It’s been a while since I strolled around the containment pond with my pesky eye irritation. As I rounded the curve, I could hear the panicked high pitched peeps of the whistling ducks. The parents ran away from the grass where they were nesting with babies in tow and splashed into the water. The bombproof Muscovy ducks just sat and watched with perplexment. They live here year around and are domesticated – nothing to fear from humans who feed them (and keep them warm when it snows). The whistling ducks are migratory so are pretty feral and very skittish.
This year we have a bumper crop of whistling ducks to go back to Latin America. Dozens and dozens of lovely wee non-ducks, as we call them as they are neither ducks nor geese. The ducklings are just precious little ‘stripes’. I didn’t see any Muscovy ducklings this year but I think this lot are all the same family. It’s doubtful that would stop them getting frisky, though… Red faces not red necks?
On my trek back, I got a better photo of the six Muscovy Ducks. Don’t they look dapper in their evening wear? I like the touch of taupe in the middle duck and the silver one is my favorite. They look ready for the Oscars or whatever the Duck equivalent is.
“Hush, Mam!” gulped Tessa. “Finn is not a changeling.” Long held in tears welled over and Tessa sank into the fireside chair. With concern, Tessa’s mother, turned her attention to her beloved daughter. Her skin had a ghostly pallor and she was exhausted from the long journey from Inverselkie to her home village of Auchnagatt. “Let’s get you to bed,” said Mam “and I will look after the wee cratur.” Silently, Mam thought that she wasn’t ready to call the baby Finn or even accept him.
Tessa’s mother took her out of the damp clothes and gently helped her into the spare bed with a warming pan in it. Tessa sighed with pleasure at the warm bed with the well-remembered eiderdown quilts. The sheets were soft from many years washing and smelled of fresh northern air. Within minutes she had fallen into a deep sleep. Finn had begun fussing on the table and Mam could tell he was about to let out a wail of distress. She rushed to comfort him so as not to wake Tessa.
“Let me give you a bosie,” and snuggled Finn into her ample bosom. As she inhaled the precious smell of the beautiful baby, her heart began to grow tender. Finn raised his big brown eyes to look at this new person and grasped onto her breast with fat little fingers. “Look at those eyes, ma wee bairnie!” she softly gasped, falling under his spell. Finn gently smiled, at peace after such a stressful time. Just then, the latch on the door turned and Tessa’s father walked in, covered in freshly fallen snow.
He cast an eye to his daughter asleep in the bed and then looked quizzically at his wife holding a strange baby. “Sit down Dad, and I will tell you everything,” entreated Mam. Meanwhile she emptied her sewing box and filled it with her softest blankets. Mam gently placed Finn in the box who settled down like a cat. Over supper, Mam filled in the gaps with Dad. His eyes widened when she told him that Finn was left in a basket outside Tessa and Thom’s door. “I think he might be a changeling,” whispered Mam.
“Ach, Mam!” exclaimed Dad with exasperation, “That’s nonsense.” Dad persuaded Mam that it was much more likely that some unmarried woman left him at the door. Perhaps flaxen haired Finn did have ancestor from the Viking lands? “Thom and Tessa came up with a plausible tale and we should support them,” said Dad with a note of finality. Mam knew better to argue with Dad who was a village elder. “How is Tessa?” he asked. Mam confided that she looked terrible and that as soon as she recovered from the arduous carriage journey, they should take her to cousin Elspeth who was a healer in the next valley. As soon as they had received the note from Thom about Tessa contracting the White Plague again, they had sent a messenger to Elspeth to make ready.
The next morning, Tessa woke up with a start. It took her a moment to figure out where she was. She looked through the door and saw her father polishing up her old crib for Finn. It had been sitting in the barn for so many years – Tessa’s eyes filled with happy tears. Rather unsteadily, she walked into the living room and fell into her father’s welcoming open arms. Tessa heard a gurgling and turned around to see her mother feeding a bottle of warm goats’ milk to Finn. He was holding onto Mam’s curly hair and gazing up at her as though she was an Earth Mother. A fleeting jab of jealousy touched Tessa but she smiled openly at the love between them.
