Ancestral energy lives in the stars above us, the stones beneath us. Their memory gathers in oceans, rivers and seas. It hums its silent wisdom within the body of every tree.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Kolachkis for Grandma Ruth

My father’s mother died of cervical cancer when he was five years old. Her name was Ruth Emma Ruston and she was only forty-two. The closer I get to that age myself, the more I find myself thinking about my her. At this age, what would it be like to know that I might have to leave behind my husband and three sons?
My dad has this picture of her at a family party in this fabulous red dress, a bit out of place for a Sunday afternoon get-together. She is looking at the camera with a big smile on her face. My dad said that she went into the hospital the week after that party, and she knew she wasn’t coming out. That dress was her favorite dress.
This year, both at the holidays and in my work, I’ve been focusing on reaching out to her, trying to build traditions with her that we were never able to have. In that spirit, I made kolachki cookies, for the first time, with Grandma Ruth in my butter-yellow kitchen.
As I’ve been doing our genealogy and family history, I find that my family resemblance is to her line of the family, the Ruston line with its Polish heritage. It wasn’t a leap to try to connect with her over a Polish cookie. I am not historically talented in the kitchen, something I’ve been working on for the last few years. So my offering to her spirit was the attempt to make something that was a bit more complicated.
The dough was prepared the night before and chilled in the fridge. The black walnut filling was mixed and beat into submission. And then I pressed the dough out between two layers of wax paper until it was paper thin, almost translucent. As I rolled the dough out, firmly and repeatedly, I thought about my Grandma Ruth. I thought about the line of Rustons, who come through Wickers and Whitchers, Whitchers and DeLoziers, Loziers and Zabriskis, Zabriskis and Terhunes, Zabriskis and Van Der Lindes, back into Poland. And I rolled the dough thin and smooth.
It felt as if dozens of women stood in the kitchen with me, cutting out three inch squares, dolloping golden filling on them, and folding opposite corners in over each other. The warmth from the oven made fingers and dough supple and into the oven they went to cook. Besides the fact that I need to work on my folding skills, they are delicate and flaky, and delicious.

I wish my father could have better known his mother. I wish that I could have known her. I’m not sure if she ever made kolachkis or if her family ever had, but in my heart I made them to honor my unknown Grandmother and all who came before her, so that I could be here, with hands in warm dough, and heart full of love, peace and wonder. 

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Grieving at the Holidays

Here is one of the ways grief works in our minds… I fall asleep thinking about my new cat, and how quickly she slipped into her own night time pattern. And how different her pattern is from any of the other cats I’ve had. Had. Because they’re dead now. Bella died in June. Bella hasn’t even been dead for a year. Bella’s only been six months. And I miss her. As cute as Mara is, she is an addition, not a replacement. And I want to have them both. Then I want all five of the deceased and alive cats all in one space. In one time. Right now.
And then I remember that time is a cycle of wheels and gears interlocking and pulling away. Some return to meet over and over and some gears only touch once before travelling onward. Our lives are these wheels within gears, within circles of family and friends. We need time and distance to distort the powerful emotion of feeling all that love at once or we would explode from the wonder of it. But sometimes, in the wake of the awe, we forget that these cycles and shifting circles are what our lives are made up of. And grief is part of that cycle.
I remember Bella’s night time pattern. Every night, before sleep, a kiss on the nose. If I forgot she would cry at me, kneading her feet angrily or worriedly on the bed. It was never the same emotion. And I remembered them, every one of those separate occasions as if they were a flip book of images in my mind until they became the same still. A thousand emotional moments becoming one feeling, one memory, and bringing her back to life. I could hear her tinny, obnoxious cry. And I could feel her coat under my hand. I could feel her push her face against my lips. I started to cry with a kind of grief I haven’t let myself feel for months.
The house is decorated for the holidays. We give our cats a stocking of toys and catnip in the morning. It was hard enough when Luna died. This year, Bella won’t be there either. I know our holiday morning will be bittersweet, making new memories while being haunted by old ones. It’s why learning to be in the moment is important. This year, more than any other, I have a long list of friends who are dealing with the loss of a parent or pet, most of them within the last few weeks. It’s the cycle of life. And it’s heartbreaking.
It’s hard to lose someone at the holiday season. And it’s hard to be missing them when we are focused on family and loved ones. The weight of our grief directly correlates to the weight of the love we held for the lost. And when we are surrounded by family, by joyous, loving emotions like the holidays evoke, some of that grief will seep through. The most important piece of advice I can give you is to be gentle with yourself. The holidays are about compassion and you have to start with yourself. There’s no timetable for grief. What takes some people months, takes others years. Even then, it never truly goes away. The loss is always with us. So go easy on your grief and let it flow through you.
The other day with friends, I realized that I would never say to Bella again, “Nobody wants your anus,” as she was prone to presenting it to people in greeting. I cried for a minute, out of nowhere to my friends. They asked what was wrong and I told them and immediately laughed through my tears, because it was such a strange thing to miss. I said that it was stupid and my friends said, No. It wasn’t. And they were right. The tears gave way to smiles and funny stories and the day went on. I didn’t ruin it with my grief.
So who cares if you’re at a holiday party and you think about your dad and you cry. Everyone loses people they love. Everyone understands. And if they don’t, maybe we need to make them. I shed a tear for my Grandpa every Christmas morning when I eat my orange, because he’s not here.
The last Christmas together, 2009.
It’s when we hold our grief in that it eats at us and it hurts. That’s when keeping it behind walls until it bursts out ruins our days and moods. At the holidays, it’s impossible not to think about our fresh losses. We’re afraid of our grief. We’re afraid to bring it up because of the tears that threaten to follow. But what doesn’t work through us lives within us. So those who are grieving need to be able to be sad so that we can push through the crust of grief to the happy memories underneath it. The swifter you allow the flood, the sooner it ebbs.
If you aren’t the one grieving? Give your friends a break. Invite them to your festivities even if they’re dealing with a loss. Remind them they still have you. Be understanding if they choose not to come. Be understanding if they show up and are not the life of the party. Holidays are not about how things look. They’re about brotherhood and sisterhood and compassion.
I spend a lot of my time hanging natural ribbons on trees in memory of those no longer with me. So I both make and collect ornaments that do the same thing. I have an angel cat for both Luna and Bella. A hummingbird for my grandparents and an owl for my grandma. You could also get some heavy card stock and cut out suns and snowflakes. Write the names of your Recent and Beloved Dead on them and hang them on your tree.
Drink a toast to those you miss when you are all gathered together. Have everyone raise a glass and speak their name. Share funny or heartwarming stories about them. Set a favored cocktail out on a clear space as an altar and offering for them. Bake the cookies they loved or used to make themselves and share them.
Put out a bunch of tea lights and candles, unlit. Throughout the day, as you remember a happy memory, light another candle. Literally allow the love and memories you had to bring light into your holiday. The darkness of winter seems to last forever, but this is when the light begins to return. I use the holiday as a reminder that there is joy after the sadness. Grief may pull at our hearts but love will win out in the end.

