Kiera looked around at the empty room in the Texas School of Fairies and sighed deeply. The beautiful red and gold silk hangings that festooned the ornate Hall of Fairies looked sad and almost gaudy without the flutter of little fairy wings. She so missed the excited chatter of her students. Eons ago Kiera herself had been a nervous sophomore. She still remembered how carefully she dressed for her first day. The indigo blue velvet pinafore almost matched her big dark blue eyes. Her long dark curls were braided into submission and interwoven with blue velvet ribbons. Both her grandmother and mother fussed over her appearance making sure her unruly curls behaved. Her family was surprised but delighted that Kiera was accepted to the school because mixed species were frowned upon for many centuries. Her mother was a typically beautiful Celtic fairy with long straight dark blond hair and wings with just a touch of pistachio green on the tips. Her father was an outcast from the fairy community. Kiera was too ashamed to even talk about it. Those dark curls were all his, though, and the dark eyes.
Keira loved her wings which were an iridescent mixture of pearl, blue with a touch of emerald. They were reminiscent of a gem stone or mother of pearl. It seemed so long ago when her blue eyes darkened with excitement at her first sight of the fairy hall. So much had happened since then; human and fairy wars wreaked devastation upon the two species. Over centuries there had been so many fairy blights somewhat similar to human pandemics. In human society viruses usually transmit from animal to human but in fairy life they spread from plants to fairies. The worst in Kiera’s memory was the potato blight of 1800 in Ireland. Much like the human Irish, the fairy folk had to flee to far distant parts of earth to escape the blight. In potatoes it caused a failure of the crop leading to famine but it affected the fairy world differently. Some became blind; others lost their sensory perception leading to much the same conclusion – famine and deprivation.
Now in 2020, the human world is being devastated by a new Coronavirus Pandemic and perhaps coincidentally the fairy world has been struck a deadly new blight – nicknamed Black Shade. It spread from late tomato blight which is related to the Irish potato blight and can affect all nightshade plants. The blight has mutated to cause a devastating browning or desiccation of fairy wings and occasional wing drop. A fairy without wings cannot survive. Only a few short months ago this eerily silent hall had been alive with every hue of fairy, chattering in many languages. Kiera had been shy little fairy when she arrived at The Texas School of Fairies but happily discovered that her classmates liked to share secrets with her. Her sweet face and trusting nature made her an excellent future choice for a school soothsayer akin to a human school counselor.
Over decades, as School Soothsayer, she had wiped away despondent tears of homesick fairies and helped them find their true path. Her long dark hair had turned pewter and her eyes were still deep dark blue with just a touch of grey. Kiera had succumbed to Black Shade and her beautiful wings were permanently stained brown along the tips. Thankfully she had recovered quickly – the fairy healers had been quick to find unique remedies for this new blight. Eventually there might be a cure but in the meantime almost all students and pupils had been sent home. Kiera chose to stay at the school to look after those very few staff and pupils that remained. The panic was tangible at first with anxious parents flying in to pick up their children. Some parents had to ask relatives to make the long journey to collect students if they had suffered wing damage or worse. With every new pandemic there is an initial mystery about transmission but this new fairy blight was passed by touch. Little fairies love to touch each other with hugs, kisses and wing trembling. No matter how many times the headmaster or Miss Kiera warned the students to socially distance it was beyond their limited understanding of how serious this Black Shade could be. Just like human children, fairies bairns needed touch to develop into well-adjusted adults.
Kiera wandered the lonely corridors with too much time to think about her life. She was approaching retirement and wondered how she would adapt to that or an extended closure of the school. She caught a glimpse of herself i an ornate mirror and was startled. Where was that beautiful young fairy that looked just like her father? Over the years she had come to terms with his failures. He had fallen into the Black Arts using his charm to trick the fairy and human world. Centuries ago he was sent to The Spectral Isle for punishment. It was a shameful time for his family who were proud Baja fairies from Mexico. He had ruined his family’s proud heritage. Kiera looked just like her paternal Abuela, Juanita. Curiously, it was her father’s choice to name her Kiera which honored her long Irish heritage. The name Kiera is a feminine version of Ciaran which means dark haired. She looked at her untidy Pewter hair in the mirror and quickly tidied it into a braided plait. Kiera looked at her brown tipped wings with sadness but gratitude for having survived Black Shade.
