Dearest Gentle Reader,
Today is the first of December and the weather hear in NW Arkansas has turned cold again. For several weeks before thanksgiving the weather has been surprisingly warm with daytime temperatures in the 70s and mid 60s and nights in the 40s. This sudden warmth had lulled us into a sense of false security plus the insistence from locals about the temperate winters. The stray sleet and snow squall that scattered over us at the middle of October had dropped the leaves from the trees and their dry, crunchy shells skittered over the driveway and lawn. The cold front came the day before Thanksgiving with a constant driving wind. Now, we are familiar with the winds of Chicago that bluster and blow in the Winter; the kind that will go straight to the bone then run away laughing: This wind is a Midwestern wind, a constant wind that will travel across the city for hours before gusting up and shaking the windows of the house. The thunder storm that night made the room almost shake from the sudden clap of thunder and the lightening was so bright and constant we could see to cross the room without turning on the lights. When we finally pried our eyes open that next morning the temperature high was going to be in the 30s where the day before had been in the Low 70s! Quite a change.
It is with great joy that I wish to tell you, the Gentle Reader, about my trip to Crater of Diamonds State Park in Arkansas during October. My husband drove us out on Thursday evening for a quick five hour jaunt across the state. Now,… the driving app showed us two ways to go, one choice took us all the way over to Little Rock then back to Murfreesboro and the other went rather straight up the middle through Mt Ida with only an extra 10 minutes. As we were feeling brazen and rugged at this point we chose to take the middle path with only a few ten minutes extra. Anyone who has driven this mistake before may now start chuckling softly at us. I am forever thankful that my Beloved is an experienced and steady driver: Halloween night was spent driving up and around the Ouchita Mountains along a curvy road that could put tangled fishing line to shame. I was light sensitive at the time and thought that surely the yellow ‘curving road’ signs would be branded to the back of my eyeballs. Our hotel was in the small town of Hope and it was with relief that we drove into the parking lot of the Motel 6. Ever since I was a little girl and I got to listen to the quaint and mellow voiced man tell us that “We’ll leave the light on for you.” I have had a soft spot for Motel 6s. It was the spartan but clean room we expected and as we settled down into the king sized bed I was imagining the rapturous rock hound heaven I was to visit the next day. It was then that our heater began to make sounds similar to a 747 taking off: every twenty minutes. My husband went to the fellow at the desk and found out that the hotel was booked solid so there was no changing rooms: This was OK, I guess, as the person above us was making rhythmic noises that was quite impressive, one of those times you do not know whether to go upstairs and compliment them with a Gatorade or beg them to stop so you can sleep between the jet flights coming out of the heater.
Friday morning was lovely and chill with bright sun light cutting across the sky and with a least three hours of sleep I was excited not to have a migraine. After a quick fast food breakfast we drove the half hour into Murfreesboro and found the park without getting lost. To be honest I had become used to collecting with my Darling-one in out of the way places and almost empty lakeside beaches and had somehow thought that a great volcano field would be similar, besides it was November 1st, Dia de Los Muertos, and not technically the weekend. Apparently old people like us enjoy going out to volcanic mud flats in Arkansas; so much for getting to trammel through untamed wilderness void of civilization while we searched for elusive fragments that had been hurled into the air millions of years ago. Who ever had the idea to turn this land into a state park and charge you to sift their gravel for elusive diamonds was absolutely brilliant and their mothers are proud. The park was staffed with friendly and professional attendants and for an open mud flat the area was well maintained. We had no idea what to expect so our first two hours were spent walking the plow lines up and down and picking what we could find off of the top. Thankfully I had no interest in finding a diamond but was there for the agate, jasper, basalt, quartz, and volcanic tuff. Pretty soon I could hear the echoing “thunk, thunk” as rocks were dropped into our buckets. I relaxed and even enjoyed listening to the field trip of little children yelling in glee as they ran around in the mud with their brightly colored buckets. I managed not to laugh when two different people stopped to ask me questions because “you look like you know what you are doing.” and was pleasantly surprised when I actually knew the answers: My beloved ex-boss AE can now smile knowingly as I tell you that the educator in me was not far from the surface. There also being the geologists and naturalists that I know who take the time to share their academic work and knowledge with little ol’ me: Not to worry my dearest ones, your words have apparently sunk into my head.
