Yesterday was Summer Solstice and like some sweaty magic fairy has waved a wand the temperatures have switched to the 90s with 80% humidity. Weeks ago while it was still in the cool 50s at night we were walking our little blond terror at night. It was past midnight and the neighborhood was still and quiet with bright star light above when we heard a tell tale yipping a few blocks away. Now, I have heard coyotes while in NC because we lived across from a 24 hour WallMart and they hunted the critters that lived around the dumpsters and am familiar with the barks they make; this was the classic “bark, bark, aaarooooo!!!” and it was answered from around us with quick “yips”. I look at my big burly husband who has our blond death machine on a leash and we start walking for home faster. Closer to home the coyotes had stopped and we could smell a faint but redolent scent of the white striped pole cat; somewhere a local coyote learned the hard way the difference between a cat and a skunk.
Edwardsville replaced it’s old train tracks with biking/walking trails and the town is criss crossed by them. Normally they are pleasant paths to walk with the hubby and talk out the weeks’ stresses but once in a while they show a peek into something special. Only a few nights ago the darkness whispered as though Spring were saying a final good by: A fickle breeze gave relief from that mornings rain shower while the sky was graphite and slate from the clouds obscuring the stars. As we walked along part of of a trail and Sorcha sniffed along weeds with us the dark, ragged woods was back lit by the night sky showing the lightless, black fingers of vines and saplings; then right in the middle of the tableau a firefly lights up and is joined by another and they blinked off and on among the trees like small fallen stars. When we finally turned around to go home the clouds had cleared and the stars were back in the sky.
Now that the sun is light until near the start of Deep Night my Beloved believes in reducing the office stress by taking me for walks on the unlit bike paths soon after he comes home. This particular day had just enough cloud coverage and just enough wind to beat back the humidity. We talked about our dog, my sister’s trip to China, and the vagaries of his job. Just five days before Summer Solstice, the sides of the trail are thick and growing, hiding even the nearby road and the drainage culvert. We have walked this part of Nickel Plate for over a year but suddenly we were in an entire tunnel of verdant green: The evening sun made the leaves look like a hundred shades of green stained glass and filled the path with a subtle glow: The scent at the exact moment was rich with honeysuckle, small wild roses, and green vines mixing with the air and humidity of the path to create an almost touchable yet subtle smell. Ten more steps later and everything was back to an evening walk with the husband.
Our dog was rescued north of Gary Indiana from a puppy mill (as a breeder) and has lived most of her life in Chicago. She has finally discovered the wonders of mulberry trees but as she would say: The wonderful, glorious, sidewalk ambrosia that just happens to be everywhere I want to be. Anyone who has met Sorcha knows that there is not a food she has yet to dislike but windfall mulberries are just plain ‘something’ else’. This dogs is earning the nick name Hoover! We even worried enough to double check that dogs can eat mulberries. She is also eating more than one kind of grass now and some low hanging shrubs but the mulberries take it away for an obsession. She is still our romping, shedding, eating, loving, squirrel chasing fur baby so apparently grasses and wind fall mulberry fruit are good to be on her menu.
I simply must share a personal triumph with you, Gentle Readers. With the encouragement of my house guest/mate I decided to do something for the Summer Solstice. I have small prayers and devotions for most of the four quarters but Summer has eluded me for years and this year I quite frankly was fairly uninspired. Talking with her I had said that I normally liked to bake… so I tried last night. The first attempt at bread didn’t rise even the width of a sheet of paper. “Oh. It won’t rise in a metal bowl” says our housemate S. Sooooo, second time around I put it in a glass bowl. And the beer bread rose like a cloud! I had added a little caraway and some cardamum to the dough so after a close fit onto my baking stone, the dark brown loaf came out moist and tasty!! Right around midnight I broke off pieces for us and while we blew on it to cool it down I said a small prayer to God. Not the height of bon fires, festive flowers, and whiskey in the moonlight but wonderfully satisfying for both the soul and ego. A bonus is the hope that my bread baking slump has ended.
I rarely stump for specific brands but due to the above bread story and my continual love affair with coffee, I am. Up first is a salute to Alton Brown and the science behind food and baking (aka bread won’t rise in a mettle bowl), all of which I would have been blissfully unaware of without dear S telling me. Second on my list of glorious kitchen finds is the Bones Coffee Company. Out and about the town I drink plain black coffee but many times while I am ensconced in my nautilus shell of home I enjoy flavored coffee. Trust me when I say I have tried LOTS of brands and an amazing amount of flavors from Kahlua to Moon Pie. Hands down the best company for consistent and varied flavors at a reasonable price is Bones Coffee, plus the art is rite nifty. If you want to throw down the big bucks then Harry and David’s ain’t half bad either.