The fairy world is naturally superstitious and Kiara had to bite her lip with many ill-informed parents. First the Shade was spread by crows, then toads (both untrue) and every possible portent of doom. Even though the Healers had quickly established that this was the late Tomato Blight, preposterous theories persisted. Kiera understood their fears and as a soothsayer did her best to reassure anxious students and their families. It was easier for Kiera who had lived through wars and pestilence to accept that Black Shade was a natural part of living in this world. One day, when the worst of this was over, we would grieve for the fairy folks who had succumbed but then move on with lightness in our hearts. The sun will shine again and the Hall of Fairies would be alive with little fluttering wings.
My friends had often asked me when I would write a fairy story about myself so Kiera is my alias. My father did choose my birth name against my mother’s wishes. He also dabbled in the Black Arts… Fairy stories traditionally allow us to tell children harsh facts about the world in a style that they can understand. The sun will shine again.
This tiny little bug is commonly known as a junk bug or aphid lion – ain’t she cute? Teddy was admiring our fire bush when he saw this wee pile of debris moving. If you click on the red link to junk bug you can read a hilarious article about this ‘voracious predator’ – it is about the size of the half-moon on your pinkie. She is a gardener’s friend; the debris on her back is the remains of aphids and other plant eaters (her victims…). This little dusty bundle is her larval stage and she blossoms into one of my favorite insects, the delicate green lacewing.
Teddy and I get so excited when we discover a new animal in the garden no matter how small. Below is Leo (DiCaprio), one of our many spotted Anoles. He loves to sit at the prow of the deck and display his bright red throat flap to attract a mate. There is so much lizard sex going on in our back yard that we should rename it Studio 54. There are tiny babies, pregnant moms and horny teenagers (none of them are social distancing).
A few weeks ago I found what looked like bird poop in the garage and I was curious. It was unlikely that a bird had gotten into the garage which is usually closed and then I saw another poop on the front porch.
As I was taking in the groceries, through the garage, this week I spotted a small cockroach struggling in a spider web. Briefly, I wondered whether I should put it out of its misery but when I went back for the rest of the groceries the roach had gone. Then I spotted her – we have a five striped Skink living in the wall of the garage. Woo hoo! She is now called Skinky because I have no imagination. They eat cockroaches – what more do you need? My neighbor has one on her front porch and after I told her how useful they are in our bug ridden swamp, she named her Skink, Tiger.
Can you tell that the pandemic quarantine is beginning to wear on us? My psychiatrist forgot to put in my regular refill for Xanax, WTF! I panicked briefly then I put my big girl pants on and am back in a Breaking Bad situation with a drawer full of meds. My friend was laughing at Teddy and me when I shared with her that I refused to share my prescription-only painkillers with him. She felt that it was a perfect senior couple moment – she’s right!
Isn’t she purty? Before the horses and wagons arrived at Tomball, en route to Houston Rodeo, we were entertained by Miss Tomball 2020 and Line Dancers. As I people watched I noticed that two little sisters were wearing handmade dresses with little horses on them – could they be any more cute? One of the siblings looked at Miss Tomball as though she was a Disney Princess and showed her the dress.
OMG – look at her little boots! Her little smile caused my eyes to tear…
Well, it wouldn’t be small town Texas without line dancers of a certain age…
Eventually folks from the crowd joined in with the line dancing. Teddy and I met an older couple who had moved here from New York City. Their lives had been terribly sophisticated with jobs in Broadway and learning Tango when they lived in Argentina. How excited they were to find out that they could join the Tomball Line Dancing group.
I wrote this post to encourage myself that I still live in a wonderful place and it helped a little. One day, I hope, we will get back to what to blessedly simple days like the one above, pre Covid-19. In the meantime, think of others especially those most vulnerable and please, please wear a mask or socially distance.