Blessings to you and yours this holiday season. 

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

The Christmas Orange

There is an orange peeking out the top!
As part of my spiritual practice, I celebrate Winter Solstice. It can vary in date year to year, but this year, I’ll be celebrating Solstice on December 21. I grew up, like everyone else I knew, celebrating Christmas with my family on December 25. I observe two holidays this month because I still celebrate Christmas. I love Christmas. I am full to the brim of Christmas Spirit.
Happiness. Peace. Kindness. Compassion. I celebrate Christmas as the holiday of family and humanity. I light candles at night to honor and revere the goodness inside each and every one of us, and wish for peace on earth, that the good will shine through. That light will win out.
This is the time of year for compassion. When someone wishes you a Merry Christmas, say “You, too.” If someone wishes you a Happy Holiday, say “You, too.” If someone wishes you a Happy Kwanzaa, say “You, too.” If someone wishes you a Merry Solstice or a Happy Yule, say “You, too.” It doesn’t matter whether or not it’s something you celebrate. People are wishing you good tidings in the spirit of brotherhood and joy as dictated by their faith. Return the favor. Don’t be a Scrooge.

The Christmas Orange
In celebrating Christmas, my favorite family tradition involved the mystery of the orange in our stockings. While we waited for my Grandpa to drive over to our house to be with us while we opened presents, we would empty our stockings, filled with little toys and candies… and an orange. The memories are so strong that every time I hold an orange in my hands and smell the citrus fragrance of the rind, I think of Christmas morning when I would peel it open and gobble the fruit down. There was an orange waiting for us every year.
My mom remembers having one some holidays, but not always. It was my dad who had an orange in his stocking every year. He said it sat on top of his stocking, hiding what was beneath it. And our oranges served the same purpose, to better hide the surprise of what prying eyes would soon find inside. In researching the tradition of the Christmas orange, the only thing that was clear was that its direct origins are still a bit of a mystery.
Laura Ingalls Wilder references getting an orange in her stocking as a child in 1880, and that it was a special treat. According to the Food and Nutrition Encyclopedia by Audrey Ensminger, with the advent of the new rail system, and the abundance of ripe oranges out of Florida and California, there was a fair supply of them available to the public in the 1880s.
What a special treat at a time of year when there isn’t a lot of other fresh fruit available. Lucky for us, winter is the peak of harvest season for citrus. In England, I found that putting oranges in the toes of stockings pre-dates World War II, but became a common tradition during the war. It must have been an especially delicious treat during rationing.
Whether or not the use of oranges derived from the mythology of Bishop Nicholas, better known as Saint Nicholas, is unclear to me. In modern times it is associated with his story, and I know that it’s always easy to find correlations in retrospect. Either way, Nicholas was a good, wealthy man born in Turkey in the fourth century who spent his life helping the poor. Folklore says that he secreted money into three stockings of three daughters of a man who could not afford a good dowry and feared he would not find them good husbands. In the story, the gold melted inside the stockings where they hung over the fireplace and the young women pulled out three golden balls in the morning. Statues of Nicholas often show him holding three golden globes, and many people see Christmas oranges as a symbol of Saint Nicholas’ generosity.
Did oranges come into vogue as a treat of the season and then become associated with the globes of St. Nick? Or did oranges come into use because they were seen as twins to the symbols of Saint Nicholas’s patronage? And does it matter? I hold one in my hand and I smell Christmas kindness. I think any version of Santa or Saint would approve.

Making Decorative Pomanders
Pomander balls go back to the 15th century, used as natural air fresheners. To make them, you need oranges, a lot of whole cloves, and something you can use to pierce the skin like a toothpick, pin, nail, or wooden skewer. You can also use citrus fruits like clementines, lemons, limes, tangerines, or kumquats (kumquats make adorable tree-sized pomanders).
Some people like to make designs with their cloves and others cover it with them like a second skin. For best results, I recommend covering as much of the orange with cloves as you can as the clove oil acts as a preservative. Use your pointy thing of choice to poke in holes before inserting cloves (or your fingers will soon start to hurt). If you need a guideline for your rows, you can wrap a rubber band or masking tape around the center to get you started. You can leave room in your pattern to tie ribbons around the orange for hanging and display. I use cotton cording that I can weave around the cloves. Then hang the pomander in a closet for a couple of days to allow drying time, as they can get moldy (one woman on-line said she puts hers in her fridge, but I’ve always shut them away in a closet). Scent-wise, these will last a few weeks.
If you want them to last through the season, you can coat your pomander with powdered orrisroot to help preserve it. For pomanders that both last longer and spice up your home, you can coat your pomander in a mixture of ground cinnamon, ground cloves, ground ginger, ground nutmeg, and powdered orrisroot; three tablespoons each.

In the spirit of bring things full circle, you can keep the dried out orange husks of the pomander decorations you make at winter solstice and turn them into rattles at summer solstice (look for that post, coming in June of 2014).

Monday, December 9, 2013

Supporting the Arts

Image from the campain for What Follows.
Are you a fan of fantasy and science fiction stories? Do you like other world and other worldly immortal creatures? Do you like post-apocalyptic dystopias? Do you want to read new and originals stories where those genres combine?

This year for the holidays, consider donating some money towards seeing a bunch of starving writers' dreams come true. I have been invited to write a short story for a new anthology, What Follows, which will be the second anthology published by April Steenburgh and Christy Lennox. They just began a Kickstarter campaign to fund this new and exciting project.

The way Kickstarter works is, you pledge money towards the project, and you can pledge any amount you desire, beginning with $1. But there are tiers of backer donations that come with gifts for our gratitude to your sponsorship. If the goal of the project is met, money changes hands and you have been part of manifesting these characters and stories into print! Into a live thing that exists in the world! And if we don't reach our funding, no money changes hands.

Follow the link below to check out the cool backer gifts. Ever wanted to see your name used in a story? Now you can! Thanks in advance to anyone who had a little extra money this season to help me see my dreams come true!