“Granny’s wee bairnie is so hungry,” laughed Mam, spellbound by an unexpected grandchild. Over the next few days, Tessa’s parents fed her and Finn so much food that they were visibly putting on much needed weight. Mam was a plain but excellent cook. Dad was a hunter so their house was filled with plenty. Tessa eagerly ate the food of her childhood. Jugged hare, fresh strawberry jam, porridge made with thick cream. Finn, too, was eagerly eating everything he could lay his fat little hands on. His new Granny’s knitting fingers flew and in no time, he had a winter layette. Knitted breeches in all the colors of the countryside – moss green, yellow gorse and rowan red. Tessa’s needlework skills were matched by her Mam’s knitting expertise.
Tessa had perked up with the comforts of home but she was still coughing up blood into her handkerchief. Mam and Dad starting packing the horse and wagon and all too soon, they were ready to leave for Cousin Elspeth’s house. Dad would accompany Tessa but Mam would stay at home with baby Finn. As Tessa stood at the door, ready to leave, she hugged Finn a little too tightly. He cried at the ferocity of the hug and the tension in his mother’s body.
“Come awa to Granny,” beseeched Mam, reaching out for Finn. Somewhat reluctantly, Tessa gently handed him over, knowing that she wouldn’t see him for some months. The White Plague treatment required months of convalescence. Finn was oblivious to her as he happily grasped onto his Granny’s bosom. Dad helped her into the wagon and Mam waved Finn’s little hand to say farewell to his mother. Tessa blew kisses to him until she couldn’t see them anymore. Her heart ached with love for Finn but she knew that he could not be in better hands. Dad gently patted her shoulder in comfort and the next stage of Tessa’s journey began.
My husband’s adoptive granny was ambivalent about his arrival because, after they took him home and he was unswaddled, they noticed he had an opening at the bottom of his spine – most commonly seen in spina bifida patients. They immediately took him to the doctor who diagnosed a small abnormality of the coccyx and said it would heal if he was left unswaddled. It completely healed but he had to have some padding on his tailbone during certain sports. Granny had beautiful brown eyes and felt a kinship to her only brown eyed grandson. Their love was enhanced by Granny looking after him while his Mum was in the TB ward.
There is a real village of Auchnagatt in north east Scotland. We lived there in an old house in the late 1980s. The name of the village is derived from Gaelic meaning Field of the Cat/Witch. We had our first three cats – one was definitely a witch…
It had been a few weeks since Tessa and Thom Goodwood found the beautiful baby boy on their doorstep. All of their friends and neighbors eagerly accepted their fictitious tale that Finn was the unwanted child of Tessa’s cousin in the north. The young couple were so warmly endearing that anyone would wish this happiness for them. Every day, Tessa woke up with a smile on her face and ran to the crib to see her baby boy. Finn didn’t sleep very much and both parents were worn out but felt it was a small price to pay for parenthood. Thom spent many wakeful hours crafting wooden toys for Finn and in a flash of tired genius made rockers for the crib. That helped Finn to drift off to sleep along with his new mother singing her favorite lullaby, ‘Green grow the rashes’.
Before long, many moons had passed. Tessa had returned to making bridal gowns. It was autumn so the dresses were embroidered in harvest colors. Gold, amber, crimson and darkest copper. In her few spare minutes, she fashioned delightful new clothes for Finn. This had led to a new demand for children’s clothes for a Saining or other blessed occasions. Tessa was tired to her core with the demands of a new, unexpected, baby and her tailoring tasks. She glanced over at Finn, playing on the floor, in indigo dyed breeches with pale blue stitching to match the softly knitted jumper underneath and her heart melted once more. It was all worth it.
One evening, Thom and Tessa were eating a simple meal of rabbit and mushrooms at the cozy kitchen table. Tessa had a coughing fit, and Thom ran around to pat her on the back. “Are you alright, my love?” asked Thom solicitously. “I think I just need some water”, gasped Tessa. “Perhaps I swallowed a small bone?” All was well, however, and Thom made her a warm drink of whisky and honey to go to bed with. A few days later, Tessa was on her own with Finn when she had another coughing fit. She covered her mouth with her handkerchief so that she didn’t cough on the baby. Finn started crying, in distress, and she rushed to hold him to her bosom, reassuring him that his Mam was fine.