In my last post, I mentioned that I thought I had mislaid my parents wedding photographs. Once I found them, and breathed a sigh of relief, I sat and looked at them. I never really knew my father – he was a creature of legend both good and bad. When I was young, my Mum tried her best to paint a balanced picture of Dad despite the unpleasant comments from family members. These photographs were never displayed but I had seen them many times. I was fascinated by the glamour of a professional shot and thought they were both attractive. As a youngster I really looked much more like my father with our dark Mexican roots.
As I gazed at the shots, I realized that neither my Mum nor Dad looked happy. They married after a couple of months of meeting but they were in their late 20’s, more than capable of making a sensible decision. My theory is that they were pregnant with me and I know that my dad asked my mum to have an illegal abortion. I had admired these photos for years, longing to have similarly glamorous wedding shots, but had never noticed the lack of happiness in their eyes. The social mores of two Catholics not marrying after a pregnancy were overwhelming. My mum told me that a distant relative offered to adopt me so the circumstances must have been dire. Eventually my mum divorced my dad in 1976 on the grounds of mental cruelty. He had already remarried in the States.
Then I found a photograph of my mum with a previous American boyfriend above. If anyone recognizes him, you might have been my sibling!
My mum had mentioned that he was a really nice guy, Italian American, but that she hadn’t fallen for him. Maybe she wasn’t ready but my mum looked truly happy in this simple photograph. How I longed for a normal father like him when I was young. As the years have passed I have come to terms with my Dad probably having some mental health and addiction issues (as did my Mum). I have so enjoyed meeting members of my Dad’s family – seeing distinct resemblances both in appearance and also personality. My mum’s bridesmaid, who has stayed close to me, told me many times that my Dad had a fascinating charismatic side that I had inherited. To the right is a photograph of Teddy and I signing the register 38 years ago – now that’s a real smile.
We had not a single professional wedding shot…❤️
For many years I would not wear pearls because my mum did, on her ill-fated wedding day, and shed many tears. She would bring it up so frequently that I was convinced that pearls were unlucky at any time. In some cultures wedding pearls represent the tears a bride will cry on her wedding day. I felt much the same about opals until my sensible geologist husband pointed out that you would only be unlucky not to have these beautiful gemstones. Both my Nana and my mum were terribly superstitious and some of it still sticks in my addled brain. I gasp if someone puts new shoes on a table and I wouldn’t walk under a ladder.
After many years, I fully understood that my parents’ marriage was doomed from the start. The pearls, which I later broke, and the bridesmaid’s green dresses were of no consequence. Bit by bit, a few pearls snuck into my jewelry collection. Most recently one of my dearest friends gifted me the funky pearls below along with the ring and earrings which were her mother’s. I just love them!
I have few occasions to wear them too, especially now, but Teddy and I had a second date to our local restaurant and they looked lovely with the claret dress. I found the dress (and another in black) at Old Navy’s clearance rack for $5 each. There was a young woman looking for the same dress and I helped her look for one to no avail. She gave me a look that suggested that I should really give them to her but I am not dead yet…and it was my bargain! Is it some type of primitive foraging gene that makes woman get so excited about a deal or buying stuff?
Our restaurant meal was disappointing this time, although the food was delicious. Texas is up to 75% capacity at restaurants and although the restaurant was almost empty, they seated an older foursome just 6 ft from us. We have an inevitable spike in Covid-19 cases as we opened up and I just felt uncomfortable. I have retreated back to our homestead as the numbers tick up and Teddy is working from home again.
When I was preparing for this post, I looked for my mum and dad’s wedding photo and could only find one. I knew I hadn’t thrown them out but it took me hours to track them down. While doing this, I realized we are saving far too many sentimental photos and documents and cleared one box from Teddy’s parent’s house. There is no reason to save books that stink of cigarette smoke but I did save Teddy’s paternal Grandma’s pearls from the hoarder house.
Can you believe this guy is a professional photographer? WTH – I have a plant growing out of my head. It is hard to imagine but there was a life before the Pandemic hit. Every year Houston hosts the largest Rodeo in the world, natch. As much as I would love to visit, there are just too many people in one place. This year we decided to go to our nearest town, Tomball, where the Sam Houston Trail Riders arrive by horses and wagons from Plantersville for a reception/meal/bunk. It was cold but gloriously bright (which is maybe why Teddy couldn’t see the plant), so we arrived early in great anticipation. The location was around the old railway station so we had a look inside, for the first time in 16 years. Why do we always ignore the history right beside us?