Click here to be a true Patron of the Arts and help bring a book to life!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Human Kindness

One of my favorite things about the holiday season is witnessing moments of kindness between strangers. These events occur with more spontaneity at this time of year than any other. The most memorable and heart-warming moment for me happened during the holidays of 2001.
The day of the attacks on the twin towers in September happened the day before I started my training as a cashier at a local grocery store. I had moved to a new city that summer and spent weeks unable to find a job. I spent the day of the attacks glued to the television we hadn’t even had hooked up yet. When I went in for my training, everyone was in a state of shock and horror.
It wasn’t just the people working there. It was everyone coming in to shop as well. The city I live in has a large refugee and immigrant program and there are a lot of veiled Muslims who live here. They were here before the attacks and here after. But what I witnessed after 9/11, in the store, was horrifying to me.
I hadn’t been there long enough to know any of the regular customers yet, but what I saw were couples and mothers shopping to feed their families, day in and day out. It was their only agenda. They all had different colors of skin and different styles of dress and each of these was widely varied. After the attacks, I saw the majority of my community respond fearfully to the women in their hijabs. In their fear they were not kind, and they felt free to make horrid comments to the women shopping that I cannot even write out for you. They literally walked up to the veiled women shopping, minding their own business, and accused them of killing people in New York City. Of hiding weapons beneath their hijabs and demanding to see what was underneath them. And much, much worse.
I am grateful that my grocery store allowed all of the cashiers to refuse service to those customers who would not cease in harassing the Muslim families. And I did. Often, at first. It is always heartbreaking to me how cruel people can be from their place of fear.
What is it that makes us lash out like wounded animals at each other? How does hurting other people make us feel better? I understand being afraid. I understand having fear. We are each allowed to feel the emotions we feel. But we are not allowed to inflict them on others. We are not allowed to wield them like weapons against other people. We are all animals, that is true. But it is supposed to be our human compassion and brains that lift us above our animal nature.
It was the shadow that fell over my joy of getting to know the community here, the humanity of it. And then the holidays happened. One day, in one shift, one man’s generosity renewed my faith in the goodness of people.
A Muslim man and his wife came through with healthy grains and vegetables and fresh meat and milk and eggs. Honestly, it was the healthiest display of food I ever saw anyone bring to my register in all of my time at the store. The couple were traditional and she was veiled. They had a small child with them and when their EBT card was denied (the system often went down, which had happened that day), they began to count out their cash and put things back, like the asparagus and the turkey and the box of cereal for their son, who unlike most children, did not cry in complaint. It was obvious they were struggling to decide what to keep.
An older man behind them asked me how much more they needed, while they sorted through their groceries. They only had $20 and I whispered apologetically that they needed another $80 to cover it, and that the system was down- that it wasn’t their fault. Customers were often impatient and the technology was no one’s fault. The Muslim woman started to apologize nervously to everyone in line as well. But the man smiled compassionately at them and handed me a hundred dollars. All he was buying for himself was bread, lunch meat and milk.
At first the couple would not take it, but he insisted. I will never forget what he said. “You need help, and I am in a place to give it to you. I would like to think that when I need help, someone will be in a place to give it to me.” The family thanked him profusely and gratefully. You could see the surprise wash over them. As they were leaving, the husband turned around and told the man that he would never forget his kindness. And the man said, “Just repay the favor some day.”
When they left, the man would not hear me say anything about it, waving my gratitude and tears away. He said it wasn’t a big deal. “It was to them,” I assured him. And it was to me. I have never forgotten it either.

Sometimes kindness comes in the form of a simple smile. Making eye contact with your cashier during your holiday shopping. Taking a moment to saying thank you to all of your cashiers, to anyone working in service for you. There are a lot of people in the world and we don’t know everyone. But at some point in our lives, even our closest friends were strangers to us. And every stranger is someone’s son, daughter, mother, father, friend. We have choices every day in what face we show to the world. Spread compassion and kindness throughout your days. It is the simplest and most beautiful language we can share and it is a language that will shape the world around us into a brighter place to live.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Giving Thanks with Mindfulness

We give thanks for the food upon our table. For the roast chicken and mashed potatoes. For the green bean casserole and the butternut squash we eat.
We give thanks for the farmer who fed and tended the organic free-range chicken we put money aside to buy. We give thanks to the animal gave it’s life so that we could eat and nourish our bodies. I give a special thanks to the animal for the protein it gives me. We give thanks for the farmers who watered and weeded and picked the potatoes, green beans, and squash we mashed and casseroled to eat.
We give thanks for the wine and cider we enjoy with the meal. We take a moment and we think about the vineyards and the orchards that provided the fruit that made the drink we enjoy. We give thanks to the hands and lives that tended the fruit as it grew into maturity.
We give thanks for the hands that picked and processed and packed all of our food. For the drivers who brought the packages to our city. We give thanks for the employees who unpacked and set out the food in the grocery store, so that we might bring it home.
We give thanks to the families who run their farm stands where we bought some of our vegetables fresh. We give thanks for the car that brought us to the farm stand. We give thanks for the gas that feeds our car. We take a moment and think about all of the earth that has been ravaged and the lives that have been lost in the battle for natural resources. I don’t give thanks for this… but I thank the earth and the lives lost. And I send some hope out into the world for peace, love, kindness, and compassion.
We give thanks for the food on our table.       

We give thanks for the table in our kitchen. We think about the tree that gave its life and became the wood that became our table. For the loggers who felled the tree and the drivers who transported it. For the millers who cut it into planks. We give thanks for the craftsmen who made our table and chairs, for the set that survived multiple moves over the last twenty years.
We give thanks for this house that was built as someone’s home. We are grateful for this wooden structure that was sold by an old woman to a man who split it into three apartments. We give thanks for the apartment that was open when we needed one, that has been our home for over a decade now.
We give thanks for the jobs that give us the money we need to pay for this apartment and the utility bills. We give thanks for the electricity and gas that powers the kitchen that allows us to cook this meal. We are grateful for all of the employees and workers who maintain our utilities so that they don’t break down.
We give thanks to all the people and all the hands that had a part in the meal we make. We give thanks to the hands that took part in creating the meal. We give thanks for the crafters of the dishes and the silverware we use. We have gratitude for the hands clasped in thanks at the table. We give thanks for the day to disconnect and slow down and connect to the gratitude.
We take a moment to stretch our thoughts out to all of our friends and family, wherever they are, and thank them for being in our lives. We connect them into our gratitude. We give thanks for being able to count our blessings.
We give thanks for the food upon our table.   

