This year I'm feeling the ghostliness and harvestry of the season changing. It's like the tide, pulling at my attention.
I've been reading scary books (Joe Hill's Horns, and S.E. Hinton's Hawke's Harbor, and Holly Black's Dollbones).
Songs like these have been playing in the back of my mind:
It's been a long time since we costumed ourself for Halloween.
One year, Mr. Linton was a convincing caveman to my school-marm. Another time, he rocked a magnificent black marlin mask constructed of paper and a ball-cap. And –– oh, innocence! –– a whole boatload of us dressed as oil sheiks with squirt guns, decades ago, back when the idea of dressing up as a terrorist seemed light-hearted.
I think the last time we had Halloween outfits, we did a simple zombification. Cornstarch and lipstick rendered us fairly convincingly undead.
That red proved to be surprisingly durable, and we discovered that in a stripe-y suit, Mr. Linton would make a passable Beetlejuice (Betelgeuse! Betelgeuse!)
This time, under the tidal pull of All Saint's, I have something a bit more elaborate in mind.
Something Nordic. Something a little bit Floki. Something a little bit Ragnar Lodbrok. And, given the hair, something Lagertha-esque...
A rose is not the only pretty red thing in nature, even if it's one of the first comparisons that come to mind. Blame Robby Burns and the Brothers Grimm.
And, granted, "My luve is like a red red dragonfly" doesn't have quite the same ring to it.
(Although I might have awarded style-points to myself had the odonate insect pictured above been a damselfly. It isn't. Here's how I know. Which leads me farther off this unbeaten track to, "My luve is like a red red odonate, which sweetly buzzed in June.")
"My love's eyes are nothing like the sun, coral is more red than her lip's red." (Thanks, Billy, for that sonnet, number 130). She didn't have access to a cosmetics counter, poor creature, or the fiver to spend on such cheering frippery as a fresh tube of lippy in, say, "Poppy."
And cheeks as red as apples?
Still, it's red I'm seeing. Literal red –– scarlet and blood-red, crimson and carmine, vermillion and cardinal and ruby –– not metaphorical red, though describing it brings me full circle back to what's the reddest thing in the world.
Check the color on these babies:
Of course, who's going to swoon over a line like, "Shall I compare thee to a crabapple"?
I remember carefully inking in the item number and the size on the paper order form from Miller's. I'd been wanting them for ages, but it took a while to save up the money. I toted up the column of price, tax, handling, and wrote the check.
I used them at fancy-scmancy riding lessons in New Jersey's horse country (It does so have a horse country).
They moved with me to Florida, where they once carried me fleetly away from the kicking feet of a pair of mustangs who were –– as I learned –– not even remotely green-broke, no matter what the barn owner had promised.
Alas. I recently went to put them on.
Ye gods and small fishes! –– my wardrobe migrated from "funky," skipped "vintage," to whizz directly to "antique."
Pollyanna checking in, grateful again for a few specific wonders:
And as a bonus, how about an ear-worm? This simple little ditty is on heavy repeat on my inner jukebox. I like the combination of gloomy lyrics and cheering tune, plus the nod to e.e. cummings is not a bad touch...
It's a little bit mad-scientist, a little bit Little House on the Prairie, and even though the answer is "Yes," to this question:
"Can't you buy that stuff these days?"
I continue to make a batch or two of soap every year.
Call me a thrill-seeker, but the two main ingredients alone are worth the effort:
boiling oil and caustic lye.
In everyday life -- aside from driving a car -- what's more hazardous than boiling oil and a lye solution that WILL burn the skin clean off your skin?
My former sister-in-law K taught me this old-fashioned craft. She impressed upon me the urgency of getting the measurements absolutely precisely right, and about not playing around with this dangerous stuff. Seriously.
K made wonderful soaps, including one particularly astringent batch that she instructed us all not to use "on your generals."
Saponification = the chemical process by which a strong base (like lye) chemically combines with oil to form soap.
Thanks to her caution, I do wear rubber gloves and eye protection during the dangerous phases of soap-making, and make sure of excellent ventilation. Still, from time to time, I am profoundly glad that K has missed some of the more creative moments in the laboratory.
Of course aside from the thrill of not getting hurt with the dangerous ingredients, there's the alchemical fun of making, you know, SOAP. The essential oils –– essential! –– like lavender, peppermint, vanilla, clove. And more exotic scents: bitter almond, sweet orange, birch, wormwood, violets. And that's just the tip of the smelly iceberg.
Add beeswax, and rose petals or steel-cut oatmeal, cinnamon, or dried mint and powdered green algae or ground marsh mallow root and chopped almonds and the soap is like a good magic spell.
I'd been at this for a few years -- defying hideous injury, stirring up hedge-witchery, and sending the sudsy products into the world as gifts -- when a friend said, "Hey, not for nothing, but can you make some soap without the leaves and twigs for once?" Because, regrettably, that stuff got caught in her man's body hair.
Sure, I said, for once. Though, honestly, probably not for twice, because really, why NOT add whole leaves, tiny plastic toys, lashings of rose absolute or eucalyptus oil, flecks of bergamot, dried heads of clover? If you are going to make your own soap, you might as well aim for something strange and wonderful.
Tempus fuigit. Time flies.
May I please reclaim minutes spent:
1. Waiting for the number above the counter to match the number on the paper ticket in my hand: Deli counter, DMV, Apple Store, I'm talking to you.
2. Watching that YouTube tutorial on "wobbling." Like I need to add this dance move to my arsenal.
3. Refereeing any discussion about where anyone else is going to sit in the car.
4. Also, while it might be a valuable 21st Century skill, I would take back that time I spent with Nicole Richie recently on How to Take an Awesome Selfie. I'm not Nicole Richie; my selfie is never going to be that awesome.
5. Drug-store Purgatory: trying to pick the right hair conditioner. Seriously? A bottle of goo is not going make that much difference. Even this one.
6. Playing Tetris, Candy Crush Saga, Word Scramble. They are banned from the desktop, but they just keep sneaking back into reach.
7. Trying to navigate voice-mail mazes. Damn it, if you want to call it "customer service," people, it ought to end up providing me with some species of service!
8. Picking hair conditioner. Yeah, got me again. And still, no bottle of goo will transform my hair into something rich and strange. Even this one.
9. Reading pretty much any magazine article about making myself more attractive by the application of money to my person. Most of my early teen years can be reclaimed if only I could get these hours back.
10. Meetings. I am not going to be unrealistic here. Can I just have a single minute back for every ten I spent inside airless conference rooms while someone on the other end of the speaker-phone explained one more time what we hoped to accomplish during our time together? I'll use those precious minutes to sleep. For reals.
11. Bonus complaint. Hard to explain how this one vacuumed up minute after minute, but feel free to enjoy. If you -- well -- if you have a minute:
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