The Common Riding: Langholm’s Great Day

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This Friday just gone was Langholm's Common Riding. Since I've lived in Eskdale, I've been both fascinated by Langholm Common Riding, and mainly stayed as far away from it as possible -- although I have been, once.It's an odd local custom, involving thousands of people, a couple of hundred horses, and an awful lot of alcohol. And for some Langholmites, it's a bigger day than Christmas.What happens on 'Langholm's Great Day'The Langholm Common Riding is held on the last Friday in July, … [Read more...]

Rites of A Winemaker

My son Noe at Rasa Winery in Walla Walla

Last week I took a driving trip to eastern Washington and northern Idaho. I spent the Sunday after Independence Day with my son down in Walla Walla and visited the winery where he works. Noé is an amazing young man, and not just because I am his mother and therefore biased. I wish that I had record everything he had shared with me as we drove through the fertile Walla Walla valley, walked through the vineyard at Rasa winery, and tasted the wines. He has been working in vineyards and cellars in … [Read more...]

Can a human being be the spirit of a place?

My Marie Laveau altar for St. John's Eve

 Marie Laveau has been on my mind of late.  Ever since I went to Mardi Gras, actually, and visited her (reputed) tomb and left a token there among the offerings left by tourists and other pilgrims. I do that sort of thing fairly often, actually, usually at the grave sites of writers I admire. (William Faulkner and Eudora Welty both like bourbon). When I went back to New Orleans recently, I stayed in a hotel, the Inn on St. Ann, that according to legend was once run by Marie Laveau as a … [Read more...]

The power of the song thrush: life, death and the feast of St. John

Image by Jose Sousa, used under Creative Commons license.

"'Twas on the twenty-fourth of June Oh, as I sat weaving all at my loom, 'Twas on the twenty-fourth of June Oh, as I sat weaving all at my loom, I heard a thrush, singing on yon bush, And the song she sang was the jug of punch."These words are the first verse of a traditional Irish drinking song, The Jug of Punch, in its simplest form. I'm thinking of it today, St. John's Eve. The feast of St. John, celebrated on the 23rd and 24th June, is a Christian gloss over the celebration of the … [Read more...]

The Queen of Fair Elfland

American Elder

             True Thomas he took off his hat, And bowed him low down to his knee: “All hail, thou mighty Queen of Heaven! For your peer on earth I never did see.”“O no, O no, True Thomas,” she says, “That name does not belong to me; I am but the queen of fair Elfland, And I’m come here for to visit thee. A couple of weeks ago, I made some elder flower tincture. I have done this off … [Read more...]

That Place We Keep Meeting

Two weeks ago I returned to the US from Scotland. The day after arrival in Seattle, I marched up to REI to buy myself a hammock tent that I'd researched online. Last Monday and Tuesday I hunkered down in the forest on a friend's land on an island not far from here. I meant to disconnect, to take three days off of work and travel just to let my spirit catch up with me in the new timezone. I meant to stay away from computers so that I could just listen to birds and the sounds of the forest. … [Read more...]

Perspective in Place

Train cars and wildflowers along the Southern Crescent line

Last week, I took a train trip from Atlanta to New Orleans. You can read a little more about that here and here, plus I will probably write more about the experience of being in New Orleans, as it absolutely deserves its own post (or several).  Right now though I want to talk a little bit about traveling, the process of going from one place to another, and perspective...especially what I am going to call the "medium-sized picture."Our language exhibits a bias towards "the big picture."  We a … [Read more...]


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