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Thinking and Buying Local for the Holidays

In a holiday that has become largely commercial, we should all endeavor to support our own communities and artisans by buying local, especially at this time of year. How does this topic apply to Ancestor Work? It’s simple. We are the catalyst for the change we wish to see in the world. We make choices every day that shape the world we are leaving for our children and grandchildren, for our nieces and nephews. And that includes everything our dollars support. Every single dollar bill. Every cent.
Where do you spend your money? Independently owned businesses or chain corporations? Where do you shop? Where do you eat? If you spend your money on chain stores and franchises, do you know where *they* spend their money? What political causes do they fund? What humanitarian causes do they give money to? For all you know, you are spending all of your money in a store that funds everything you despise and disagree with.
When you buy food and gifts from local stores and artisans, you feed your hard-earned money into your own economy. Which is good for where you live, as it keeps that money circulating locally. It also keeps the carbon footprint of your dollar down with little to no expense for shipping and packaging. Peeling back another layer into this mindfulness, where do the products you buy come from? Why send money to China when there are artisans and craftsmen in your own city who need your support?
I know, I know. But this is *exactly* what I wanted. Sometimes, it shouldn’t be about getting exactly what you want or need. Sometimes, compromising on your vision due to money or geographic constraint is the lesson. And it’s usually where you start to work outside of the box and the magic happens. Anyone can buy a gift off a list or registry. But who else is going to get them that custom mug made just for them? Or that glass wind chime custom colored to match their house? The hand-forged kitchen knife with a handle made of wood from their favorite tree?
Do you want a mug poured in a mold that looks just like every other mug in the box? Or do you want a mug hand-thrown and glazed, with all of the artist’s energy and concentration poured into its creation? Which of the two do you think will feel better in your hands? In the hands of your loved ones?
Supporting artisans over corporate stores is first and foremost of importance to me. If you’re buying on-line, look into sites like the Etsy shops, where craftspeople sell their own items. I am blessed to have good friends who are jewelers, potters, bladesmiths, metalsmiths, candle makers, herbalists, visual artists, carpenters, seamstresses, poets, etc. I love giving them business and I love sending them business because I know where that money goes; it pays their rents and mortgages. It pays their utilities. It buys them more supplies to create more wonderful items. It means they can also have a good holiday with their spouses and children.
Being able to do that and/or buy items locally is of secondary importance to me. If I can’t find an artisan who can make the gift I need, I at least try to buy that gift from a smaller independently-owned store versus a chain. Take a drive around the yellow pages and see what little stores are tucked away in your community that you haven’t visited yet. Check them out and see what treasures they have to offer. If I have to buy from a chain store, I buy it from the one whose beliefs are most in accord with mine, based on what they do with their own money. We vote with every dollar we spend. I believe that.

This year, instead of trying to find gifts to appease people, buy them a unique item no one else would or could have (if you are capable of it, craft one for them). Find them that treasure that makes you think of them, so that they’ll see your heart in the gift of it. And if you are a potter, a toymaker, a dressmaker, a knitter, a felter, a jeweler, a carpenter, a bladesmith, a writer, a visual artist, a glassblower, a baker, etc… thank you for taking a risk. Thank you for sharing your gifts and your energy. Thank you for brightening my world.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Family Veterans

Great-Grandpa Royal.
[Revamped from a post written November 2011.] War is in our history. It’s in every rise and fall of culture. The ghosts of battlefields long forgotten are littered with the blood of our ancestors. On Veterans Day, I honor my ancestors who both waged war and stood defense, in service, so that I might be here.

Early Settlement
  • Capt. Roger Clapp (1609-1690), born in Salcombe Regis, England, sailed to Plymouth, Massachusetts in 1629 on the Mary and John. In 1665 Capt. Clapp took charge of the Dorchester Company stationed at Castle Island in Boston Harbor, the oldest fortified military site in North America. He held the post for 21 years and was given a nine gun salute upon retirement.
  • Sgt. William Pond (1622-1690) of Dedham, Massachusetts, of the colonial militia, was the first generation of his family born in the new colony.
  • Lt. Peter Wolfe (1606-1675), an immigrant from England, of Beverly, Massachusetts, served in the colonial militia in 1646, in defense of Salem, Massachusetts.
  • Sgt. Jeremiah Gillette (1650-1707), another immigrant from England, was the first generation born in America. He served in the colonial service of Connecticut.
  • Isaac-Etienne Paquet dit Lavallee (1636-1702) arrived in Canada, at 28, in the Compagnie de LaMotte, Regiment de Carignan-Salieres in 1665. These first French regular troops arrived to aid the colonists of New France in dealing with the Iroquois. They were responsible for construction of the forts of Saint-Louis and Saint-Therese, as well as the roads between them. In the spring of 1666, Isaac’s company built Fort Saint-Anne at Lake Champlain. They were dispatched into Iroquois country in September of 1667, but could not rouse the Indians into battle. The Iroquois brokered peace and LaMotte’s famous regiment was disbanded. Isaac was one of 400 soldiers who elected to stay in the colonies.

1754-1763 French & Indian War
  • Lemuel Lyon (1728-1781), of Stoughton, Massachusetts, served in Timothy Walker's company in 1755. He is on muster with Capt. John Carpenter’s regiment in August of 1757. He saw action in the 1758 Battle at Fort Ticonderoga, where he kept a 35 page journal, which has been published in, Narratives of the French and Indian War (2): the Diary of Sergeant David Holden, Captain Samuel Jenks, Lemuel Lyon, French Officer at the Siege of Quebec.

1775-1783 American Revolutionary War
  • Oliver Lozier, also Delozier, (born 1747) was a Bombardier, a noncommissioned officer, in Capt. John Doughty's company, in Col. John Lamb's regiment (2nd continental artillery). He was on the muster roll for April 1781 at West Point. Oliver enlisted for the duration of the war and was discharged April 4, 1783.
  • Capt. Freeborn Moulton (1717-1792) of Massachusetts, was charged a company of Minute-men of Monson. They were part of Col. Danielson’s regiment, which marched at the Lexington alarm of April 19, 1775 to Cambridge, where they remained until May 6, 1775.
  • Thomas Riddel (1739-1809), an Irish immigrant, was a Private in Capt. Issac Colton's company, Col. David Brewer's (9th) regiment, enlisting in 1775.
  • Joseph Riddle (1759-1847), son of Thomas Riddel and grandson of Capt. Freeborn Moulton, enlisted young and served almost the full duration of the war. He was a Private in Capt. Isaac Colton's company, Col. David Brewer's (9th) regiment enlisting in 1775. In 1776 he moved to Capt. Joseph Munger’s company, regiment of Col. Robert Woodbridge, the “Massachusetts Line.” By 1777 he shows as a Fifer in the 4th Massachusetts regiment under Capt. Caleb Keep and Col. William Shepherd, and later as a Drum-Major in Gen. Glover’s brigade. He was at the battle of Burgoyne, guarding the road to Albany, as well as the battle of Monmouth, NJ in 1778. A year later he served the Continental Army in the 9th company for Col. John Bliss’s 1st New Hampshire regiment. He was discharged from the Continental Army in June of 1780. Pension records list him as a cripple, so he was likely wounded.

