Tuesday, October 20, 2009

I Regret to Announce This is the End...

...of regular posts on this blog. Before you choke on your sandwich or splutter in your mid afternoon coffee, let me explain. I'm disappearing off the face of the planet! I've just realized the posts on this blog would fit on my other two. Traveling, site seeing, indulgences in places and things I wish to visit and explore: this all fits in with my blog Lessons in the Art of Slow. I also travel for research for my books, articles, and stories as well as long for journeys to the lives of some of my favorite authors. These trips would fit snugly amongst my banter and blathering about writing on Woolgatherings. As for the rest? Well, they'll fit in here and there, don't you worry. So chin up! I'm still here. Just not...here! Wander over, follow along if you're not already. But for heaven sakes, don't stage a coup and stop reading! I love you too much for that :)


*This blog will remain up for archival purposes, just in case you were wondering :)
(image found here)

Monday, October 19, 2009

Broadening Horizons from a Wandering Muse

"There are no foreign lands. It is the traveler only who is foreign."
~Robert Louis Stevenson

I apologize for the lack of post on Friday. The day got away from me! I sincerely hope you forgive me and I shall do my best to make up for it by combining today's regular post with Friday's continuing study of Halloween.

Christianity and Halloween
(a brief overview)

As mentioned previously, Halloween stems from ancient pagan rituals of the Celtic lands. Connected to nature in a way we of modern society can not fully grasp, the Celts saw the divine in their everyday life. There was no separation between man and god, only in power. The gods of the Celts walked the earth and one never knew when they may come across a higher power. If you read their mythology, you'll see many instances where an average human was befriended or tempted by a god or goddess without knowing who was doing the tempting. I'm sure their respect for strangers was much higher than ours today! All Hallow's Eve marked the end of the Celtic year. It was the night they believed the spirits walked the earth with them. The Celtic other world is shrouded in myth and mystery. Where the god may have walked with them, the spirits kept to their own lands. But on All Hallow's Eve anything was possible. The veil between this world and the next was parted. The ghosts of those long passed once again took up form and walked the dusty streets and dark forests. The fairy folk (or the Sidhe in Celtic myth) were known for prank playing on humans but were worse on this night than any other.

Samhain (pronounced SOW-wan) was the name for this end of year celebration. The Celts honored their dead ancestors on this night and began offering food and drink to the spirits to keep them appeased and to prevent them from cursing them or doing other nasty deeds to the people and animals of a household.

When Christianity came to Ireland, the church was wise enough to take the Celtic traditions and give them a new twist, instead of immediately rushing in and condeming what they'd been doing for thousands of years. Instead, they were encouraged to honor the saints and to pray for the souls in purgatory. Samhain became All Hallow's Eve, followed by All Saint's Day on November 01, the Celtic New Year. Old traditions die hard and it was still customary to put out food and treats for the departed at the end of Summer. Children discovered they could get free food and would demand it from those who did not put any out, saying what children today say when they rap on your door, "Trick or Treat!". Of course, no one wanted a trick, so they appeased these little ghouls by giving them food and drink and sending them on their way. Costumes came by the need to confuse the evil spirits that the church said walked the land on this night. The Celts believed both benign and evil spirits could be found in nature and there remained a need to confuse them on All Hallow's Eve. Children and adults would dress up to disguise their true nature so the evil spirits would not follow them home and bring them harm.

The following is one of the best overviews of Halloween in light of Christian culture. The entire Halloween article, along with this excerpt, is found here.

In North America, Christian attitudes towards Halloween are quite diverse. In the Anglican Church, some dioceses have chosen to emphasize the Christian traditions of All Saints’ Day, while some other Protestants celebrate the holiday as Reformation Day, a day of remembrance and prayers for unity. Celtic Christians may have Samhain services that focus on the cultural aspects of the holiday, in the belief that many ancient Celtic customs are "incompatible with the new Christian religion. Christianity embraced the Celtic notions of family, community, the bond among all people, and respect for the dead. Throughout the centuries, pagan and Christian beliefs intertwine in a gallimaufry (hodgepodge) of celebrations from October 31 through November 5, all of which appear both to challenge the ascendancy of the dark and to revel in its mystery."

