Sunday, January 29, 2017

Balance, continued

Life in Salish had a long history for Herbert of Clay Banks. People come to depend upon you, expecting a surety of give and take because there were well-worn grooves that led from need to outcomes. The women who recognized him from the local documentary were both newcomers and Grange stalwarts. The Grange members knew him for the decades of repairs to every farm tool that needed a weld or a replaced handle. The small and the large mending to tractor hitches and the signage that was more than fifty-percent enchantment. Herbert wondered why the men didn't call out, "Saw you in the movie." Well not really. Many of his old friends were either dead or not fans of the more recently popular farm and market cliques. He knew men competed for a place in the volunteering pecking order and admitted he liked being alpha. A bit of a hard swallow, but it was true. To himself, though loud enough to be heard he muttered, "When did that happen?"

"What's that, honey?" Camilia had tucked her shoulders up around her ears, but heard her husband's comment. This winter his place in this town once comfort and well-fit wasn't. The cold had a lot to do with it, but there was more to it than that.

"Just grappling with old ghosts, or maybe the new ones," Herbert answered. He wasn't sure that was what was happening, but he didn't keep secrets from Camilia even when an idea or thought was still only half-baked. A stiff breeze had started up. The morning errands had been done: a bag of groceries for dinner, no mail in their post office box, The stripes of gray clouds over the Cascades had collected into a watering can of late Winter rain. The usual next stop would have been been the library but instead their two sets of feet headed through the alley between First and Second Streets. The familiar red awning, faded from years of wear, was nonetheless welcoming. The tiny fairy lights twinkled and with the rain starting to puddle the ducks waited at the door. Camilia felt the skin on my arms prickle as she remembered the first time she stood at the door to The Safety Pin Cafe.

Herbert pushed the door in, the ducks, four of them led by the drake, waddled in ahead of Camilia but not before he turned and looked up at the tall old man. "I do love a gentleman," he said. The drake winked then continued into the warmth of the place where every kind of being was welcome for warm almond milk, peppermint tea and hot slices of apple pie.

The menu remained mostly the same as it had always, but, switched up on Fridays when the current apprentice planned the menu, and the stage for his or her version of something warm, soothing and satisfying. Of course, today was Friday. From his vantage point Herbert spotted Aka through the split curtains dividing the cafe from the kitchen. Herbert whistled slow and low and caught the owner's attention. "Alex!" She was not onto the name change and the sound of Herbert's set-name flipped a switch something that was inevitable for certain people inside the cafe.

Two or three other customers were nestled over hot mugs of spicy drinks. The ducks were already assembled around the specially designed rugs, removable floor-setting for the two-step eating and excrement routine that was the ways of ducks.The smell that circulated was a mix of spicy and comforting. Alex couldn't put his finger or his senses on it, but Camilia knew instantly.

"Banana pie and ginger tea," the tropical genes of a woman who had been more than fifty years away from the warmth don't forget comfort foods and their smells. The once faceless woman was seeking balance not only for her husband, the balance was calling her home and to start The Safety Pin Cafe was serving up their common magic. "Bring it on," Camilia said that with such ferocity, Aka heard it, and her face lit up. But what sent the buzz going for Alex was the sight of the Raven-haired waiter who was helping a customer with her paisley wool shawl and coat.

How long had it been seen he'd seen Aka's twin? Reading his mind, the bronze skinned bird man who wore his fully present Raven self in his family's cafe, turned and walked toward Alex. "It has been too long, but I have never forgotten when and how to pull copper from the ears of the unsuspecting." With a dull but clearly minted 1947 copper penny in his left claw, Alex Santiago broke down with tears and allowed his emotions to spill and his confusion to unmask. Skeena enfolded his mentor in wings of blue-black as time slipped in the crack.

Follow the enchantment here. 

Friday, January 27, 2017


"There's a bounce in my step. I'm walking on the fronts of my feet again. Not so much drag ass." Herbert and his wife, Camilia, strolled the familiar sidewalk of their town. A town that was growing out its seams to accommodate the new gentry -- city dwellers had discovered its quaint and once rural sensitivities. Half a dozen long time businesses had closed just this last year. Among them The Eggplant, a favorite Mediterranean cafe run by the Capella Brothers; The Garden Shop where Camilia's cats loved to sun themselves off the back porch; and Pockets and Patches a store that sold sensible cottons, sensibly-priced, and often Made in USA. All three businesses sold either because their owners were offered deals they couldn't turn down or found the rent too steep to keep covering on a mostly tourist trade. A trendier restaurant, an oyster bar, and outfitters to costume the rich who commuted via their small-engine planes were already replacing the old stand-bys.

"I noticed those women checking you out," she teased.