1801-1805 The Barbary Wars
  • Peter De Lozier (1786-1849) was born in Connecticut. He joined the Navy and was on board the USS Philadelphia in 1803 when the government moved to end piracy on the Barbary Coast. Comm. Edward Preble commanded the Mediterranean Squadron into a blockade in October. On Halloween, the USS Philadelphia ran aground on a coral reef. The entire crew, with their Captain, William Bainbridge, was captured and the ship was used by the opposing Navy as a gun battery. Peter De Lozier and his crew spent 30 months in a Tripoli jail. When the conflict was over, he mustered out of service and claimed residence outside of Lockport, NY. He married, took up cabinetmaking and had a daughter, but eventually left his family to return to the sea. He died of cholera in Connecticut without ever seeing his family again.

1812-1814 War of 1812
  • Martin Dutcher (1796-1872) was a Private in Capt. Andrew A. VanDerzee’s “New Baltimore” company, Col. Barnabas Carver’s 61st regiment in the War of 1812. He fought in the Battle of Plattsburgh, 1814. After the war he retired to Somerset, NY.
  • Joseph Riddle (1759-1847), though older, served in the War of 1812, as well as the Revolutionary War.
  • Pliney Wicker (b.1781) was a Private in Sumner’s Regiment in the Vermont militia.
  • Elizur Lusk also served in the War of 1812, from Lockport, NY..

1861-1865 American Civil War
  • Adam Art (1836-1896) immigrated to New York from Hesse Darmstadt, Germany, and served in the Civil War under Capt. Levi Bowen, 29th Congressional district.
  • Thomas Burke (b.1835), of Lockport served under Capt. S.F. Bowen, 29th Congressional district.
  • Marquis DeLafayette Riddle (1825-1898), of Pendleton served under Capt. S.F. Bowen, 29th Congressional district.
  • Three of my 2x Great-Grandmother’s brothers, Daniel Raymond Whitcher (1831-1914), George Harrison Whitcher (1841-1863) and Orville Bailey Whitcher (1843-1864) served in the Civil War. Both George and Orville gave their lives in service to the Civil War. George died at Cemetery Ridge on the field of Gettysburg, fighting with the Michigan 7th. Orville was 21, and a painter before the war, who died of a gunshot wound to the left knee in battle at Alexandria, Virginia in June of 1864. Daniel served as full Sergeant in the Batty B company of the Michigan 1st.

1914-1918 World War I
  • Royal Levant Eaton (1873-1931), served in the National Guard during WWI. He later died in service as a New York state prison guard. 

Honoring Roots and Freedoms
I believe in peace and practices of non-violence. I know that I am able to believe in peace because I have known peace, and that I have known it because of the sacrifices men and women made to acquire it for our country. Soldiers are men of principle and purpose who believe that the side they are fighting for is a just cause, no matter what history will later decide.
My ancestors were farmers, ministers, soldiers, crusaders and Norman invaders. In all of our histories, our ancestors were defenders and colonizers, pawns and pillagers, and brave men and women facing uncertain futures. They faced those futures for us, whether they knew it or not and we can honor them today by learning from our own history. They are more than regiments and companies. The most important thing I can remember is that an army of fighters is made up of men and women who have names and families. They are men and women who are husbands, wives, mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters. They are people of flesh and blood, of dreams and desire.

I am,
that they were,
that they are,

that they will be.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

When Spirit Knocks

Dom-St-Maria, Augsburg, Germany; by Rebecca Kennison
The Spirit World wants to make contact with you, for we are part of it's world. When Spirit tries to connect, it will try anything to get through to you. You just have to be open to things that repeat that catch your attention. Maybe it’s the light you keep swearing you turn off only to find it on again. Imagination is a tool of the third eye, and the doorway exists at the line between being aware of the higher purpose of a pattern and forcing a connection between events.
Magic is always a hairs’ breath from madness. The fae are always slipping through awareness out of the corner of your eye. We pretend our dreams aren’t real because it gives us comfort. Spirits are standing beside you right now.
In circle with my community at Samhain this year, I heard spirit coming through. We were chanting to our ancestors, when I heard, clear as a bell, an organ playing “East Side, West Side” and I felt the brush of a waltz spinning around me. In my ear a deep female voice was singing breathily, all around the town… Spirit was with us.
I’m auditory. I always joke to my friends that I hear dead people. That moment during circle reminded me about my personal doorway to spirit. It’s such a part of my life now that I don’t think it’s weird anymore. I’m the kind of girl who is always singing in her head, so I shouldn’t have been surprised that spirit would use lyrics and melodies to catch my attention.
When I first started sensing spirit more strongly, I got this one song stuck in my head. It was awful, like it was on a timed loop. Or maybe what was really awful was the fact that it looped after the first two lines, over and over and over again. And I’m the kind of clueless that I didn’t even get it until my friends looked at me when I complained about the persistent melody and said, “Hello, ancestor girl. Spirit knocking.”
You could have pushed me over with a feather. I hadn’t thought about it. But I started paying attention. Every time I sense intuitively that spirit is near, the song track plays in the back of my head as a validator. I’ve peeled back another layer and my vision is deeper, wider. I can see more. This doorway of mine… it’s not the kind of song that would win awards. If I had a little more ego or pride I might be too embarrassed to be honest. Sometimes you don’t pick the magic, the magic picks you.