After the baby settled down, Tessa retrieved her handkerchief from her seat where she had dropped it. She looked at it in horror, as she saw a blood stain. “The White Plague” she whispered under her breath and sat in the chair in darkness until Thom returned from the Mason’s yard. “Why are all the lights off Tessa?” shouted Thom as he arrived home from a long day at work. She passed him the handkerchief which he took to the fire to look at. As soon as he saw the blood, his face became ashen. Wordlessly, he reached out for Tessa who fell crying into his arms.
Tears fell from both of Finn’s parents’ eyes and he looked at them with worry in his big brown eyes. Thom quietly went around the house, lighting gas lamps and putting the remains of last night’s meal on the fire. Then he sat down with Tessa and they worked out a new plan. Tessa had earlier been infected by the White Plague when she was 14 years old, living in their hamlet in the far north east of Alba. Her mother wisely sent her to her cousin, Elspeth, who lived in an even more remote valley who had skills as a healer. Elspeth had helped numerous patients with the White Plague and Tessa appeared to fully recover. There was always a chance that the malady could return.
Tessa and Thom agreed that the best plan would be for Tessa to go and stay with her mother initially, and take Finn with her. He wrote a letter to Tessa’s mam, stamped it with his red wax seal and handed it to a messenger on the next coach headed north. They decided not to tell Mam about Finn because it was just too complicated but did tell her about Tessa’s sickness. Their friends and neighbors were told another white lie; that Tessa’s Mam was poorly and so she was headed home to care for her. Before Tessa left, on the next full moon, neighbors had been delivering little pots of curd or a fresh baked soda bread so she felt assured that Thom would be looked after. She sadly packed a bag with warm winter clothes for her and Finn. Finn didn’t really have enough warm clothes yet but she knew her mother would quickly knit layers for the boy.
Thom and Tessa hugged each other and Finn with such love that could hardly be expressed in words. Tessa and the baby got into the carriage. Thom tucked a wolfskin around both of them and sadly bid them farewell. Tessa cried silently and Finn gently pulled at her hair for comfort. It was such a long, cold and unhappy journey to the hamlet but when she arrived, Mam was waiting with a look of such concern. Tessa stiffly came out of the carriage with Finn fussing in her arms. She put a finger up to her mouth to warn her mother know not to say anything.
Her mother’s eyes widened with shock but wordlessly she took Tessa’s bag and they walked into the cottage. It was so warm inside with the delicious smell of stovies warming on the fry pan. “Let’s get you both out of those cold, damp clothes,” said Mam in a soothing, pragmatic fashion. Tessa handed Finn to her mother who was so well wrapped up that you could only see his brown eyes. “Before you ask, Mam,” stuttered Tessa anxiously, “The bairn was left on our doorstep in a basket. Finn is a gift from the Gods.” Meanwhile, Mam was gently unwrapping Finn from all his layers, in front of the hearty fire. When she saw his fluff of almost silver hair and his beautiful face, she gasped. “He’s a changeling…”
Thank you to Pixabay and Wikipedia for images and links.
Many moons ago, Thom and Tessa Goodwood lived in a village in the middle of Alba. The village was named Inverselkie, for its famous stone-built bridge across the River Selkie. They were a lovely young couple, similar in many ways. Both were short and bonny. Their eyes were blue, hair dark with the rosiest red cheeks. They resembled generations of their farmer ancestors. When married they moved from their remote forested hamlet to Inverselkie – a place of opportunity.
Thom was gifted in the masonic trade and helped to build the current stone bridge which replaced the old rickety wooden one. This made him one of the most admired young men in the village and Tessa was so proud of him. Tessa had wonderful skill with a needle and made many bridal gowns for her neighbors. They were simple affairs made of ivory flax but Tessa embroidered them, almost magically, in vivid hues of scarlet and indigo. Recently the blacksmith’s daughter, a gentle soul, had asked for a more delicate embroidery and Tessa had fashioned the gown with exquisite pale pink and peach freesias. Now all her customers wanted pastel colors.
Despite their success in their new home, Thom and Tessa longed for something else entirely. A baby was all they wished for. Despite prayers and potions from the village wise woman, nothing worked. Every month, Tessa was so disappointed when nature revealed her infertility once more. She sobbed and Thom held her in his loving arms, wishing for circumstances to be different. They both tried to shake off their sadness but it wasn’t helped when village busybodies patted Tessa’s tummy and asked when they were having a baby. Tessa usually laughed and said, “When the Gods provide…” but a little part of her soul died at each response.
