Ozark Autumn and Lakeside Rambling

Greetings Gentle Readers,

As it does every year, this Autumnal Equinox came and went with out even a light pause.  The weather began to rain immediately and now, the 14th of October, we have already had our first frost if only for a night.  While I heartedly miss the shores of Lake Michigan and the never ending sands of the Atlantic beaches, the selective cacophony of the weather here in the Ozarks is both pleasing and energizing.  My town of Rogers, which melds seamlessly with Bentonville, is in a kind of depression or bowl in the Ozarks.  We are above and down slope of what are called the Boston Mountains which are above the Ouchita Mountains, the later not strictly considered a a part of the Ozarks. The clouds and the wind move down from Kansas and Missouri, across the Ozark Plateau with little stopping but somehow get confused when they reach our little place in the mountains. The rains here started the day after equinox and the thunder seems to roll and echo across all the asphalt roads and concrete sidewalks. A week or so ago lightening cracked through the night time storm clouds so sharply that I thought for sure a tree or power line must have been struck.  The rain falls for a day at a time and the stream like reservoirs criss crossing this cement hamlet become miniature white water rivers. The towns were originally built up with great gusto during the 80s boom time then folks noticed that all the soil and ground was sliding away or puddling up into stagnant pools. Benton County swallowed their pride, paid out the money, and promptly dug through the new neighborhoods, developments, and strip malls to put in cement reservoirs and run-off channels like they should have to begin with. I have found a strange joy in walking the giant culvert behind a local church and letting Sorcha splash her paws in the streams once the rains lets up.

My husband finally decided to order a velcro attaching screen for our back sliding door and we can now easily hear the crickets and frogs at night. It is a complete joy to sit quietly and feel the fresh cool air on your cheek or hear the early patter of rain drops. There is occasionally an unknown raptor cry across the manicured lawns and the howling yip from a neighbors’ puppy. This past Sunday I was well enough to go out to Lake Anne and walk about the path for a bit. There was a rock jutting out over the water and if it hadn’t been for fancy leggings I would have clambered onto it just to bask in the drowsy sun and touch the rock beneath me. Just getting out and feeling the Autumn warmth on my back, hearing the water falling down the edge, and even the pieces of grey and white chert found were a great balm to my heart and soul. (I had wanted to share the just lovely photos of the Lake Ann water fall and the very exciting color swirls of the chert but uploading photos is a no-can-do right now.)

For most of October, so far, I have been mentally absent due to migraines and fibromyalgia flares, so it is again with shocked delight that I share the beautifully warm weather today. A cool breeze coming off the mountains around us is wafting the warm sunshine through the shadows making the weather a pleasant 63 degrees.  It is also with a certain irony that while in Chicago 63 degrees was shorts weather in March but is sending people rushing for flannel jackets in October in Arkansas. During our Summer here in Arkansas 75 degrees was cold enough for the AC to be set at but today in October the windows are open with a warm 64 degrees. It is also quite the complex conundrum that a moon child like me enjoys the Autumn sun shine so much. When the sun slants downward through the trees with a yellow light, a color that can only be claimed by Autmn, there is such mellow warmth and casuall grace from the sun beams that I simply want to lie down and curl into an hour long nap.

I gave in to an impulse and ordered the cookbook The Recipes of My 15 Grandmothers: Unique Recipes and Stories from the Times of the Crypto-Jews during the Spanish Inquisition. I warn you now; do not read this if you are even kind of hungry. The stories with each recipe and the story of this woman’s journey for her ancestry are just plain wonderful.  One of the best parts is the regional specific dishes that exemplify not only a peoples but the history as well. Ms Milgrom’s enthusiasm is undeniable and her inherent understanding of passed down recipes is beautifully evident.

Just in time for Halloween and All Saints comes the next installment of Red Angel’s Rise. My writing talent is still growing (The No Name Writers Group can attest) so in order for me to practice creating a plot line, my husband put a “monkey wrench” in the story line and asked me write a part of the “mini adventure” by myself. The “monkey wrench” starts once we make our way to the police station but for now the investigation continues after the pause to talk to Billy ‘O’. With my love affair with books I was an instigator of the Library coming up. This part could perhaps be divided into two pieces but I felt it all warranted one piece. cont…

     The rain was a sullen drizzle as Mariesha worked her way down a fire gutter:  A combination of fire escape and rain gutter, unique to the City itself, created in an attempt to conserve resources, it seemed to gurgle words to her while fine spray from leaking holes hit against her face and hands.  At ground level there was a butchers roughly two blocks away that was always good for beef bones with meat still clinging. Given an Inspector’s salary she knew she could afford better fare but being a teifling meant that as long as she stayed away from too much cinders and dirt her diet was healthy.

      The warehouse district was next to the stockyards and many years in the past it had all been at the edge of Cinerarium.  Now they nestled within a middle ring of the City, like a smudged spot of one-story warehouses and open dirt yards. The livestock cars split off from the regular rails and traveled along special tracks to the pins and warehouses; the tracks, so engulfed by bridges, under passes, and towers that the locals called it the Cow Tunnel.

       Her scarlet cloak was drying on its steel hanger by the iron oven; warm, even heat coming from the bed of coals at the bottom.  Mariesha had a spare pair of dry socks on and was finishing feeding Skylar dinner. Skylar was her joy and baby, having saved him as an infant in the wilds of the Kummarian plains.  The problem with adopting a baby wolverine was that no one wanted to rent you a kip and no one wanted to help feed him. Mariesha bit part of the bone off for him and admitted that sweet baby’s breath had been right out from the start too.  