"Must have seen me on that documentary, ha?"  Herbert squinted, blushing under the three-day old growth of silver beard, at the thought of the film. It was his five or ten seconds of fame on the silver screen, and it seemed every woman in town had seen him talking about the role of volunteers. In a community firmly based in non-profit organizing, the issue of volunteers -- of which Herbert was one -- was one of those balancing acts. An act which was in his experience sourly off kilter. As he tried on this new name, Herbert of Clay Banks was as much weighing his feelings about the way people and organizations actually worked together. Or, as he liked to observe, "Are they fishin' for themselves alone?"

Camilia had her own opinions about why women, of all ages, checked out her husband. And as for non-profit and volunteers she would keep her hands busy with stitching while the meddler found his new groove. For the time being it was enough to know he was feeling his mojo rising. Camilia was a shop keeper herself. Her fashions made from recovered drapery and natural fiber curtains, Drappz, were hand sewn and tailored right there in Salish. Come this Spring Drappz would celebrate its twelfth anniversary. If they stayed.

It continues ... 

Monday, January 23, 2017

The Glamour

"Ginger is ferocity and stubbornness. Ginger is aggressive and sharp. Ginger is the friend who drags you out of bed and makes you get up and face the morning. Ginger loosens your cramp against the difficult. Ginger stokes up the fires of digestion so you can assimilate what you can't stand the thought of having swallowed. Ginger clears fog from the brain. With its flowers like sex and its roots like firm hands with a grasp of the essential, there is no better friend. Cultivate ginger!" - Remedios: Stories of Earth and Iron from the Puertorriquenas, Aurora Levins Morales

Raven. On this island he too was known by more than one name for he wore his lineage as the son of his silver-haired Raven father and Pale the border witch. There was still a generation of old timers who remember his birth, and were regulars at The Safety Pin Cafe. Skeena, the name he was called when he walked human was a magician, a shaman to some, and beloved as dramatist and co-founder of Banana Skin and Ginger the international acclaimed Salish theater company. Skeena and his partner Shine Molina wove the glamour of tradition in and between the complicated stages of the interstitial. It was not the glamour that was often mistaken for beauty we're talking here. Banana Skin and Ginger was a product, an agreement between the stars, the mystery and the grounded souls of many lifetimes. They dealt in enchantment.

The man trying on the name Herbert of Claybanks has known Skeena the boy and the Raven-blooded all his life. The boy's life. Among the first of his teachers, Herbert was the town's favorite mender and welder of all things broken. When Skeena was curious to learn sleight of hand with shiny copper pennies and warm freshly-laid eggs it was the mender and welder who taught the boy about metal's magical property and respect for all forms of birthing.  The original barn and workshop where metal work and dragging fenders found new life was now a bakery and pin ball arcade but the history of both the building and beings still trickled with magic. It was the verb trickled that had the former mender and welder seeking out the cracks. Aging gracefully was not coming easily. The Raven changeling had come to return a favor.


At this point a curious reader or a reader who has forgotten the mo'okuauhau, the genealogy, of the medicine stories might like to step off the path ... catch the floating past for a spell. Or, perhaps you, dear reader, just need to know there are tentacles -- many other stories -- that reach into the deep water surrounding Banana Skin and Ginger. 

Joy Weed Journal will introduce you to Skeena, the Raven child's beginnings.
Mend meddle muddle magic introduces you to the Santiago brothers Alex (aka Herbert of Claybanks) and Angelo
Shine's Song will introduce you to Shine Molina and her familia. 
Pale in Purple will both weave and unravel the Raven child's and Shine's stories.
Spider Season does more of that weave and unravel activity.


To keep on with Banana Skin and Ginger go here.

Sunday, January 22, 2017


"Banana Peel[Skin] is the scavenger that cleans up the damage, that scours the residue, chews up the no longer needed. Banana says time to move on, cast it off, time to move on." - Remedios: Stories of Earth and Iron from the Puertorriquenas, Aurora Levins Morales

Worrisome traits are the ones we love to cling to because they itch us with that old, familiar sensation. Some even give them names so we can hate them all over again. Others prefer the drama of denying any relationship with the twitch leaving the mystery to someone with credentials. As the transformative planet Pluto crossed the roots of his star chart Herbert had chosen the name previously assigned to a fantasy character as a way to slip between the cracks. It seemed a perfect time: winter was a time for hibernation and the extreme temperatures gave the usually virile and active man the perfect cover.

"Doesn't the man know how fertile cracks are?" Resident Mouse posed the question from his space beneath the foil wrapped bookcase. His ears twitched as he picked up the key strokes from the storyteller's computer. This was his story as well so of course his curiosity made room to eavesdrop

"Apparently not." Raven happened by in time to hear the tiny mouse's query. "That's the beauty of chaos, which is my favorite condition. Once firmly in place chaos will enjoy a place in the sun for as long as all the players keep their places." Partnerships between the kin of the tiniest of Grandmothers with the genes for meddling and Raven have a long history.

