June Poles, May Day, and Trailing Arbutus

On a whim, which is how I do a lot of things, I “liked” a Facebook group called the Maypole of Merrymount. Swedes, including Bemidji area residents of Swedish descent, put up what is called a majstång, or sometimes a midsommarstång, close to the day of the summer solstice. In church year terms, this is the Feast of Saint John the Baptist, but the celebration is for both Christians and pagans. I don’t know why they don’t call it a June pole but they don’t.

The Maypole of Merrymount was written by Nathaniel Hawthorne, who had changed his name from Hathorne, perhaps because he was ashamed of his Puritan ancestors, one of whom was the presiding judge at the Salem witchcraft trials. In this story, based loosely on a real incident, merrymakers in costume are dancing around a pole on the occasion of the marriage of the Queen of the May. Puritans from a nearby settlement watch with disapproval. They don’t like mumming or masking, or the idea of a priest officiating at a wedding. They address the officiant as the “priest of Baal”, cut down the maypole, whip some of the participants and put others in stocks.

The true incident which inspired this story took place on May Day (May 1), but in the narrative it is June 23, the summer solstice and the feast of Saint John the Baptist. The Puritans didn’t like either celebration and for a time put a stop to Christmas.

My church observed May Day this year, and although I can’t comment on the particulars because I didn’t attend the party, I saw the pole sitting in the fellowship hall. It was the kind with streamers. May Day is another of those celebrations, the origins of which have been lost to history. It comes halfway between spring and midsummer. In Christian terms it is the Feast of St. Philip and St. James. Some scholars say the maypole is a phallic symbol and the feminine principal is represented by flowers and baskets.

My parents observed May Day by making baskets and leaving them anonymously on neighbors’ doorsteps. On my dad’s side of the family they went on field trips in search of the trailing arbutus, a flower I have seen only once in my life.

May Day is also celebrated as a commemoration of the achievements of the labor movement for social and economic justice. The date was chosen to coincide with the 1886 Haymarket massacre in Chicago in which strikers and police officers were killed. Mayday, repeated three times, is also a radio distress signal call, recognized internationally.

Have To Know Everything

I am a writer who came of a sheltered life. A sheltered life can be a daring life as well. For all serious daring starts from within.
Eudora Welty
I just found this quote. As a writer I have to know a lot about a lot of things. When people tell me I have lived a sheltered life, they are saying I have not had any difficult experiences, or drama, and that translates into no experiences. Therefore I have nothing to write about.


A deer was hit on the road. Soon a bald eagle with her flock of young ones descended. I could hear crows, and a raven, which I thought perhaps had strayed a bit farther south than its normal territory. The neighbor said turkey buzzards have been seen in the neighborhood. I seem to have lost my cat named Funnyface. Another neighbor saw timber wolves. It is my understanding timber wolves and coyotes don’t occupy the same territory, and come to think of it, I haven’t heard the coyotes this year. The photo was taken by my aunt about five miles from here.

November Birthstones

I was never crazy about my birthstone(s). Perhaps my taste is maturing. Yellow topaz paired with blue topaz would make a striking contrast. The alternative birthstone for November is citrine, also yellow. I was disappointed to learn most citrine on the market is created by heating amethyst or smoky quartz. The real thing is lovely, and lacks that reddish cast seen in most stones on the market. I would definitely consider owning a genuine, natural citrine.

I think the above photo of my avatar wearing yellow and a medallion is one of my better attempts to capture images in SecondLife. The other photo is white quartz with a bit of citrine.

To view this photo of a tumbled stone, go here.

Lutheran Romance?

I was reading a thread online that asked the question, “What would a Jehovah’s Witness romance be like?” The response was tongue in cheek and very funny. The participants were speculating, having read that Mormons were writing and publishing romances specific to their religion. When I was on a message board for writers and would-be writers of inspirational romances, there was a very strong prevalence of the idea that denomination specific romances weren’t desirable. To me, that was all wrong. Non-denominational suggests a specific theology and ignores the fact that there are vast differences between and among churches. Well, anyway, I wrote a “Lutheran” romance but I couldn’t seem to find and ending. Today, having put the project on a back burner for a long, long time, the ending finally occurred to me and I am going to finish it. Hallelujah!

Our Beautiful Mississippi

The poor brown pelicans can’t fly away from the oil slick. Commentators say that what Katrina didn’t destroy (of New Orleans and other Gulf Coast communities), this latest disaster may. Those are fragile ecosystems but many people and animals call them their home.

In a larger philosophical sense, this is the story of our society. The oil invading the marshes is a big, visible, localized disaster. There are smaller incidents all over this mation, destroying little ecosystems and communities.