      For a kip to hang your hat in her space was pretty prime as far as she was concerned.  Most of the time the great cavernous warehouse was silent below her, hiding its original purpose in darkened corners and with forgotten cogs.  The wall separating her abode from the warehouse below went up three quarters of the way to the ceiling, offering her the same air circulation as the rest of the warehouse, which at times was warm and slightly cloying and at others requiring her to break the ice on her wash bowl.  There was of course a bathing tub, one of those huge white beauties with claw feet probably removed from a house right after the mourning curtains had been taken down, but a wash bowl was all she had time for during certain cases.

     She wanted to take Skylar with her that night, as she had when he was still a pup but running the rooftops with a full grown wolverine tucked in your jacket was asking to become one with the pavement.  Plus as Mariesha saw it you can buck the system and wear pants in a drawing room but there were some things you didn’t push: Certain rooms could accommodate a girl, her wolverine, and his bone but several she planned to visit that evening just weren’t made to accommodate her and her Skylar.  She buttoned up a canvas jacket and unlocked the door to the warehouse, stale yet slightly chill air came up to meet her. Skylar rubbed up against her several times and against the door then trotted down into the gloomy crates below. He was already putting in a thick coat and that made Mariesha nervous for the coming winter.  Outside she tied a red rag to the main warehouse doors, the signal to any workers that Skylar was ratting and hunting on the main floor, and headed out into the dark.

    All in all an education in Cinerarrium was for the idle and wealthy, a reason that Mareisha was glad her tutor had kept her under his wing after her parents’ sudden death.  She could understand math and geometry, puzzle out a few ancient languages, and play chess and backgammon but most precious was reading the common word. Reading the common tongue opened up one of the strangest glories of the City:  The Great Library of Cinerarium and all her smaller branches. In a building far older and almost as large as the homes of the greatest undead families of the City, the Great Library had archives untouched for centuries and hallways that stayed silent and untrameled for decades.  

     In her first years of scratching between jobs and searching below in the tunnels, she had slowly earned the trust to move from the common room of the Great Library, populated by day laborers and the homeless, up to the Outer Stacks and then toward the Inner Stacks.  Any book that left the library meant that you have had your thumb pricked and then pressed into a glyph on the inside cover. Mariesha had seen the poor burks who were dumb enough to have an overdue book. They wore a dull grey bracelet that radiated arcane magics and were to a man and woman a sullen lot shelving books and magazines silently and ceaselessly until the fine was paid off.  Once allowed into the Inner Stacks she realized that the chances of anyone checking out the book she wanted was almost nil and therefore her need for checking out books had also become almost nil. All she had to do was read as much as she could in her spare time: The great library closed between Midnight and four in the morning.  

     It had been many years ago and three thirty in the morning when the hairs on the back of her neck had stood up and Mariesha had cracked open an eye with a sinking feeling in her stomach.  A dim blue glow had lit the tucked away desk and the three large books with tight scrawl opened around her, luckily the small pool of saliva had soaked into her sleeve. The blue light also lit up the librarian holding it.  The librarian was tall and thin and wearing a strict grey dress. With the glossy mound of white hair piled onto her head she could have been a vision of severe beauty but Mariesha noted that her face was just slightly too drawn and her eyes were far larger and darker than they should be.  The librarian’s hands were soft and long with a uniquely perfect manicure and pointed fingernails; she was holding a piece of paper and a piece of smooth, carved bone on a leather thong. Witty words escaped the teifling as visions of grey bracelets danced before her eyes all for falling asleep in the Inner Stacks.  For his part, Skylar had awoken and moved in front of Mariesha’s chair.

     “Take this,” said the librarian in modulated and hushed tones, holding out the bone pendant and paper.  “It is yours now. Go to this address tomorrow night between after the gloaming and midnight. You will be expected.”

     Mariesha had dazedly taken both proffered objects and remembered to close her mouth.

     “Do you hear me, child?”  There had been a slightly arched tone to the voice.

     “Yes, ma’m.”  Answered Mariesha quickly.  Skylar had yawned.

     “You may let yourself out after shelving the books you have pulled,” had been the librarian’s reply and then she had turned smoothly, walking in a too much of a gliding sort of way with only a slight scraping from her shoes.

     The nighttime stars had been well upon their path when after a day of watching and scrutinizing the corner home of Tomas Raclete, Mariesha had boldly gone up the front steps and knocked on the door.  Her face and hands had been scrubbed, hair combed back, and boots cleaned to as good a shine as they could take. In her normal times she would have gone by the servant’s entrance to do business but for this night Mariesha Greywaves had been determined to enter through the front door.

     The butler had answered her knock and before she could have said her well rehearsed speech he had ushered her inside, “Welcome.  I was told to expect you. Won’t you follow me and I will tell the Master you are here.”

      A part of her had been wondering if she could get to her knives fast enough but she had followed the butler past doorways and hallways and finally into a large shadowed room with stuffed chairs and ceiling tall shelves.

    “Enjoy yourself.  Master will be here shortly.”

     Mariesha’s face had been screwed up in confusion, worry, and awe, “Enjoy doing what?”

     “Reading, I should think,” replied the butler with a straight face, closing the door behind him.

     Three weeks then went bye and she had read treaties on plant life around The Maw, poetry, histories, and the diaries of explorers in the remains of the Underdark.  Then Raclete had appeared one evening and had given her a second address to go to, a second library. Two months later there was a third address given to her.  

      She now had seven houses to use from the mysterious Floating Library not needing to be identified by the bone pass nor did Mariesha see much use for the front door anymore.  She now knew these great old houses; their stone walls, and their gable windows. She knew where the courtyards lay and how the lattice-works hung. And best of all she knew the over upholstered chairs, tall shelves, and carefully selected books.

to be cont….

As Winter comes along, ushered in by Halloween and Dio de los Muertos, I pray that you all are safe in your revelry and safe in your devotion. May the Veil treat you gently and God warm you from the chill,

Be Well


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