Many Christians ascribe no negative significance to Halloween, treating it as a purely secular holiday devoted to celebrating "imaginary spooks" and handing out candy. Halloween celebrations are common among Roman Catholic parochial schools throughout North America and in Ireland. In fact, the Roman Catholic Church sees Halloween as having a Christian connection. Father Gabriele Amorth, a Vatican-appointed exorcist in Rome, has said, "[I]f English and American children like to dress up as witches and devils on one night of the year that is not a problem. If it is just a game, there is no harm in that." Most Christians hold the view that the tradition is far from being "satanic" in origin or practice and that it holds no threat to the spiritual lives of children: being taught about death and mortality, and the ways of the Celtic ancestors actually being a valuable life lesson and a part of many of their parishioners' heritage.

There are, of course, those who hold Halloween as a harmful holiday and have nothing to do with it. That's fine. I think you should do what you feel is best for your family and yourself. However, I do not advocate people condemning others for participating in festivities they deem unworthy, unfit, or evil. The sooner we all learn to respect each other's personal beliefs and preferences, the better off we'll all be. We're here to love each other, not to judge! I for one enjoy Halloween. I was brought up going trick or treating (at church no less!) and feel it is a wonderful night for imagination and revelry. Besides, it's the one day out of the year I can be anything or anyone I want to be an no one looks at me like I'm a freak :)

Happy Monday and enjoy the season, however you see fit to celebrate!
(image found here)

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Georgia's Islands

I'm feeling the need to head to the beach. Any one up for a road trip? My dream is to (again) live on the coast. Until then, however, I'm thankful I live only a few hours away from the Atlantic Ocean. Now if I could just get my job to let me off for sanity's sake!
Most people don't think "islands" when they think of Georgia. Peaches, "Gone With the Wind", Sweet Tea, yes, but not islands. But we Georgians know. We know what lies just south of Savannah. There's a stretch called the Golden Isles. I've only been twice, but I remember their beauty and slow pace of living matched Savannah and yet were worlds unto themselves.

I worked with a veterinarian from Brunswick. She talked lovingly about growing up in the small town on the coast, the beautiful architecture and quiet beaches. James Oglethorpe laid out her city plan in 1771 along the lines of the squares and streets he created in Savannah. Brunswick promises to be a feast for the history lover, filled with old manors, moss covered oaks and restoration projects much like her big sister. Antique shops, art galleries, bookstores and more beckon the shopper while seafood can be found around every corner and under most restaurant signs. Soak up the atmosphere in an historic Inn or B&B or soak up the sun on the beach. I can think of nothing better than sitting in the sand with a good book, listening the the mighty Atlantic as she taps the beach on the shoulder. If you're looking for festivals, you're in luck! Brunswick seems to have something going on all year round (and if it's like Savannah, there are more festivities than they ever publish on their website. You just have to wander down and find them!) Brunswick was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1979 and the Historic Preservation Board works tirelessly at keeping her looking pristine and making sure those who have an interest in downtown properties adhere to strict codes to keep the city looking it's best. I'd like to know more about this city. I think a road trip is in order!

Now here's a place that beckons to me. Numerous times I've attempted to join an excursion to Cumberland Island, but every time they fell through. Not one to believe in chance, I'm going to say it just hasn't been the right time for me to wander the deserted beaches and explore the inner mysteries of this uninhabited island. No vehicles are allowed on the island and reservations for the ferry fill up fast! If you're looking to go in the fall, I'd book passage in early summer, just to be on the safe side. The ferry runs twice a day only so keep on your toes if you go (unless you want to be left behind!). You can opt to camp on the beach, camp inland or stay at the gorgeous Greyfield House Inn. The Inn is reputed to be haunted, but, then again, no self respecting Southern manor would be without a ghost or two in it's possession ;) Wild horses roam free on the beaches and further inland you can find ruins of an old settlement and few crocodiles if you're up for the adventure. This National Seashore is at the top of my list of places to visit. Now if I could just get that ferry boat ride penciled in!