…come and knock on our door,
we’ll be waiting for you…

- Three’s Company television theme song

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

To Honor the Recent Dead

When working with spirits, I don’t call upon those who are recently deceased. It feels cruel to call upon a soul that may be struggling to let go of it’s human skin. Or maybe it’s cruel to the human grieving. Maybe the more that time passes, the less human their spirits seem to us, and the easier we can open to them. Whichever side of the living or dead needs the time to heal, I don’t call upon or attempt to work with a spirit who has been dead for less than a year. In fact, with spirits who died unwell, I may wait many years before trying.
I keep that in mind in my daily practice, and again at Samhain and Halloween, when the everyday spirits who walk among us are more easily perceived. I make myself still my grief’s desire to call to those who have not been dead long. In my work, I refer to the spirits who die, from Samhain to Samhain, as the Recent Dead. This is the time when I call on my ancestors and ask them to help welcome and shepherd over the Recent Dead, specifically those spirits who might not yet have realized it is time to cross over.
I light my ancestor altar and call my ancestors, the lines of Eaton, Riddle, Ruston, and Art. I call out the names of some of the ancestors I have found on my family tree, calling in the ageless time that is the ancestral pool: Sibilia de Lea, Sir Henry Norreys, Captain Roger Clapp, Waitstill Wyatt, Heman Sears, Hattie Eva Dutcher; Gwethlin Wensliana, Robert Moulton, Rev. William Gylette, Freeborn Wolfe, Isaac-Etienne Paquet de Lavallee, Annatje Goedemoet, Thomas Ridel, Rosella LaRoche; Barnardus Jacobus Turner, Dafydd Riggs, Hester Mathieu, Albrecht Zabriskie, Emma Angeline Whitcher, Hiram King Wicker; Mary Dowd, John F. Pils, Katherine Maria Schmeelk, Margaret Loretta Burke.
I am because you were.
I call the names of my Beloved Dead, of those known in this lifetime, known and loved by me. They are the names of those I think of often and fondly, and though I miss them, I celebrate their memory in the act of reciting their names: Ruth Ruston Eaton, Harold Riddle, Mark Dutcher Eaton, Melinda Tanner, Elizabeth Fricke, Jeff Patterson, Willie Lingenfelter, Elsie Durant Riddle, Gabe Reynolds, Joel Pelletier, Victoria Eaton, Edward J. Jerge, II, Trent Illig, Donna Riddle, Jurgen Banse-Fey, Charles “Sienna Fox” Duvall, Jack Singer, Tommy Amyotte, Paul Seeloff, Richard James Riddle, Brett Elsess, Andrew Begley, Susan Alvarez-Hughes, Coswald Mauri, Norm Herbert, Jad Alexander, Dr. August Staub, Princess Leather Falcor, Martha Dayton, Melvin Chausse, John Croom, Karl Weber, Luna Jackalope, Thomas E. Malinowski, Albert Gritzmacher III, Luna the wolfe, Joshua Verity, Freya Moon Greenleaf.
            I am the better for having known you.
I pour water into a glass, offering a libation to my honored guests. I ask them to watch over and welcome our friends and loved ones who have died in this last year, and then I speak the names of the Recent Dead, known to me and my loved ones, lighting a candle for each person:
John M. Rosenburg, Jr.
Gary French
Joshua Fingerhut
Barbara Jean Schiffert
Bella, our beloved bear-cat
Russell Whitmire
Ken Koch
Soja Arumpanayil
After the candles are lit, I sing, because it makes me happy. I sing and I think about all of the warm, joyful memories I have with each of those I lit a candle for. I think about how much they meant to me, and my journey, and I let my heart fill. My heart becomes the focal point for the energy I radiate into the universe. Even in my grief, what I send out is love.
Afterwards, I thank the Ancestors with a Dumb Supper, a Feast for the Dead. We dine in mirror to what the spirits remember, from dessert to appetizer, offering them the first and best of each dish, our honored guests. What is left from the feast is offered to the animals of the natural world, as an offering to the living from the dead.
I owe my breath to all those who came before me. Good or bad, they are branches of living energy that feed down into me. I am because they were. My nieces and nephew are because they were. I honor and I remember.

What is remembered lives. What is remembered never truly dies.

Miss you and love you, Bella Bella.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Spirit Dreaming

I often get spirit visitations in dream world, which is fairly common. It’s easier for our Western minds to be open to seeing someone we know has passed in a world that we expect to be irrational. The spirits always appear different than their surroundings, as if they are watchers of my subconscious theatre, swept up in the story but not of it. They appear to me as if made of a separate quality of film overlaid onto that of the dreaming.
When I see a spirit, I take notice of the things that seem to pull my focus. They are likely to be relevant, whether I understand them or not. Sometimes it’s a word they say or the way they say it. Sometimes it is an item they hold. Other times it’s a reflection of myself in their eye. I bring these images and thoughts out of dream world and mull them over in my meditations.

Last Year’s Dream
I am walking a path in the wood. The forest is old and the trees are thick and tall. There is hardly any underbrush. Our village is in this wood. At the heart of the village is a large stone table. I approach it, alone. There are two people laying on the stone table, head to feet, a man and a woman. They are both naked. They are both old with white hair. They are flickering to fill the shape of themselves and I know they are ancestors of mine.
They take turns speaking, but I only hear their words in my head. On the stone table, their lips do not move. When I look at her I hear seagulls and I smell the cloying scent of sod and sea spray. Could this be a mother of my mothers from Ireland? I look at him and I feel the heft of an axe in my hand, in a younger wood than this one.
They are speaking in my head, overlapping now. I was chosen because I can hear them. The old man is crying; he never thought he would see this done. His relief is palpable. I hold his hand and I tell him that it is okay. I assure him that I’ll see it through. He sighs and passes on, his flesh and bones turning to stardust. Other stardusted spirits and people from my village in the woods gather around the stone table for the funeral.
I am standing at the back of the crowd and the old woman shows me a picture in my head. She is digging up an ancient drumming shield in a place I am familiar with. I think I am watching it backwards. I think she is burying it. There is a secret around this object. It is important to unbury it, even though I don’t know what the darkness around it is.
When I leave my village it is dusk and the shield is slung over my shoulder. In the dream I think of it as “her weapon.” The drumming shield is octagon shaped, with slightly curved edges that makes it’s shape like a bowl. When I strike it, it sounds like a drum. There is a small circle in the northwest quadrant and a crescent around it in the southeast quadrant of the shield…
…then I am standing on a ship. It is modern in appearance, but feels ageless and ancient at once. I see a friend of mine on deck. In the real world when I had this dream, my friend was on walkabout in the Celtic Isles. He does not recognize the face I wear in the dream but when I speak to him he sees me and gives me the biggest hug. I tell him that I am about to fix an 800 year-old wrong. He tells me to journey well.

Bits of the dream cling to me in the waking world, like puzzle pieces that would fit together if only I could see the larger pattern. They are wheels within wheels... the immediate pull to think on my maternal line... the secret with 8 sides... an 800 year-old wrong… the feel of being handed a quest. An 800 year-old wrong would put the ancestral generation somewhere in the 1100s. I meditate on the past, seeking shadows and blocks in the energy flow as I drift backwards through the bloodstream.
I trust in the dream, that there is something there, some secret unknown, lingering in the recesses of my ancestral memory. I understand that it may always remain unknown to me. Just because I don’t know what caused a shadow on the energy flow, doesn’t mean I am incapable of clearing it out so that the energy may move freely again… and perhaps remove the larger hamster-wheel patterns my family has been repeating.
I make offerings to the ancestors to let go of the things they held onto in death. I make offerings to appease the wrongs the ancestors of mine had done. I open my heart to forgiveness and embrace my ancestors for whatever lives they might have led. Good or bad, I would not be here without them. That is the comfort I inhale and the acceptance I exhale.