About 1 ‘o’ clock I realized I was hungry and the predictable sausage croissant from breakfast was long gone. With the steady draw of people to the park I had expected to drive past a slew of fast food places but a Sonic was the only quick stop. We decided to skip the burger made of something questionable and picked out a local Mexican restaurant. I didn’t have high hopes but am very pleased to say that Telingas was pretty darn good! I recommend them to anyone eating outside of the park. But it is coming upon Winter and the park closes at 4 in the evening so we chose to go back to the Motel in Hope. The new room was squeaky clean and the heater worked without roaring in time with the mini fridge. To tell the truth I crashed to a nap once my head hit the pillow and dinner was The Waffle House because that was what was open late in the night. We also have a sentimental love for The WH because we courted at the one in Cary, NC while my dear future husband worked nights cleaning floors. Allas the waitress at the WH was just as good as their diabetic offerings but I at least plowed through my meal.
And Saturday!!!… I had a migraine. Blessedly on the weekend the Motel was very quiet, as their weekly worker-renters from Texas go home for the weekend. I can attest to both the hushed quiet of rural Arkansas and the ninja like qualities of the maids for this motel. Off and on I could hear the muffled “vroom” as they marched up and down the hallway with vacuumes, that blended with the hum of the heater in our room. My Beloved quietly sat and used the day to write on NANOWRIMO and to research for his work. I want to tell the care givers in this world that YOU are the true blessing in life and are God-given. The quiet waiting and selfless care is such a heartfelt blessing. Sure, my husband is a writer and scholarly but the patience to wait the day out with me was completely endearing. If he were the rock hound then he could have left me in the room to recover; I know how to lay quietly without moving, I probably would have insisted that he go, but I must admit that his voice every two or three hours was like a deep, warm salve in my muddled sleep.
By four ‘o’ clock my head was clearing enough to realize I hadn’t eaten all day or morning. As odd as it is, the best bet in Hope, as in Murfreesboro, was a Mexican restaurant. This one was called Dos Loco Gringos and I must admit I was worried about eating at a restaurant called Two Crazy White Guys that was further into the rural landscape of Arkansas than Murfreesboro. I was wrong. The food was excellent and the stream of locals quietly coming in for a Saturday dinner out was well rewarded. Our idea of a wild Saturday night was to go back to the hotel room and talk together with the History Channel playing in the background, which only proved that the men who dig on Oak Island still know nothing about archaeology. Around nine at night I quickly looked over at my husband and said “whats burning?” He did a fast check of the electrical in the room then realized that the redolent burning smell was coming down the hall. Now I do not panic about stuff like this very much but we could see the pall of smoke in the hall and I had no desire to hear a fire alarm go off while I was in only my underwear. So… while my husband went to tell the front desk about the smoke I pulled on some jeans and a shirt feeling confident of an alarm somewhere going off, but NO. The video game playing guy at the front desk apparently uttered words about rooms with smoking and showed no great concern. We do not know if this was just someone with the ubiquitous “seeds and stems” or smoking Russian cigarettes but a wet towel under the door solved our problems and I was able to relax again with the husband.
Sunday came far earlier than I would have liked but I decided to buckle up and put on the big girl panties and collect on my last day instead of going immediately home. The weather was sunny with just enough of a cool breeze to warrant starting off with a jacket. This time we went far to the right away from other people and managed to find plow lines that hadn’t been walked through since the last rain. I have dug in as well as gloried in dirt from Chicago, IL to Aurora, NC and from Virginia to Arkansas and never had the pleasure of feeling the dirt from Crater of Diamonds. Somehow the black, sticky mud was also sandy and really does have the most amazing feel: Just imagine an emory board made of silk and that is the feel of the mud. The agates have all been slowly worn and smoothed in this glorious elixir of mud and the closer an agate is to being translucent the more it also feels like silk has been pulled over the stone. The agates that were found have some amazing swirled patterns and color spikes throughout them! While I have seen pictures of Lake Superior Agates/Lakers and Fairburn Agates I have never found my own; my agates from Lake Michigan rarely had the intense swirling. Crater of Diamonds has these agates all over: I did indeed do a happy dance in the hotel room and several times at the house. The basalt type volcanic rough is also interesting and on some of my larger pieces I am excited to see if they can be cut and polished. This matt black rock is speckled all over with a pale green type of mineral and I have high hopes of an olivine.