My husband looks like a real cowboy – until he opens his mouth… It has been a long time since there was a working station office at Teague or Tomball but there is still a working commercial railroad. I was 20 minutes late for a dental appointment when I had to wait patiently on the other side of the line. We met a charming docent who told us all about the train museum. He was fascinated by our Scottish accents and had another regular Scottish visitor who comes to the museum when he sees family in Texas. The world is full of train geeks.
Halfway through the rodeo, we got news that the Pandemic had reached us and for the first time in the Houston Rodeo’s history it was cancelled. One of the first patients in our county had visited the Rodeo but had not traveled anywhere else. After a month in our local hospital, he finally recovered and got to go home. It was touch and go but he was one of the lucky ones. More posts about the trail ride to come.
This is my second draft of a post because the first was a tirade about the Dystopian nightmare that I feel I am living in. I keep looking up to the skies for a plague of locusts or frogs to accompany the Pandemic and violence. Ultimately, I decided that there was no point in adding my angry comments and opinion to the melee. Instead I retreated to my containment pond where the water is full of ducklings from both the Muscovy and Whistling Ducks.
I have been sitting on the edge of the culvert, frightening the green heron because I walk so softly and delighting in nature. The dragonflies, of every hue, come close to me and land on my head. Teddy has counted over 30 species of dragonfly in that pond alone. We watched their very active mating and then saw a female dip her tail, with the fertilized eggs in the pond. By August, it feels like you are in fairyland with a rainbow of dragonflies fluttering around you. They stick close to humans to catch the mosquitoes that bite us.
So far in 2020, Teddy has rescued a really large Turtle who was stranded upside down and yesterday I found a tiny little one, about 2 inches across, who was dropped by a predator in the grass. I lifted him up and we were able to take a close look at his cute little face. He was hot and bothered so I delicately popped him in the pond and off he swam having lost one of his nine lives (or whatever turtles have). Today I stopped on the path as Mama Muscovy and her eight big babies walked up the bank and onto the grass for shade. Mama kept on walking with a trail of ducklings waddling, with me at the tail end. They have become used to my presence so know no fear.
The Whistling Ducks have tiny little spotted ducklings and they are a little more wary. There are at least 8 pairs of ducks with a variety of little ones. The ducks have a really cute squeak but I haven’t heard them whistling yet. The frogs that bleat like sheep are back – and it is quite unnerving. I keep looking for a flock of lambs to no avail. There is a GIANT carcass of an Armadillo in the grass. It is about the size of a large cat. I guess it was run over and then the predators had some tasty lunch.
I mentioned before that Muscovy Ducks are called Backyard Ducks in Mexico where they originate. That means they are a tasty lunch in Mexico… While I was sitting at the pond I spotted an older Mexican couple who were gardening at one of the houses. They were taking quite an interest in all the ducks and I watched them with trepidation. ‘You can’t eat these ones – they have names!!’ I was overreacting because they just wanted to ooh and aah over the ducklings like all of us. In Baja, Teddy and I had the most delicious duck and pomegranate tacos but I didn’t name those ones… What a hypocrite I am, especially since I have eaten many interesting animals in our travels across the world. Alligator is chewy, BTW, as is camel.
As much as I still enjoy my pond and its critters, I realize that I live in an idyll far removed from many Americans. In our township, you are not allowed to discharge a weapon for any reason, especially not to hunt. There are no fireworks allowed at any time and a million other regulations. As frustrating as our quarantine has been, I can only imagine what it is like in crowded public housing with no job to go to.
May we exit this pandemic in peace and live more equitably with compassion for every member of society.
All these photos are taken by the marvelously talented Teddy who has a new exhibit for his photography.