Tessa longed for the comfort of her straight forward mother at times like this but they were many leagues away in the far north eastern corner of Alba. The landscape and the poor roads made travel difficult and they hadn’t seen each other for many moons until Tessa’s Granny died. It was an awful, grief filled journey, made worse by freezing snow and an uncomfortable carriage. Tessa and Thom launched themselves into the loving arms of their families, neighbors and friends. There were awkward questions from family members too, as they had been married for seven years, but Tessa’s Mam helped deflect them. Her advice was, “Just keep praying for a miracle”.
The night they returned to Inverselkie, Tessa and Thom settled themselves into their comfortable down filled bed at around 9 pm. They both prayed silently but were beginning to doubt their worthiness. They gently settled into slumber until they were woken at midnight by a quiet mewling at their door. Tessa woke up first and shook Thom awake. “It sounds like a cat, Tessa! I need my sleep…” Eventually, they both tentatively opened the front door of their thatched cottage and saw a basket. They both leapt back when the thistledown blanket moved but then they saw a little hand emerge. It was a baby!
Tessa immediately picked the basket up and Thom looked around to see who had left it, to no avail. They brought the basket into the warmth of their living room and put it on the kitchen table. Tessa pulled back the delicate blanket and stared into the eyes of the most beautiful baby boy. His hair was a silvery flaxen and his big round eyes were the darkest brown. “It’s a changeling!” gasped Thom. Tessa shushed him and gathered the beautiful child to her chest. “The Gods have provided our miracle baby, Thom. Please may we keep him?” Tessa’s eyes were brimming with tears and yet as happy as they had ever been. Thom’s heart unfroze and he reached out to cuddle the baby. As soon as he held him, he knew this was their answer from to their prayers.
They spent all night feeding and cuddling their strange new child until exhaustion took over. Thom woke with a start thinking, “I am late for work!” Tessa snapped awake too, looking with disbelief at the tiny babe with the big brown eyes. They were full of unanswerable questions for each other. ‘How do we explain the appearance of this beautiful Oddling’. ‘What will we name him and who left him for us?’ They sensibly decided to wait until Thom returned from work and they would make a plan. During the day, Tessa learned how to change a napkin, soothe an unsettled baby and most of all, how to love with all her heart.
When Thom came back from work at the stonemason’s yard, Tessa was full of excitement and ideas to explain the appearance of the baby left in a basket on their doorstep. “Perhaps we should check if someone has lost a baby or at least consider that the child might be a changeling?” queried Thom who, after a hard day at work, was now apprehensive. “Hush, Thom!” said Tessa – “Keep your voice down. Finn is our miracle gift from the Gods”. A faint cry from the basket near the fire alerted both new parents to the object of their concern. Thom gently lifted the newly named Finn into his arms and melted as the big brown eyes met his. Tessa smiled indulgently at the two beloved boys in her life. “Has he eaten well?”, asked Thom. Tessa told him with a satisfied smile, “He has had warm Goats Milk, a softly boiled egg and sucked on a rag dipped in honey”.
“Why did you call him Finn?” asked Thom. Tessa explained that Finn was a Celtic name that means white or fair. His halo of silky flaxen hair was certainly fairer than most Alba folks who usually had blue eyes with dark hair. Since they had only just returned from Granny’s funeral, they decided that they would tell their neighbors that Finn was the result of a liaison between an unmarried cousin of Tessa’s and a visiting Norse trader. That would explain the curious light hair and Finn’s sudden appearance. Tessa and Thom would be seen as caring relatives who took in an unwanted baby.
Tessa eagerly showed Thom a small layette of baby clothes that she had stitched when Finn was napping. She had used the finest linen from her store and knitted some items in delicate lambs wool. Even so, nothing was quite as soft and magical as the thistledown blanket in his basket. Silently, Thom and Tessa gave thanks for Finn and wondered how his mother, fairy or otherwise, could give him up.
This latest fairy story series is based on the true story of my husband’s loving adoptive parents.
I have had so many opportunities to celebrate anniversaries on my WordPress blog. First it was 10 followers, then 500, then an unbelievable 2576 but I hesitated. It is never too late, so – Thank you very much to my followers and friends in the WordPress community. Your kind words have been a source of comfort during a challenging time in our lives. So many of my original blogging friends have stopped posting in the last two years. Even more sadly, some have died and we miss them. Their spirit lives on in their writing.