One source put their roles in Northwest Mythology thus: "There could not be two more opposite individuals among the Spirit beings of the Northwest Mythology than Raven and Mouse Woman. Raven was the Creator-Trickster of the Northwestern Indian mythology. A voracious glutton, his appetite was only matched by his enthusiasm for mischief. A shape changer, he could take many forms. He loved to upset things and cause trouble. As he sought to satisfy his appetites and often as a result of schemes and tricks that backfired, Raven established the ways of dealing with the chaotic natural world, taming it for the benefit of mankind.
Mouse Woman was the busiest of busybodies and the tinest of Grandmothers. Upset whenever the proper order of things was disturbed, she always sought to restore order and maintain balance. She was as dedicated to undoing mischief as Raven was in creating it. As a Spirit person, she could go anywhere and her mouse ears often overheard trickery in the making."

"But is there room for all the players? I mean in the cracks where there is so little room won't that get a bit ... cramped."

"That's funny little one. You who come with a skeleton able to compress into seemingly paper thin --to escape -- speak of cramping."

"I've a sense for, an instinct ... " Resident Mouse was trying that word on. Raven nodded encouraging the youngster in his self-expression. The mouse kept on. "Yes, I've an instinct for knowing how it is to be in small spaces but the man seems a very large creature to fit between the cracks."

"Ah, you slide into the very essence of Herbert's choice. Some thing, or things, must be left behind and for the time being the man is not quite sure what will be left of him after the no longer needed is stripped away."

And then, what happened?

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Between Skins

It was one of those times in Human reckoning when the cloaks of power with a capital 'P' were passed between the old guard and the new. For all their supposed evolutionary turns this species was more tousle mind and meager-hearted than was good for them, but they are children still, and children who had too little experience with good manners as well. Resident Mouse nibbled on the sweet crunch of nutmeat through the convenient opening between the shell, and left the Pistachio shell for the Man to find.

"Look at this," the Man said to his wife the next morning.

There was so much to learn between the Beings and so little opportunity, or inclination, to know how similar they really are. Of course little creatures with ravelly hands and sharp incisors will secure food that way. Noticing Mouse Ways during this harshest winter yet was a bit of cosmic meddling to be sure. Magic was in the making and some would say the building of character was among the sweetest sort of magic. The man was called Herbert though he had other names as well on this particular winter he was trying on Herbert from Clay Banks as practice. Writers sometimes take on pen names to create stories which tell a slight variation on those pulled from the spider's thread with their certified names. Spies and under-aged drinkers carry passports and altered I.D. to get what they're after. Leon Russel and Elton John both renamed themselves after people they knew. The man was in between skins and at least for the while Herbert Duck was trying on a life with fewer distractions and a sharper focus.

Resident Mouse has more musings ... 

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Camilia's Tea Pot

In the dream the plain metal kettle looked heavy, fit for a hefty cook used to lifting kitchenware filled to capacity. She recognized it without hesitation from a bit of Two Fat Ladies' history and found to her delight that the dream makers had colored it yellow. The kettle that is. The gathering of folk for whom this kettle had been set to boil were strangers, but it was her son, as familiar as the palms of her hands, that lifted the heavy steaming source off the burner pulled the stopper out and caught his mother's attention with a signature eye-catching glance: left her a message her son did.

"Do you suppose," began Resident Mouse, "her son was giving his mother the message to let off some of that steam she's built up?" The tiny mouse was very young, not much older than newly born and innocent of any restraining attitudes about being delicate when talking about Others. Being an orphan, Resident Mouse spoke into the air as if it was his companion and confidante for in truth Air was his company. Well, if we're really being truthful here the thing that happens with mice, especially ones as young as Resident Mouse, is they have an open channel an uncluttered corridor to Mouse Woman The Mouse Woman who is the Grand GuGa of these parts. The tiniest and the greatest of all busybodies Mouse Woman is most attached to the young. So, in addition to Air Resident Mouse's musings were being monitored by MW herself.

There was little chance young Resident Mouse could have known that this winter was the harshest winter yet. Before his mother was caught for a winter snack by the owl, she had left him with a cozy home among the stored fabric scraps and worn out sweat pants. In time that cozy home was meant to be used for patches and embroidered ornamentation. But as they say, it made no never mind to Resident Mouse and his Mother. They had no notion of patches or embroidery. Hmmm, or did they?

The Air and Mouse Woman collaborated on their answer for Resident Mouse appreciating the young man's sensitivity. From her corner just inside the threshold between her realm and that of the mundane, Mouse Woman said, "I believe you are on to something. The woman does have a bit of steam pent up, and the man is stretched to paper thin." She felt sure this young mouse had come with a gift for dealing with Others. Though she did not let herself be seen Resident Mouse felt the affirming overture, took a deep gulp of evening Air and waited for the man who set out pumpkin seeds and a raisin each night.

Who is this man who sets out food for mice?