St. Marys is the gateway to Cumberland Island, meaning if you want to go there, you have to go through St. Marys. St. Marys sits on the St. Marys' River and offers access to both Cumberland Island and Amelia Island, FL. She sits on the Georgia/Florida state line and if you're up for a wee drive, head on down i-95 a bit further to Jacksonville, Florida or a little bit longer for historic St. Augustine. Honestly, this place looks like a dream! The Inns look like estate homes, the marina is filled with yachts and sail boats. I could definitely get lost here and refuse to be found!There are museums and trolley tours, and 45 minutes away is the Okeefenokee Swamp. Ghost tours, scuba diving, sky diving...St. Marys has it all in a unique, small southern coastal town setting. And deep sea fishing. I can't forget about that. Something I've always wanted to do. The events calender is filled with festivals and things to do. I remember that about Savannah. If you live in a tourist destination, you will never be bored unless you choose to be! As for the shopping and the dinning and the additional links...well, you'll just have to check out St. Marys website for yourself. Whew!

On down we go to St. Simon's Island. I can speak personally for this vacation destination, having visited with my parents several years ago. It's beautiful. Even on a rainy, grey, chilly autumn day it's beautiful. The seafood is fresh and the crab cakes melt in your mouth. The beach is reminiscent of Tybee Island: grey sand, grey surf, grey gulls. Moody. It seems the towns of Coastal Georgia are reminiscent of each other. Small shops, friendly residents, antiques and quirky gifts, local sea food and more than enough local color. I've half a mind to pack up the car and cruise down to scope each and every one of these towns myself, taking note of similarities and differences. That would make for a much more interesting post! I do adore first hand accounts. However, I must live vicariously through the Internet for now. Hopefully, I haven't lost you! :)

Last on our trek among the Golden Beaches of the South is Jekyll Island. The only time I went there was on a lark as a child. My parents, aunts and uncles decided to pack up the kids and scoot on down to the beach for the. We packed into one hotel room and stayed the night, enjoying laughs and sun and salty air. I remember my cousin Jason saying he wasn't tired and would prop his eye lids open with toothpicks if he had to. My father getting pinched on the toe by a crab and my cousin and I rushing after him afraid we, too, were in for a pinching. Judging from the pictures I'm seeing, I don't remember much of anything about the actual place. A paradise it seems, a past retreat for the rich and elite. Golf is a mainstay there and if you or someone you know enjoys putting around the green, I've heard the courses there are wonderful!

One final mention: this website has a ton of information on Coastal Georgia, far more than I could post here. If you're interested, wander over. There's much more to see and do than even I was aware!

Happy Trails!
(image of Jekyll Island found here)

Monday, October 12, 2009

Wandering Muse

"The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page." ~ Saint Augustine

(image of St. Augustine found here)

Not much for rambling this weekend. It was nice and easy both Saturday and Sunday. As much as I love a good ramble, I also enjoy down time. Time to relax, prop my feet up, enjoy a Popsicle, a conversation. Master Colby really enjoyed all the extra attention I was able to give him (many, MANY belly rubs came about as a result of my being there almost all day Saturday).

My mom came down for the afternoon Saturday and we walked over to the antique store that graces our little Main Street, aptly called East Main Collectibles. I have a hard time going into an antique shop and leaving empty handed. I found some really interesting hinges which will be transformed into necklaces, a tea cup for a craft experiment I have, and two Victoria Magazine issues!

I'm addicted to Victoria Magazine more so than (almost) any other magazine I read. I remember when it first came out in the late '80s. Then, sadly, she went away, leaving an awful void in my leisure time and a gaping black hole where loveliness used to reside on the newsstand.

Joy of joys, the magazine I love returned, going on three years ago, and it's as good as if it had never left. I still love the old issues and collect them when I can. I had a hard time passing up on all of them, but I was able to pick up an issue from the 1995, the year I graduated (whoops! I just dated myself, didn't I :). It's also the year my favorite author was their "Writer in Residence". I am an avid reader of anything Madeleine L'Engle. Knowing she was published in my favorite magazine, knowing I Have that magazine, near mint condition in lovely plastic casing sitting on my kitchen bar makes me long for a cup of tea, my couch, and an hour of uninterrupted time. Alas, I am at work this morning, but it makes looking forward to my time off that much sweeter!