What is remembered lives. What is remembered never truly dies. What is dead lives on within me.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

All the Ancestral Roads

Where I live, the trees are bursting with fire, revealing the true carotenoid and anthocyanin color of their leaves as the more dominant chlorophyll fades away. It’s a reminder that life has cycles. Even though the trees don’t die, they shed their leaves every autumn, to be reborn in the buds of spring. This is the time of year when we open to the ancestral energies around us, in preparation of honoring their memories at Samhain. But the ancestors around us are more than just the names and dates of those who lived so that we might be born.

Open to the Recent Dead, to those who have ceased breath since last Samhain. Open to the loss of the newly dead. Remember their lives and the affection you shared. Remember their struggles and their loves. Sing songs of them and make offerings to them, even as the grief wells raw within you. Wish them peace and safe passage as the veil opens to welcome them to what comes next. Take in breath and blaze through your days. Make memories in honor of those who no longer will.
What is remembered, lives. What is remembered never truly dies.

Open to your Beloved Dead, to those you have known in your lifetime who have crossed over. Remember the years of love. Remember the touch of hands and the sound of voices. Remember the lessons learned and the laughter. Remember the false days as well as the true ones, for no one is perfect. We do better to honor them by remembering them whole, flaws and all. Remember who they were to you, and what part they played in the journey of your life. Remember paths diverged and merged. Remember the sorrow of loss beneath the joys of having known them. Remember to let the joy outshine the grief. Remember those you loved who snuffed out their own light. Remember those who had no choice in when death took them. Remember those who suffered and remember their lives beyond mother, father, sibling, friend, husband, wife, grandparent. Remember the stories they told. Remember who they were.
What is remembered, lives. What is remembered never truly dies.

Open to the ancestors of your bloodline, to Those Who Came Before. Open to the mothers birthing mothers and the fathers seeding fathers. Open to the ripple of life flowing backward in time, beyond memory and language, beyond names and civilization. Those of us taking breath, our ancestors were among those who discovered fire and moved from caves to build shelters. Honor the lines of mothers and fathers that trail behind you, supporting you. Remember those, without whom, you could not exist.
What is remembered, lives. What is remembered never truly dies.

In some of our lives we are gifted with family we create. Open to your adopted ancestors, to the bloodlines of those who, in this life, claim you as one of their own. To those who claim you as daughter and son, brother and sister, grandchild… to them you are blood and that love opens a door for you to claim the energy of their lineage. Remember the ancestors of your family, both biological and built.
What is remembered, lives. What is remembered never truly dies.

Open to the ancestors of your spirituality, to all the lips that have uttered the prayers you utter. To the hands that have worked the magic and faith you do. Remember those who braved a path and questioned what was known, who built the foundation for your practice. Remember those whose hearts were pulled in the same direction of belief. Remember those who died because of their faith. Remember all those who found the courage to belief what they did because it felt right.
What is remembered, lives. What is remembered never truly dies.

Open to the ancestors of the land you live on, the city you live in, the county you reside in. Open to the energy of those who toiled and built and settled. Open to the energy of all those who lived in your home before you. Who farmed the land beneath you before it was a home. Who hunted the land beneath you before it was cleared for farmland. Remember those who saw promise in a wild landscape. Remember the wild that came before us.
What is remembered, lives. What is remembered never truly dies.

Open to the ancestors of the lands your bloodline came from. Open to the energy paths of the migration trails the feet of Those Who Came Before tread. Follow the tendrils back across the waters, across the mountains, across the valleys and deserts. Those lives, those carbon footprints are energy sources for you. Remember that all our generations trace back to a single ancestor. Remember that all are relations. We are all brothers, sisters, and cousins. We are all streamers rolling out from that first big human bang. You are my cousin. Remember that.

What is remembered, lives. What is remembered never truly dies.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Canning Autumn Applesauce

At Russell Farms, 2013.
Autumn is my favorite time of year to live in the Northeast. Even though I have always lived in the Northeast, I don’t take the changing of seasons for granted. Red, yellow, and orange leaves crunching underfoot, and apple cider. We are lucky to have multiple apple orchards around us like Russell Farms, Lone Maple Farm, Apple Hills Farm, and Torto’s.
Autumn belongs to the apples: Gala, Honeycrisp, Gingergold, Golden Delicious, Macintosh, Macoun, Empire, Pink Lady, Granny Smith… Through the winter, spring, and summer months, I forget what apple tastes like until I pluck one from the tree and bite my teeth into that firm and crisp flesh for the first time. I eat fresh apples daily when they’re in season, because I know it won’t last. Spiritually, I am growing an appreciation for impermanence. It makes you appreciate things when you have them more. After all, our very lives are an exercise in impermanence.
Even so, it is nice to be able to carry a bit of this season into the ones that will come after. When the apples are their ripest, I make and can applesauce to get me through till next harvest. My mother canned. My grandmother canned. I don’t do it as much as I’d like to. I do it because I know that when I open a jar this February, autumn’s harvest flavor will be there. That taste of the first bite of a ripe apple will flood my mouth. No chemicals. No preservatives. No added sugar. Just apples, and a small stick of cinnamon.

I find the prep work is the hardest. You have to wash all the jars in warm soapy water. Fill them with hot water and place them in the canning pot. Add enough water so it sits above the jars by an inch. Cover the pot and bring it towards a boil over medium-high heat. When it is almost boiling, reduce hit to a simmer. Keep it covered until you use the jars. [This part took me an hour.]
Then, in a small saucepan, pour two inches of water in the bottom. Add the lids and heat on low until it reaches a simmer. Cover the saucepan and take it off the heat. Set it aside until you’re ready to use them. Now, you’re ready to make the applesauce, which is fairly easy.

I had a small retinue of apples for this batch. Normally, I might add a splash of water for every four apples I use, but I have found that fresh apples rarely require extra moisture. I peel, core, and cut the apples into slices. Everyone does it different, I’ve found. No matter how you cut them, it’s important to keep the pieces of even size. Add as many cinnamon sticks as you desire to taste- a dash of ginger is always a nice complement, if you want a little tang.
Place everything in a saucepan, cover, and heat on medium for fifteen to twenty minutes. Use a fork to see how easily the tines pass through the fruit. If it passes through without resistance, you’re done. Turn the heat off, remove the cinnamon sticks and mash away. I have a potato masher that I use because I like to make chunky applesauce, but for smooth applesauce I whisk it after it’s been mashed. Now, you’re ready to can!