Then I received this notification of 500 posts and felt it was time to honor my love of writing. When I first started blogging, I was only interested in writing travel posts but as I started reading other blogs I wondered about sharing even more. Admittedly, some of my posts were just drivel, or contentious, and I have deleted quite a few… It always puzzles me which posts generate the most comments or likes. Floral Spike was one of my most recent successes and I was surprised that gardening was so popular.
These are some of the categories that I have chosen to write about with links to my favorite posts: –
I have posted a new avatar photo that better reflects my life now. Every time I looked at my previous image, it felt like someone else. I am older with a new hair color for autumn. Maple spice, perhaps? It is really just a mix of stuff in my hair color box and I will not be able to replicate it. Like so many others, I am looking forward to having my hair professionally dyed once the Delta Variant has been tamped down. So, so excited about going out for a steak dinner!
Thank you for reading and connecting with me – your friendships mean the world. 💕
Mommy Robin: “Oh this is lovely! There is nothing like a morning bath when it is already 80 degrees.”
Baby Robin “Mom! What are you doing? Can I get in?
Mommy Robin “Could I just get five minutes peace to enjoy my bath?”
Baby Robin “I’m bored…”
Mommy Robin “If I have to get out of this bath, you are in so much trouble!!”
Don’t you just feel for poor Mother Robin? I think she might have been using some bad words… This video was taken one morning after the Raccoons had used the Pyrex bowl as a swimming pool. To the US readers, the American in the title is redundant. The Brits are more familiar with the iconic European Robin which is a much smaller, cheekier bird, part of the flycatcher family. I imagine the early settlers were delighted to find their own red breasted bird in the New World.
The American Robin is really part of the Thrush family and they have the same gentle nature although they are not quite as shy. Our Robins used to migrate but some decided to stay here all year. I am delighted because they are such sweet birds. Like the crazy lady that I am, I love to chat to them in the undergrowth when they are rooting about for worms. One day I stopped my car to allow one to dip a worm in the savory puddle water at her own pace.
Mom and Dad Robin look very similar except the female has slightly lighter coloring. The males have a more vivid red breast and the females a rusty color. They look after their babies equally and have up to three clutches a year. The juveniles have a speckled chest but don’t seem to leave the nest until almost full grown.
Robins are songbirds which is delightful… except they sing at daybreak. Still, they cannot be as bad as the current cicadas which are so loud that Teddy ran through the house looking for a plumbing break. Every night I think, ‘will one of our many night critters eat that bloody cicada?’. In truth, the cicadas were the reason why we bought this house. We were enchanted by their alien song when we moved here 17 years ago. I have been wondering if these particular cicadas are on a 17-year cycle because they sound different from the summer cicadas. If I wasn’t so creeped out by their appearance, I would research it…
The God of Health (Valkyre Eir perhaps?) has not been looking after this household. I thought we had sufficient animal sacrifices; the skunk under the deck quickly followed by a lovely dead rat (“Is hamster?”) First it was my eyes – which are much better and thank you for all your good wishes – and now Teddy’s rather dashing blue stitches.
Teddy went for his annual dermatological inspection and our doctor honed in on this tiny wee mole (a millimeter in diameter) on his forehead. Over his adult life he has had dozens of moles removed but all were benign. It went to the lab and within two days the surgeon had removed the basal skin cancer and surrounding tissue. That is the most common type of cancer and the least worrisome of the skin cancers unless you ignore it. European immigrants who move to hot places have to be particularly cautious. If I had a dollar for every time I said, “Have you put sunscreen on and where is your hat?”
His surgeon looked about 14 years old but this is just from our aged perspective… It’s the same with firemen and police. She said, “I am just wondering how to place the stitches to fit in with your forehead lines.” Teddy laughed and responded, “You mean the wrinkles!” The surgeon gasped and said, “We don’t use the W word in here!” They also perform plastic surgery along with dermatological procedures. We were delighted at how quick the procedure was and Teddy can now relax (but wear a bloody hat).