…since the Pandemic started. We moved into our ‘new’ house 16 years ago when we moved to Texas from Cairo. One of the reasons was that it was a 5 minute walk from our house to a local steakhouse and bar. We don’t go that often as it is expensive but it is a lovely treat at happy hour. Now you have to make reservations and observe restaurant social distancing. It was a tad weird to see our usual servers in masks and gloves but lovely at the same time. They welcomed us like old friends. We both had to sit at the same side of the booth to be the requisite distance from the next booth which was very romantic.
It’s a fancy place but not pretentious and we dressed up. Teddy has lost so much weight that his Tommy Bahama’s good shirt could have fitted both of us in it – time for the charity box. I can fit into my old skinny clothes and I am wearing my favorite cream Max Studio dress worn with an ‘antique’ brown velvet jacket from Bandera, Texas. I am pretty sure the previous owner has passed on but I love to think of the events she may have worn it to. At the restaurant I ate my steak like a ravenous wolf and devoured the whipped potatoes. Then we had a bottle of wine AND DESSERT. It was all gluten free – just like my life now.
Like many of us, I have spent quite some time on introspective thought. My mental health has been good given the circumstances and I realize that I enjoy social isolation (and the calm that comes with that). Rather sadly, I went into the airport and handed back my badge and keys. I have been volunteering for 11 years or so and it was the strangest sensation to see how quiet everything was. The volunteering program has been suspended temporarily but I had already decided before the pandemic that it was time for me to do something new. I doubt I will have any VIP work for the next year but that might pick up in the future. It is a special birthday for me in July when I turn 60 – WHAT!!!! We had vague plans of a short trip somewhere but who knows. We could spend the rest of our lives just exploring Texas…
Is anyone else totally fed up with the Pandemic euphemisms? These Challenging times, Unusual circumstances or The New Normal. It’s a bloody Pandemic – just call it what it is. The best new word I came across is Covidiot which means someone who doesn’t follow Pandemic Protocol. On that note I was scolded at two separate grocery stores. ME – compliant citizen exemplified! The first time I waited patiently in the line to go in a smaller store, wore my mask and kept my distance. At the checkout I stood behind the plexiglass but wasn’t standing in the taped yellow box. The older gentleman, checking my groceries out, asked me to move back, and I apologized profusely. I was mortified. Today, I went through the 15 items only checkout at another store. I guess I had about 20 items which has never been a problem in the past. This time I had to pay for the first 15 items, and then the extra items separately. This time I almost blushed. I sheepishly left the store reminding myself to count the items next time.
Some very classy citizens have been behaving very badly during these ‘challenging times’ and I don’t want to be part of that mob. One mother created a ruckus at Red Lobster (a seafood chain of restaurants) because she had to wait. I guess nobody knew she was Mother of the Year?? It doesn’t sit well when so many of our population are food hungry right now. Thank you once again to all the essential workers who have worked so hard to keep us safe. The least we could do is to make their jobs easier.
Happy Memorial Day – E Pluribus Unum.
Eliza had asked to see some photographs of my regular walk around our containment pond, so without further ado… We often see all the varieties of heron fishing together. There are little snowy egrets, little green heron, night heron, Great Egrets and Great Blue Heron.
I love Robins – British Robins are small and vividly red like our Cardinals. The American Robins have such lovely songs and their coloring is so pretty.
She is a native of Mexico – beloved by butterflies and hummingbirds
I love this tree sized pink Hibiscus bush which is on one of our shared neighborhood flower beds. We live in a posh commune…
I opened my front door and Vladimiri was standing right in front of me, drinking the water from one the neighbor’s sprinklers. I chatted to her and admired her juvenile who flew away but she was not bothered by my presence. Unlike the next wonderful creature.
I am not entirely sure if this is the venomous Water Moccasin or a Diamond Back Water snake. Teddy was shouting, “Don’t get too close!”, to no avail as I was determined to get a shot of the snake swimming. It was so EXCITING!!
This is the American blackbird – not dissimilar to the European version but with a gorgeous flash of scarlet on the wings.
Whistling Ducks are not really true ducks, nor geese – they are a sub family Dendrocygninae. Some Whistling Ducks, further south than us, nest in trees to keep the eggs safe from alligators. I think we will have many babies soon…
The local Bluebird Group have little houses all over our township and this year we have TWO pairs of Bluebirds of Happiness.