I think of our beautiful Mississippi River and all the rivers, steams, and creeks in northern Minnesota that feed into it. There is oil in the Bungashing Creek. Someone was crushing cars without removing the fluids. The same townboard that fought this small operator and paid out tons of money in legal fees, granted permission to a pipeline to establish a pipe yard right across from our driveway. The neighborhood fought it and prevailed, but then there was the devil to pay. And to what end? We now live a half mile from that new pipeline carrying tar sands from Canada, and the difluent is benzene. The elders on the Reservation which the pipeline crosses have dreamed of a conflagration. Environmentalists say it’s not a matter of whether there will be an accident, but when and where and how big. This pipeline goes under the Mississippi and other rivers that supply millions of people with drinking water.

So much for the Let’s Make It A Clean Connection, the motto of the sister agreement between Bemidji and New Orleans, the first and last cities on the Mississippi. If something happens on this end, the entire river will be destroyed.

I think of the words we hear in church on Good Friday. “Forgive them, they know not what they do”. If it were a matter of not knowing, yes, I could forgive. But they know exactly what they are doing and they just don’t care.

my birthday long ago

I had a relative by marriage who was a hunter and a roughneck. One year on the occasion of my birthday he wrapped up some deer legs with the hooves still attached in gift paper. I was probably about ten years old. Someone snapped a picture of me opening the gift. On the picture my nose is wrinkled up in disgust but I am smiling. I grew up believing I should never offend anyone. I was thoroughly turned off by the sight of those deer legs that were still bloody on the ends that had been severed, but I felt it was impolite to express how I really felt. When I look back on those years, I realize that this person was a tyrant and a bully. He controlled what was said in his presence with his anger, and he made decisions for the extended family about things that were none of his business. He drank and caused all sorts of trouble in the community. Nobody ever answered him back. When I look at that picture, I wish I hadn’t smiled.


Is social networking useful? I don’t have a clue. I’ve dropped myspace because it’s too creaky, and mychurch.org because it was frustrating. I’m mainline not fundamentalist and I didn’t seem to fit in. Also, they started charging for media and there’s no way I would pay for that site. I can’t log into Woman Owned. I still blog at angelfire and that’s where my website is. Area Voices? Maybe, although I don’t think anyone reads me. Cafemom? Hehe. I’m not a mom but I haven’t gotten kicked out yet. And Etsy. Oh yes, the other day someone asked in one of the forums if Etsy was their main social life. I’m on Facebook daily but I shouldn’t be. Flickr is ok but my photography skills are marginal. LinkedIn promises a lot but I’ve never gained anything from it. I like the mineral group on Ning but it’s inactive. I’ve never understood Twitter. I’ve belonged to yahoo groups for years now and they are pedestrian but reliable. Youtube might serve me better if I could do machinima. So I guess that leaves the virtual world called SecondLife, and the message boards on eHarlequin.com which I have not accessed for a couple of years. And can’t remember my password. Oh yes I did join something new recently. Something called Dirty Rockhounds. So far I have no opinion…

The Dim Light

As a freelance writer and the owner of a shop with a web presence, I never know which of my efforts will yield results. I can slave away, blindly, and feel I am getting nowhere. Now and then a lightbulb will turn on in my thick skull, and I will realize that, wow, I just learned something.

Today I sold two web articles. What was different about today? For one thing, my writing was seasonal. One has to submit at least six months in advance to print publications. On the web, the time element is not as critical. Still, it is good to think ahead.

Also, I made a couple of sales on my website. How did that happen? I think it’s because I added new content, not just merchandise but commentary. Humans and search engines alike respond to something new and fresh.

I am learning……


Throughout my life I’ve been deemed shy, backward, awkward, clumsy, incompetent, lazy, unfocused, nonconforming, kiddish, stubborn, careless…and yet I never felt there was anything wrong with me. I will admit, I have felt frustrated by the disconnect.

I have wondered…if mental health had been more of a priority when I was a child…would I have been diagnosed as having Asperger’s?

Surfing around, I’ve discovered a controversial and unproven theory of autism. Not all of it fits but a lot of it resonates with me.

Some believe that homo sapiens interbred with neanderthal humans and there are people living nowadays who carry the genes that give them a different way of communicating and learning. These individuals are not dysfunctional. They are the way they are meant to be.

Now, we don’t know for sure if there ever were neanderthal/modern human hybrids. Maybe some day we will know. My Jehovah’s Witness friends would dismiss this theory on the basis that they believe humans appeared six thousand years ago. However, this theory doesn’t really require a belief in human evolution, except for the time line.

I don’t think I have Aspbergers or whatever they are calling it these days. But if I do, I’m in better company than most of the people who sit around talking about their aching feet. Think Einstein, Jane Austen, Isaac Newton….