Remove the jars from the canning pot, carefully, and empty them of their water. I dry them out with a clean cloth. Fill the jars with applesauce, leaving a half-inch of headspace. When the jars are full, gently shake the jars back and forth to release air pockets. You can also slide a clean knife around the edge of the jar to help release them. Wipe the rims with a clean cloth. Use tongs to pull a lid out of the saucepan and set it on the jar. Screw a band in until it’s just tightened.
When they’re all done, place the jars back in the canner (beware of hot water). Make sure, again, that there is at least an inch of water covering the jars. Cover the pot and bring the water to a boil. When the water starts boiling, process the jars for fifteen minutes. Turn off the heat and remove the lid. Let the pot stand for about five minutes. Remove jars onto a clean towel on a table or counter. My canning pot has a basket that I can rise to lift the cans above the water line. But before I found my canner at the thrift store (for five dollars), I used a large stock pot and heavy-grade canning tongs.

Give the jars twelve to twenty-four hours to cool, depending on their size. You may hear a strange warpy, metallic, pinging sound. That’s good. You want to hear that sound. It means the seals are locking and the canning worked. Don’t fret if you don’t hear it either, though. That’s happened to me. When the jars are cooled, press lightly on the seal. If it doesn’t give, it worked, and you can safely store them for up to a year, just in time for the new crop! If the seal gives beneath your finger, it didn’t take. That just means you can pop them in the fridge and eat them right away. 

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

What is Sacred? The Story of White Buffalo Woman

I am an idealist. I always try to offer another perspective, granting the benefit of the doubt to an annoying level to those around me. It’s a choice. I’m not simple minded. But I found myself listing too far towards jaded, so I chose to see a silver lining until I could see how dark the cloud truly was. Hope is my bread and butter. Not in a fanatical way. I’m no Pollyanna. I see the world the way it is.
If magic is in the manifestation of energy and words, then hope is the exhalation of breath. The unfurling seed. Hope is picking your foot up off the ground because you believe the only way out is forward and through. It’s returning a stranger’s dropped twenty dollar bill when you only have two dollars in your wallet. It’s the belief that people are good at heart; that we’re meant to be good. In this way, hope is sacred to me. What is sacred to you?

The White Buffalo
One of my main totem animal guides is Buffalo. Buffalo is my earth, my grounding radiance, my Buddhisattva ideals. The buffalo is sacred to me also, in my practice. Last week I wrote about Buffalo Brother, and how I adopted him as a guide for my work with gratitude, compassion, and loving-kindness. Among the legends of buffalo you will find stories of the white buffalo, sacred to the many Native American tribes, including the Lakota, who call it Tatanka Ska. While the white buffalo is a message that all living beings are connected and interdependent, it is also considered to be a warning to the Lakota. The birth of a white buffalo is a sign that it is time to focus on creating a healthy, harmonious, and peaceful world.
The legend of White Buffalo Woman originates with a starving people; the game had disappeared. The seven sacred council fires of the Lakota Sioux were joined together in their suffering. Two men went into the Black Hills of South Dakota to hunt. They came upon a young woman dressed in white. One hunter tried to claim her by force and she turned him into a pile of bones. She told the second hunter to return to his tribe and tell them she was coming. She came, carrying a sacred pipe. She laid it down, facing east. She stayed with the people and taught them to pray, to respect the earth, to respect the buffalo for their sacrifice so the People could live, and all of the rituals and ways to share in the smoke of the sacred pipe.
When she left, she said she would return in a time of peace. She walked away, bending to the earth and rolling over. She transformed into a black buffalo, then a brown one, a red one, and finally a white one. After her visit, the buffalo returned to the earth and the Lakota thrived. The image of the white buffalo became as compelling a symbol to the People as the peace pipe. John Lame Deer says, "A white buffalo is the most sacred living thing you could ever encounter." The lesson of White Medicine Woman is that, if man can live in true harmony with the natural world, as part of it, not above it, then he will see he has everything he needs around him.
There are four reasons a bison calf may be born white. An albino will remain white their entire life, with pink eyes and, most likely hearing and vision problems. There is a rare genetic condition where the calf is born white but their coat turns brown as it matures over the next two years. A beefalo calf is more common, born from bison and cattle crossbreeding. The white coloration comes from their cattle ancestors. And then there is the leucistic calf, a buffalo born with white fur and blue eyes. The odds of a leucistic birth is one in ten million. In the last 200 years, only a handful of these births have been reported.
On May 11, 2011, a white calf named Lightning Medicine Cloud was born to Buffalo Woman at the Lakota Ranch in Greenville, Texas. I followed his exploits on-line, but not for long. Before his first birthday he and his mother died of a bacterial infection called blackleg. After his death, Arby Little Soldier, the 3x great-grandson of Sitting Bull, and owner of the calf, said, "The Native Americans see the birth of a white buffalo calf as the most significant of prophetic signs, equivalent to the weeping statues, bleeding icons, and crosses of light that are becoming prevalent within the Christian churches today. Where the Christian faithful who visit these signs see them as a renewal of God's ongoing relationship with humanity, so do the Native Americans see the white buffalo calf as the sign to begin life's sacred hoop."
An Oglala Medicine Man from South Dakota, Floyd Hand Looks For Buffalo says that, “the arrival of the white buffalo…will bring about purity of mind, body, and spirit and unify all nations- black, red, yellow, and white.” A month after the death of Lightning Medicine Cloud, a white calf was born on a dairy farm in Goshen, Connecticut. Four elders from the Oglala Sioux Tribe performed a naming ceremony for him, along with members of the Cayuga, Lakota, Mohawk, and Seneca tribes. Yellow Medicine Dancing Boy will be cared for and raised as a symbol of hope.

What is Sacred to You?
Because of my work, the image of the buffalo, white or brown, is a sacred symbol. Trees are also sacred to me. When we sacrifice them they become shelter, paper, fuel. When they are rooted in the earth they are oxygen. It makes me sad to see the human population multiplying and the tree population dwindling. They are necessary. They are life bringers. Look around your world. What in it is sacred to you? In this, world, the other thing that is sacred to me is kindness. Goodness. Those ways of being, of breathing, are their own message of hope. I walk towards them every day, my feet on the ground in prayer.

"People are often unreasonable and self-centered. Forgive them anyway. If you are kind, people may accuse you of ulterior motives. Be kind anyway. If you are honest, people may cheat you. Be honest anyway. If you find happiness, people may be jealous. Be happy anyway. The good you do today may be forgotten tomorrow. Do good anyway. Give the world the best you have and it may never be enough. Give your best anyway. Afterall, it was never between you and them anyway." - Mother Teresa
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