Sunday was a lazy day also. We lounged around until about noon and then went to Barnes and Noble where I indulged in another magazine addiction of mine: British Country Living. O to step into the pages of that magazine! I would gladly shuffle off and not return! Perhaps I'll take a trip this evening into those lovely, pastoral scenes and lazily wander down memory lane with that old Victoria issue. Now that's my idea of rainy night wandering!

Hope your weekends were good ones!

Cheers and happy Monday!

Friday, October 9, 2009

Broadening Horizons

On Fridays I get to play. I get to romp through the cultural wonders which drove me to a history major and still prompt me to anthropological leanings in every aspect of my life. I want to know the whys behind what people do, what they eat, the way they dress. Perhaps one day I'll finish that darn degree and actually get paid to muse over such ponderings. For now, I'll frolic through blog land, every watchful for a new, enticing tidbit I can carry back and about which I can post.

Considering it's October, I thought I'd start us off with a look back at Halloween. This mysterious holiday is shrouded in ancient customs and modern interpretations. It is the first major holiday in the autumn season, and is trumpeted in with a parade of lanterns, pumpkins, and wee ghosties, pirates and faeries. At the turning of the first leaf or hinting of the first frost, people begin anticipating the shift in the seasons. Halloween is a rite of passage for fall. The leaves are at their peak performance and everywhere, from produce stand to grocer's display, is bedazzled with pumpkins, gourds, corn, black cats, ravens and candy. Halloween paints a picture in rich textures of velvet, tweed, flannel, fleece, organdy and silk. Her colors are dark chocolate, cinnamon spiced pumpkin and golden delicious apple. Just thinking about it makes my mouth and senses water!

Children (and some adults, like myself) look forward to this time when the veil between reality and make believe is lifted. For one night out of the year, the impossible is possible and anyone can be anything they wish. And the festivals! Fall festivals, harvest festivals, Halloween and hallelujah! What a wonderful way to herald in the colder months: bonfires and barn dancing, bobbing for apples and rich cider, chatting with a friend disguised as an eighteenth century villain.

Halloween is a lesson in change. The first Halloween was actually celebrated as the Celtic New Year festival of Samhain (pronounced SOW-ain). On this night, the Celts would gather around a large bonfire to celebrate the harvest and pay homage to the passing year. They would dance, drink and feast late into the night. Sadly, pagan sacrifices were made to appease the gods of the Celts and Samhain took on a hostile air. However, we must remember that these people were a fierce people with fierce beliefs. They celebrated with riotous parties: the only way they knew how to do anything was with unbridled passion.

After Christianity was brought to Ireland, the Celtic beliefs of Samhain were changed into a Christian holiday to honor the departed Saints. it became known as All Hallows Eve, and the spirits of the dearly departed were honored with feasting. Some of the old Celtic beliefs still clung to many parts of the Old Country. The Celts were very aware of the spiritual realm and didn't want to anger any harmful spirits nor did they want to invite them into their homes. SO, when places were set at tables in honor of the deceased, food and treats were placed on doorsteps to appease any harmful spirits that may pass by. The belief was that the spirits would take the food on the steps and have no need to enter the home. People would wear costumes as they went out and about after dark to confuse any harmful spirits who may wish to follow them home.
Pretty soon, people realized that they could get treats and food by taking it from the steps of those homes who put food out for the spirits. Before long, children were playing pranks on people who did not put treats out, acting as mischievous sprites and taking only treats or food as a "bribe" for not preforming any pranks. As you are sure to have guessed, that's where the traditional "Trick or Treat" originated!

Next week, I'll delve a bit deeper into the Celtic tradition of Samhain and how the changes brought about by Christianity to the British Isles.

Have a happy weekend and if you get a chance, stop by my blog Lessons in the Art of Slow for some great ideas for some Autumn goodies!