When we adopted Sorcha we were warned that she would always be an “unaffectionate and aloof couch potato” which didn’t faze me because Moshi our first beloved pup was a ‘pretty-pretty Princes’ and would sit in her crate and seemingly view her peasants with casual pleasure. Well, three months in and Sorcha started to become an affection lush who adores Ian even though we were warned she didn’t always like men; two years in and she runs zoomies across the carpet, thinks belly rubs are necessary every day, and expects walks outside to be a pack outing with all three off us together. She now walks happily down sidewalks and over lawns sniffing other dogs’ ‘post it notes’ instead of being hyper vigilent for any possible creature to cross our path. Even though she will pass by some dogs if they are across the street and leashed, our pup still earns the nick name Psycho Potato because she is dog aggressive and has a strong prey-chase drive. We ALWAYS walk her with a full harness and are ready to turn her around or cross the street when there are other people walking their dogs. Thus comes my complaint: For the Love of God, people, keep your own hyper aggressive fuzzy-snookums on a leash!!! I do not care if you are standing on your porch and fuzzy-snookums never leaves the yard; you have no control on your beast and no it will not stay in your yard. Legally it may be your fault but I still do not want to have to wash your dogs’ blood off of mine. My other complaint is putting your indoor cat out for a nightly potty: WallMart sells cat litter for a reason! Having my dog go berserk at the end of her leash barking and whining because she both wants to play and eat your purring fluff ball (while my husband does his level best to calm her down and get her away from your pet) is NOT the time to open your door and put the second fluff ball outside!! The other problem is not just the fact that my dog is now hyped up like a five year old after Halloween; this neighborhood has a cell tower that hosts a huge cast of red tailed hawks and there is also a pack of coyotes traveling throughout not to mention the local skunk family that had a large litter this Spring. Your tame-tabby, aka fluff ball, is a snack or a target around here and it is not like this happened overnight.
***Uploaded here are two terribly adorable pictures of our pupper Sorcha: 1) Her asleep on her blue cushion after gnawing on her chew bone and 2) Her back lit in our foyer looking very much like the Tir Na Sorcha she was named for. ****Use your imagination ’cause the pictures won’t take and my patience is thin at this point.
As an update to our ‘savage’ fur baby: Since beloved S returned safe and sound to Chicago, Sorcha has been sleeping and scouting out by her door for two days. She is just now stopping her mopping and depression over part of our pack leaving.
And now the continuation of Red Angel’s Rise where we can find a small clue to our murder mystery. As you may have noticed, Mareisha uses a cobbled together Victorian and Steam Punk Slang which Ian has encouraged me to do. We have at least four documents and booklets for me to research from. I was also encouraged to add to the City of Cinnerarium and soon we will see more of the flavor and life of this strange city.
Another hour passed as Mariesha went again through the final motions of looking over the station once more: There was nothing but the scant remains of the gnome and the victims in the lavatories; piles of blood and gore torn to pieces. There was nothing missing, which was odd. When something rips folks apart it is almost always for food, spare parts, or things best left unmentioned. Regardless of the why, there were normally body parts spattered about, but not here.
Taim had promised the report on his scrying would be sent to her office by the next dawn, and Juskoh promised similar with the mundane information. Standing next to the carriage, Mariesha smirked a little. It was still weird to have all these people helping her and promising to come to her with information, without any bribes even.
“I have the information on the stations and the train route itself, though the passenger manifests are still en route.” Elsbeth said as she strode from the station and back into the morning sun. “However I have found two things already from scanning the station records.”
“Well you wouldn’t be grinning like that if you didn’t have something.”
Elsbeth made a little bow. “My lady knows me all too well.”
“Well stop grinning and spill it!”
“This station and all the others attacked were designed by the same architect.”
“Why the Hells has nobody caught sight of this little bit before?”
“Because the official architect was a nobleman, a Duke Cian DeBrae. The thing is DeBrae didn’t really design it, it was all done by a junior architect named Finneous Stone. The notes on the original blueprints are all in Stone’s hand, even though he tried to disguise it as DeBrae’s. Once we’re in the carriage I’ll show you in more detail, mam.”
