names back and forth for those couple of weeks.  I was to go back to North Carolina the weekend after my birthday to pick the pup up and bring him back to Atlanta.  Names floated through our heads whenever we were in bed at night…..finally a name was settled on.  It was Jackson. 

I worked at an animal clinic and I remembered that those pups had fleas on them when we saw them.  It was the dead of summer and I was not riding back to the ATL  scratching like a fool.  So I took a flea pill with me that was safe to give any pup over two pounds and would kill all fleas within 30 minutes.  I knew from looking at the little butterball that he definitely weighed over two pounds.  I gave little ‘Jackson’ the flea pill, stood and talked to the man for 30 minutes and then got into my truck with him completely flea free.  After a brief stop at my grandma’s house to show her and my nieces the puppy, I started what I was sure was going to be the longest drive ever back to Atlanta.  That little puppy gave me a taste of what puppyhood with him would be like.  He slept the entire trip. 

I had already set up a kennel for him at home and he seemed perfectly content to sleep there.  I didn’t want to have him sleep with us for fear of rolling over on him and making a puppy pancake.  He was making himself right at home.  He was, however, having a really hard time learning his name.  He just would not respond to ‘Jackson.’  He did stop, sit up and take notice one afternoon, though, when he was in the middle of the bed turning circles when Jay said, “Oh look at him, he looks like a ‘Frisbee.’  From that point on, that little droopy eared wild man was known as Frisbee.

He was such a good puppy.  He never whined or barked and he slept on our sleep schedule, which is completely unusual for a puppy.  The only noise that ever came out of him was after a friend of ours had come over to see him and he was left alone in the bedroom.  As we stood in the kitchen talking, we heard one lonely little “Bow-woooo!” coming from the room he was in.  He was a playful little puppy and loved to follow me around the room.  He did have a little mischievous streak and loved to crawl under the bed.  He knew he wasn’t supposed to do that.  One afternoon, I am folding laundry and I hear “BONK!” Frisbee had bumped his head so hard on the bottom of the bed that it left a mark that is still there today.  Ever since then he has always been a few fries short of a Happy Meal…..but still such a sweet pup.

His proudest accomplishment was the day I brought him home a beautiful green cushion to sleep on.  I put it in the bedroom floor and went to the kitchen to get something to drink.  I came back into the room to find Frisbee looking up at me almost smiling in the middle of a pile of green shredded material, batting, and foam.  He was so cute, I couldn’t do anything but laugh.

Frisbee has always loved people.  The first year of his life was spent riding around the animal clinic in the pocket of the practice manager.  He is still never any trouble and he is my buddy.He definitely loves his daddy Jay and his uncle Curt….but Frisbee is definitely a daddy’s boy.  He loves nothing better than to lie on his back in the crook of my arm and have his belly rubbed. When I read, he thinks that his place is right under my chin. “What do I need that old book for when I have Friz.”   Nothing is better than feeling a warm little blue chihuahua cuddled up next to you when you are in a bad mood.  He is my buddy, my monkey-boy, and my Frooby Doo.  What would I ever do with a big dog now?


Playing with Fire….

I have always been attracted to fire, even as a child.  I remember my mother heralding the warning, “If you play with fire, you are going to pee in the bed.”  It never deterred me and I never peed in the bed.  I was in the kitchen floor playing with matches at 5 years old.  My mother screamed my name….I dropped the match…I melted a patch of linoleum.  When she asked me what I was doing, I told her I was watching the fire dance.

Fire, to me, is a powerful element.  It is the element to which I most relate.  I use fire when I scry.  I easily see faces and shapes moving freely around in the flames. I am shown things in fire that I may not recognize in other means of magick.  Fire calms me…reassures me.  There is nothing more wonderful to me than seeing the flames licking the outer lip of the cauldron.

I love to play with the colors of fire.  I will sometimes make a fire using denatured alcohol.  It produces a beautiful blue flame.  Around the holidays, I love using the pine cones that add different colors.  The color I strive for depends on what I am conjuring.  If I am looking for healing for myself or someone else, the blue flame works superbly.  If I want a little drama, I add a little clove and stand back and watch it pop!

Now, before you get the wrong idea, I am not a pyromaniac.  I don’t burn things just for the sake of burning.  There is always purpose and intent behind these little light shows.  Magickally I have played with breezes and waves and even played in the dirt, but the thing that brings me most joy is fire magick.  I am drawn to it.  I am the one in Harry Potter that would have chosen to travel by flue powder.  I guess that would be why candle magick comes to me easier than most. I can actually see the end results of the spell manifesting itself in the flame.

One of the things I love to do most in spellcasting is to take pictures of those that I am doing magick for and toss them into the fire as I visualize.  I can see the flames manipulating the desired result for each person or animal.  I also like to take a bit of brushed out fur from my pets and when I am doing healing work, toss some of the hair into cauldron.  I watch as the flames engulf that part of the animal and envelop them in healing….much like the way we are wrapped in the cozy feeling a fire in a fireplace brings.

When it feels as if the day has beaten me, I love nothing better than to light every candle in the living room, turn off the rest of the lights and let the candle flames nourish me.  As I write this, I have a sage scented candle burning beside me.  I feel the smoke wafting toward my face.  It cleanses and invigorates me as much as a quick splash of water against my face would.  When I smudge with a burning sage bundle, I love to stand in the veil of smoke.  It pushes all that is negative away from me and moves all that is positive into me.  I feel that being cloaked in the remnants that fire leaves behind is rejuvenating.  Native Americans fan the smoke into themselves to purify.  I love that feeling of freshness and brilliance that sage smoke brings.

I have a very healthy respect for the element of fire and would never be careless in my work with it.  I have learned to dance alongside my friend.  I have learned to respect it.  I have also learned to never underestimate it.