Bellow is the fun chert from Lake Ann that I talked of last post.
Good premonitions while driving out to Crater of Diamonds: Bright yellow light heralding in a mellow and calm gloaming. The slivered Moon and Evening Star were crisp and bright.
While we drove out of Murfreesboro toward home the setting sun was an inspiration. The sky was a delicate, almost ephemeral apricot color that transformed around the edges into shades of tangerine and gilded sun light. At times bare whips of night-grey clouds floated in and through the burnished colors.
And…. my rocks from the Crater!!!! Everything was relatively easy to find, in fact the hardest part was picking out the better pieces. They charge per person so multiple buckets are doable. Note: When spraying the rocks with water to show color better, try and not soak the pillow.
Right now we have the infra-red heater on in the living room and the house still smells of roasting lamb and coconut fruit cake. Sorcha has turned into a heater hog so we put that little marvel-of-modern-technology on some plastic crates so she can’t lean up against the screen. Last night we hung 5 out of 20 or so paintings and the house just seems to be more hospitable. Most of my shopping is already done for Christmas and all I have left is a few items for my brother in law. He is as thrifty as my sister and not a wasteful person so shopping for him is hard if I do not want to give shirts and ties every year. Contrary to what men say, men ARE hard to shop for: no make-up, soaps, and matching outfits to hunt for! (And yes this is written with some humor to it.)
From what my friends have said and from news snippets, Chicago is snowed in enough to have to wait for snow plows and the fellow that fender dented my car said Michigan just had 9 inches before Thanksgiving. Yep, got fender bended right before Thanksgiving but I must say AAA has come through so far with flying colors. As I delve into all the pictures and stories from friends and pen pals on Face Books I am reminded of the wonderful, weird, and artistic people that I know. I am truly blessed to even be acknowledged by so many of these artistic and magical people. Please, Gentle Readers, even if you do not shop local or Small Business would you please share the advertisements of local and small business that you believe in. We, the little people, need all the help we can get, besides the goodly bump for our ego. I am trying out the selling site Our Village, ourvillage.com, because ever sense Etsy changed their shipping policy I have gotten no hits at all on my shop page. Our Village was recommended to me by a dear friend, Rockshine, who, although we disagree on politics, is a veteran rock hound, NC mountain expert, and lovable darling who also does artistic photography. You can find my shops at bones-of-the-earth.com and at ourvillage.com (just click on ‘find a shop’). I also recommend TinkerWoman Wares for classic jewelry and artistic stationary. For Steampunk and gems and minerals comes: Bits madhousemindworks out of Florida and she is super! If your loved one has everything then help them reinvent themselves, Terri March is talented and skilled and does not dress people like clones: terrimarch@wardrobewizard.
Now comes the next part of Red Angels Rise. In a spate of truthfulness I admit that part of this upcoming section is a tribute to literature majors and my english professors from college (most notably the ones who did NOT say that Sci Fi and Fantasy were not valid forms of writing.) And of course this is a nod to The Diarist Himself, Samuel Pepys. cont….