Our neighbor’s father has just died of Covid despite being inoculated and our hospitals are full. I have an appointment with my gastroenterologist tomorrow for a postponed colonoscopy. I wanted to cancel the elective procedure again but he is not scheduling until 2022, so fingers crossed. Our air quality in the Houston area has been bad. Somewhat surprisingly because of Saharan dust and smoke from the western wildfires. It really is a small world; even smaller for me because I have stayed inside to heal my scratched eyes.
Our floral coleus spikes are magnificent (future post), the raccoon kits are getting bigger and we are awaiting Tropical Storm Nicholas. This year we don’t really need the rain so they have reduced Lake Houston and we sit praying to the God of Weather, Freyr. Actually, that’s a lie – we will just be watching the weather channel and Netflix in tandem. My favorite program is Ice Road Truckers when it is hot and humid down here. Our electricity provider has already warned us about the storm and I hope that doesn’t mean they wish to be absolved from potential blackouts.
Hope your God or Gods are keeping you safe and healthy!
This photo is a bit blurry and that’s exactly how my eyes have been feeling. I have chronic dry eyes that I treat with OTC eyedrops but this episode was so bad that my eye surface had scratches on them. My eye doctor tried everything in her arsenal but finally put punctal plugs in my tear ducts to save the tears which were evaporating in 1 second. 👀 My poor peepers felt like the Sahara desert. Yet again, the reason is a mystery and a blood test looking for Sjogren’s syndrome proved nothing.
As a result of all this, I am going to take a little break from digital devices to rest my eyes. Looking forward to catching up with all WordPress friends in a while. Keep healthy!
This is the first year that I have seen floral spikes on my Coleus plants. When I researched this, some articles indicated that it was a precursor to the death of the plant. We often use them as annuals but they are perennials in their native countries of Thailand, Malaysia and surrounds. Since we are also subtropical, they should live past a year but only if we get no frost. Our Texas mega freeze this year both killed many trees and plants, yet magically revitalized others.
Then I read another article that suggested you should let them flower, as the hummingbirds, butterflies and bees feed off them. The freeze also killed many of Texas’ much needed bees – I have seen hardly any this year. The hummingbirds have started to arrive, however, and we have had a lovely variety of butterflies fluttering past the window. A little green pond hawk dragonfly follows me around when I water the garden every day. Coleus are part of the mint family and the roots are used medicinally in South East Asia.
The coleus plant can be considered as a sign that you need to take good care of yourself and you must do everything possible to stay healthy and live a long and fulfilled life. You must always put your health at the peak of everything because this is what will give you the courage to stay fulfilled.
I felt like I needed an antidote to my last post… Over the past few weeks, I noticed that the water in the Infinity Pool and Blue Lagoon was murky. I had my suspicions so we put the night camera out. My heart melted when I saw these baby raccoon kits. The next night we put out some of our old cat’s toys and the kits didn’t disappoint. It has been really hot so they loved having a wee bath. Perhaps they are bathed more than Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis’ kids?
Raccoons are part of the Procyonidae family widely spread through North and South America. There are 7 species, from Alaska to Argentina, and include Coatimundi and Kinkajou. Their original Latin name, Ursus Lotor, referred to their perceived habit of washing their paws. As omnivores they will eat food in shallow water but the real reason for them moving their webbed paws in a washing motion is because they use them as vibration sensors. Our kits were about the size of the Pyrex dish (although apparently two can fit at a push…) In my mind, they look like a cute little bear/cat/doghybrid.
Mother raccoon did not appear on camera so she was probably resting in the reserve, leaving the kits in the Garden of Raccoon Delights. Raccoons usually have 2 to 8 kits but it’s likely that our 6 kits are cousins. Female raccoons sometimes live together to raise their kits – the original Sister Wives? The biggest raccoon I have seen in our yard was as big as a Bulldog – their weight ranges from 5 to over 50 lbs. Mrs Stripe, who was a street cat from Egypt, looked at it with utter astonishment. It didn’t smell like a dog or a cat, so what was it??
Striped tails are my weakness so I smile every time I look at the video. They are so small, fluffy and playful! In another video we heard them whining for Mama. It sounded like a puppy whining softly. In general raccoons can make a variety of noises – yowling, growling, hissing, purring, chirping and cooing. This litter was really quiet and I couldn’t hear them even though they were feet away from my bed. What goes on in our yard at night? It’s a magical, if occasionally stinky, place.