The Power of Words…

I think alot of times that we forget the power that comes with words spoken.  Whether those words are spoken in anger, intimacy, or indifference, we forget that once those words are released, they can’t be pulled back or forgotten.  They leave a permanent brand…much the way a tattoo would leave an indelible imprint.

I have felt that power many times this week, both good and bad.  I have also unleashed that power….both good and bad.  That power has been both invigorating and deflating.  Learn to get past it…..yes, I know that.  It still does not dull the sting. Why does it seem sometimes as though the harsh words have so much more power?

I have lived my life with one philosophy in mind…always live simply and honestly.  It wasn’t until today that something really crept into my heart and took residence.  A friend asked my advice.  Before I could actually think, the words came to me, “Honesty with temperance.”  Those three words have ruminated my heart and mind all afternoon.  Honesty…it is required with ourselves and with others.  Temperance….without it, even the most heartfelt thoughts can seem harsh or meaningless.

I have cooked since I was a teenager.  I was taught the value of tempering in recipes.  When mixing eggs with hot liquids, if not introduced slowly and patiently, creates nothing more than a scrambled mess.  If done correctly and with thought, you get a golden creamy liquid that creates all kinds of yummy products.  Chocolate, if not tempered correctly with cream, becomes a clumpy, chunky glob, but if it is done right, it becomes a shiny glossy silky encasement for truffles or a dark, soothing coating for cake.  The secret is in how the secondary ingredients are added.

I have dealt with weight issues since I was a child.  A loving mother was always the buffer between me and cruelty.  Imagine the hurt I felt the first time I actually found out that I was “fat.”  Still today, if I hear that word, it makes me cringe….but then again, I will use it to refer to myself.  I have still thrown it carelessly into the wind to be written into my heart.

I even think about the way I address my pets.  I never should tell them that they are bad.  They only need to know that they are behaving badly.  They are never “stupid.” Most times they are so much smarter than I. I should always tell them how cute they are or how crafty I think they are.  We are the ones who create ill-disciplined and rebellious pets. When they are entrusted to us, they are a blank canvas waiting for us to make masterpieces. I promise, too, that no pet poops gold bars.  Ask me about this on a day after they have been way smarter than I am and I am frustrated. They live life in the moment.  They simply are. 

The same thing may be said for building ourselves up to others.  It does me no good to try to make myself look more important in someone elses eyes.  What happens when the truth finally comes to light??  I have defeated the purpose of what I started out to do.  Believe it or not, no matter how dull or boring you may think you are without all the bells and whistles… are absolutely fascinating to someone.  Don’t try to list your accomplishments with me…I will probably tune you out anyway.  Show me the heart that was created by the energies of the universe, and I promise I will be enthralled. 

Do you find yourself haunted by certain words or phrases that were spat out at you in anger or indifference?  Think along with me right now about who you really are.  I was raised on a farm.  I have stepped in alot of poop in my life, but there are some amazing things that I have seen and done.  Those things don’t make me who I am….neither do other peoples words.

Before Christmas, I sat on the patio during a cold spell one morning with my coffee.  I breathed the names of each of my dear friends into that brisk air.  I saw their faces in each puff of smoke.  I breathed blessings. It refreshed me.  I could feel them breathing with me….the energy those words created was phenomenal.   I have friends whose energy just makes me smile.  I hold that in a part of my heart that I bring out on dark days.

So….what are my words, you may ask.  I am simple.  I am loving.  I am gentle.  I am generous.  I am wise.

What are your words for yourself today?

Black Eyed Peas, Collard Greens, and Hog Jowls

Well, here we are in the New Year.  2012–who would have ever thought that it would get here.  I feel older just thinking about it.  Of course, I hit the New Year by myself.  I have not been feeling like myself for the past few days.  I have been in a funk.  I know that this is something that I must break through, but I have just been blah.

Mama always ingrained in us as kids that you had to eat black eyed peas, collards, and hog jowls on New Years Day.  The peas represented coins, the greens were dollars, and the hog jowls were just a southerners way of adding fat to the mix.  I made all three dishes for New Years.  As I stood at the stove watching the jowls cook in their own grease, I thought of the diet that was looming in front of me for the following day.  Then, of course, you have to pour that grease over the collards to add a smoky flavor.  And now I have to wonder why my backside is the size of a barn. 

Now we all know that most southerners are known for cooking with butter, lard….most anything unhealthy.  I remember, growing up in North Carolina, you learned to just not look into the pot if there was a chance that what someone was cooking would make you queezy.  Many a time I uncovered a squirrel floating in a pool of stew or opened a freezer to find a couple of raccoons posing waiting to be used.  My favorite was the time my uncle had caught a possum, brought it to my grandmas, cleaned it out by feeding it grain, killed it, then required me to cook it.  I may as well had been cooking rat.  That was the nastiest looking thing I have ever looked upon. You roast them whole ( even nastier) with an apple in the mouth.  I have never been more repulsed.

How would I ever know that the culinary customs of my family would prepare me for things to come.  I remember a mission trip to Ecuador.  We were all sitting around the table waiting for our hosts to bring out the evening meal.  He comes to the table with a tray with an animal splayed out on it… looked like a rat.  I found out that it was “Cuy” or guinea pig.  Most everyone else was horrified… me, it tasted like bbq pork.  Not bad.  I also remember being fed a gray potato.  Most anyone else would have been horrified and run straight for the antibiotics…not me.  I had eaten catfish stew, which in my opinion was like drinking mud.

I have learned, over the years, that every people group can be identified by their food and customs.  I guess I have always lived on Andrew Zimmern’s philosophy…”If it tastes good, eat it.”