On this rainy night her socked feet were cozily propped on the low table in front of her with a cigar in one hand and an old book in another. The strange, new, iron radiator made comfortable pinging noises instead of a crackling from the fireplace. Mariesha felt surely that the book she was reading was old simply because no one wanted to waste paper by reprinting it. Samuel Smythe was undoubtedly one of the most tedious and pedantic note takers to have ever kept a diary: If she did not have to read “and so the morning comes” one more time she could live a happy life. The reason that Samuel Smythe and his daily log of working as a surveyor had ever been brought to light was two-fold: that his personal attention to detail gave remarkable insight into early history and apparently his attention to detail included his physical exertions with a comely Mrs Smythe. What Mariesha needed was the five years he had spent surveying the Kummerian planes for the railroads. This was her third house that night and earlier she had been starting to despair of any information remarkably useful when she had run across a reference to Samuel Smythe‘s work as a surveyor. Library Five always had the best collection of biographies and journals.
She turned the page carefully and took a small nibble off of the unlit cigar. Tobacco always seemed the perfect snack. Mariesha found that cheap, heavy, cigars and cigarettes were perfect on the go, when a couple of bites and a quick satisfying flavor hit the spot but reading mentally exhausting books in over stuffed chairs in warm libraries called for carefully layered flavors and nuances to the cigar.
Luckily for her he had not married Jemima Cantrell yet within the diary pages; the Inspector didn’t want the distraction as tempting as the newly Mrs Smythe’s dexterity was supposed to be. The lady in question was still the lovely yet single daughter of an engineering tycoon; a Naturalist set upon sketching the wildlife and habitat of the new frontier.
Mariesha flipped another page describing the look of the then Miss Cantrell’s dainty lips around her morning coffee cup and stopped. There it was: Just one line and a set of numbers at the end of a paragraph. She had found the first coordinates for the Kummerian Plains, possibly a clue to the present day massacre on the train.
Two hours before sun rise and she had the front and back of a piece of paper covered in the smallest script she could manage. The survey numbers were coupled with descriptions of the small hills, the streams crossed, and the quality of dirt moved. She also had a small list of possible archeological connections but feared that these would prove only interesting, not useful. She rubbed her eyes and made the last notation “only liquor”: There had been one exciting entry that spoke of a possible Whisperer sighting. She well knew the fear those ghost like whisps could engender. Outside the city Mariesha wore a hat or scarf to hide her upswept ears and didn’t smile to show off her teeth; no need to add to the fears of what only went bump in the night. Compared to most any modern city, Cinerarium was rife with magic, with its tightly controlled runes and wracketting factories the city seemed steeped in eldritch power. Several train rails and coaches even circled around it for fear of the Whisperers that ate magic and lives the same.
Luckily for Samuel and Jemima the whisperer had turned out to be green horn rail-workers fueled by home made alcohol.
**** **** ******
Mariesha finished washing the night’s dirt from her hands and face and sat exhausted onto her bed. It was tucked between two great brick and mortar pillars that rose to the darkened ceiling unstopped. She knew that bed was a generous term but she had made it all herself and was rather proud of that fact. Several wood pallets atop each other held a number of old mattresses and over sized pillows that were covered by a clean sheet and equally clean and patched quilts. Long, thin, metal, boxes taken from a demolished railway vault were tucked under the pallets and held her socks and cotton or linen shirts. She would have rather liked to say they held her dainties but unlike Elsbeth she didn’t have small cotton cups held on by ribbons. She hoped that eventually she would blossom but had to console herself that the rest of her was feminine enough.
Skylar was rumbling and snorting his cute wolverine noises in his sleep on top his pile and Mariesha smiled hearing him and the city distantly around her. Her precious mechanized alarm clock had been wound and set to ring in four hours. It sat above her next to a small cup of water, the ledge having been ground into the bricks by an unknown and long forgotten mechanism: Morning would come soon enough.
To Be continued…
And so I end another post as the night grows long: Our dog Sorcha is curled on the couch almost between me and my husband, who is in his swivel chair by the fireplace. Our dinner was poor man’s food of sausage and spaghetti which reminds me that all good food is poor man’s; just like Low Country Shrimp and Grits or my mama’s Pinto Beans and Rice with Kale on the side. May your coffee be strong, your tea be steaming, and your cocoa be dark and creamy. As the nights grow colder and darker with the coming sleep that is Winter let us pray to God and the Sophia for the guiding Light and protecting Shadow,