(photo link)

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Globe Trotting

I have an insatiable case of wanderlust. Unfortunately, I'm not able to indulge in it as often as I would like. This blog, however, has offered me the chance to vicariously travel wherever I wish, as long as I wish. I'm going to start using Wednesdays (or Thursdays, as this week's case is) to do just that! I thought I'd start with a place I'm familiar with and branch out from there: the Coastal South. I have lived in Georgia my entire life and spent two glorious years living in Savannah. What better way to kick off a new blog series than to talk about a place I hold dearly to my heart?

Horse hooves clack around squares at a leisurely pace, pulling buggies filled with tourists, newly weds, and eager children leaning over the sides to touch the wheels. Church bells peal as a salty breeze plays tag with the Spanish moss hanging like beards on the great oaks. Cobblestone streets prove an interesting challenged to heeled women and you're bound to see one or two laughing at their clumsiness and failure to inquire as to the proper shoes to wear while strolling River Street. This is Savannah, Georgia's Southern Belle. Founded in 1733 by James Edward Oglethorpe, her 22 squares are filled with history. Each one a miniature town complete with bed and breakfast, quaint shops, and a church or two. The closer you get to the river front, the busier it gets, exploding into a riot of color and culture at Broughton Street where you'll find shops to tempt every taste, budget and discerning palate. River Street boasts more restaurants and shops then you can shake a stick at and no trip is complete without a half hour wander through River Street Sweets to fill up a bag with old fashioned goodies, fudge, and salt water taffy.

Just 15 minutes outside of the Historic District is Tybee Island. A beautiful seaside retreat, Tybee has one end devoted to the tourist's general love of souvenir shopping, night life, and sun bathing. At the other end, the North Beach beckons those who are aware of her secrets a quieter get away. Under the watchful eye of the lighthouse, one will find respite for body and soul. Dolphins play just beyond the breakers and, more often than not, the sea is calm enough to swim and float to your heart's content. Sand dollars wash up at random, jelly fish find themselves stranded, and giant horseshoe crabs deposit their otherworldly bodies upon the grey sands. Grey sand, grey water. Tybee is definitely not a Caribbean destination or a surfer's paradise. If you're looking for a reflective stroll, quiet shell collecting, or a game of bocce ball at sunset with a glass of wine and a few good friends, Tybee is the place for you. On the South End there's the pier and all manner of restaurants and shops to hunt through. It gets a bit crowded down there on the weekends and during summer break, but don't let that dissuade you. If you want to party with the locals and the frequent vacationers, it's the place to be. If you want to see the stars, the North Beach is more your speed.

The people in Savannah know hospitality. They will feed you until you pop and do not understand the phrase, "No thanks, I'm not hungry." They'll serve you coffee and dessert, sweet red wine and last night's left overs. They are a genteel people, raised in the old ways of manners. They are fiercely proud of their heritage and most never leave Savannah's oak limbed arms. Those who do aren't gone for long and return to set up camp permanently. There are antebellum mansions, trendy lofts, beach side cottages, apartments, 1960's bungalows, just about any type of housing you can possibly think of. If you're looking for a place to relocate that tends to have a slower pace, there's a new home just begging to take you in.

Being outside is important to me and Savannah is the only place I was free to roam and discover the outdoors until my heart and soul though they may burst! Forsyth Park stretches for acres with the famous fountain at it's center. There are always joggers, walkers, dogs playing Frisbee and art students filming projects and shooting high fashion assignments. In the summer, spread out a blanket and bring a picnic for Shakespeare in the Park. The Savannah College of Art and Design puts on a sidewalk art festival (which is even worth going to if it rains!) and honestly you never know what you'll find going on at the park! Just behind the park, across from the tennis courts, is a natural food store (Brighter Day) and a local coffee house (The Sentient Bean). Both are definitely worth the visit.

I could go on and on about Savannah, but I won't. I'll let you discover her for yourself! Peruse these links, get to know this gem of a city and if you ever get down this way, stop in and pay her a visit. Just make sure you save me a seat at The Lady!

Happy Fall, Y'all

Wednesday, October 7, 2009


Sorry about the post delay, but I'm going to have to post on Thursday as opposed to Wednesday! Where did the time go?