Mariehsa smiled. “Glad you got an eye for detail.”
Elsbeth groaned as she followed Mariesha into the carriage.
Inside the carriage Mariesha slid a rolling cover from a window in the roof to let the sunshine light up the inside as Elsbeth sat in her chair and pulled out a small drafting table that unfolded in front of the two of them. The chairs were rounded and comfortably upholstered, the greatest part being the swiveling pivot joint that each sat on so the chairs could turn and swing. It had taken Mariesha three tinkerers and a blacksmith to get the chairs made correctly and to have a pivot-stopper put on so the ladies were not spun uncontrollably through the streets when the carriage was moving.
“So let’s have a peek at these prints then.” Mareisha had her back to Elsbeth and was clamping a kettle down on the small stove to start tea.
“Already up,” stated Elsbeth while she pulled out her notes and the carriage began to move to investigate the next station.
The blueprints and plans for the four stations began to take shape and form. Something felt off and sinister to Mariesha. The stations themselves were lovely works of art as well as excellently designed buildings. It was the support structures and underpinnings that caught her attention.
“Scan this, Els’,” said Mariesha. “While all four buildings are different, the support structures are identical, even if they aren’t all needed on these two stations. There are three ‘layers’ of a pattern forming.”
“Yes… I see it now: The supports, the materials, and then the stained glass. But are you sure about the superfluous nature of the supports, ma’am?”
“Been scraping my skinny ass on the undersides of buildings enough in my life to know something strange when I see it. We can ask an engineer to make sure too.”
“I’ll make note of that. There is sure to be one on staff.”
“For now we need to check with all the connies at the other stations, get their reports, recheck eye-witnesses, and wait to hear back from further down the lines.”
The long shadows began to cool the cobbled pavement and gaslights began to flicker to life in the darker corners of Cinerarium when the reports from the outlying stations eventually arrived: The trains had all departed their last stations with all their passengers and had been intact at the final water stop before the capitol city. What ever happened did so between the last water stops and the invisible line of the city proper. Outriders had been sent to investigate along the tracks, each one returning to tell Mariesha the same story: Not a thing out of place; no blood, no spilled coal, not a hat or glove in the dirt or even a wrongly bent blade of grass.
Mariesha sat on the water tank attached to the back of the coach, her elbows resting on her knee, just watching the sun make a russet and lavendar light over the edges of the buildings. She pulled the scarlet cloak about her for warmth and turned to Elsbeth who stood beside her in quiet contemplation, waiting.
“Well, Els, someone is kicking this Cage around.”
“A well thought out and dastardly plot, I would say.”
“Giltine bless the poor bastard who has to tell all those berks their family and kin may have been turned into blood thirsty spirits.”
Elsbeth kept a stern yet blank face, “One can develop a stiff upper lip.”
Mariesha felt her heart ache for Elsbeth yet fill with admiration for her friend as well, “Yea, a cutter sure can.” Mariesha stood up and stretched. “I have places to go tonight, research and such. Jonas will be waiting for you. Take the carriage home, Elsbeth, and I’ll see you in the morning.”
“Take care of yourself, Mariesha.”
“Aye, I’ll keep my brain-box on my shoulders. Give my love to your brother.”
Elsbeth climbed inside the carriage and leaned out the door window, “Good night, I will.” And then the carriage was rolling down the street with its bobbing lights at the corners and the clip clop of the horse’s hooves ringing around the abandoned train terminal.**** contd*****
Summer is now here and temperatures are rising along with the humidity: I know the Carolinas are cooking and I am also hoping that Iowa and Missouri dry out soon before mosquitoes cary folks off. The famous Chain of Rocks and camping at the Confluence of the Missouri-Mississippi are still under water and I can only thank God that I collected some rocks when we first arrived here. Naturalists are exploring, studying, and collecting as the wonders of Mother Nature explode for the season. Some of my friends are collecting all the way from Rucks Pit to NAEM and one lucky rock hound/jewelry artist is sending out divinely tempting pictures from Australia. My beloved Pat is driving on her Summer tour of the South East and the mountains, keeping us up to date on her adventures and sharing pictures of her adorable pupper Gypsy. Darlin’ KAP is rolling out finally crafted wood and stone at almost every Summer gathering; other excelent rock hounds are doing all the ‘mud and blood’ it takes to get the perfect pieces to take home. My Love to You All and may your soul and spirit embrace the wilds of the Earth and the wilds of Man,