One Year Later   4 comments


I’ve been dreading today. I just knew I’d be unable to focus on the many duties I had to do today, that I’d be edgy and weepy and distracted and howly.

Just goes to show- I never know how I’m going to be. It was actually a weirdly pleasant day.

I didn’t dream about her last night. I don’t dream about her often, which is baffling and heartbreaking to me. I dreamed about her almost every single night of our long years together. Why did I get that when I had her out in my barn (or at least boarded somewhere not too terribly far away)? Why is it that now when I need a touch of her so ┬ádesperately she is so elusive?

Nonetheless, I woke up okay this morning, and tiptoed around myself as I had my coffee and did my chores and got ready for work. Kept waiting for the tsunami to hit. Especially when I went out to feed Jazzie, who certainly wasn’t perturbed by this awful anniversary. She nickered expectantly for her breakfast and turned her fat butt on me when she got it, just as if there were nothing grievous to feel.

Went to work. Ran errands. Took the in-laws to their doc appointment. Spent a very pleasant evening with the ol’ man (despite the new smart TV not working right, grr grr.)

I’m about to go feed Jasmine her dinner, and do a brief ritual of remembrance for my girl. Maybe after this nice mellow day it will be a nice mellow ritual.

But I can feel it shifting under my feet, like an icy black bottomless lake under a sparkling sheet of thin ice. Maybe I’ll skate across tonight, on this much dreaded anniversary. Maybe it will seize me and drag me under.

It will. Some time.

Time moves on, and I’m not crying every day. But I miss her. So terribly. So hopelessly.


Just a horse. Just a skinny old twitterpated mare with a thin skin and a difficult character. Awful Old Thing.

But there’s a primal howl building deep inside me. Wonder when it rip will out of my guts?


Posted December 8, 2017 by suzmuse in Uncategorized

Samhain ’17   Leave a comment


I was pretty worried about the ritual feast this year. Well, I was actually really excited in the days leading up to it as well, but I was also afraid that the grief over Nik would overwhelm me when I invited in my Dead, and just blanket the entire evening.

There were moments of intense grief. There were tears. But it wasn’t a sad evening, it was a lovely one, and the sad moments were appropriate and not ghastly.

You’d think I’d know after lo these many years that they never go the way I anticipate for good or ill. But it seems as if I’m hardwired to anticipate and project and be wrong.

It was super busy in the days leading up to the ritual, good busy but still busy, and I’m a scattered disorganized girl and that made it more difficult. I enjoyed reading Tarot at Inn BoonsBoro for two days before Samhain, but I should have taken my boss up on her offer to let me have the 31st off. Now, when she made the offer I didn’t know about the Tarot clients so didn’t realize I’d lose those days of prep, but not getting started until the feast prep until mid-afternoon made for a late start.

It had been made pretty clear to me that this year homemade bread (which I love to make but don’t very often any more) was expected, and homemade bread is time-consuming even though I Kitchen-Aid my dough instead of hand-kneading.

But it was also fun.

When I got home from work I put on my ritual clothes (read Halloween stuff) and my awesome Halloween apron, made for me by my beloved Aunt Lindy, cranked up the Spotify Halloween playlist and dove in.

Got the bread going first, and as it sat on the woodstove to rise, I sauteed the veggies for Veggie Annie’s Velvety Pumpkin Chowder and chopped more veggies for the Roasted Root Veggies (which ended up having more than root veggies in it, but the kthonic intent was there, I think.)

And while I’d tried to wiggle out of dessert, that wasn’t permitted either. I didn’t have the devil’s food cake mix I thought I did so the cupcakes were a rather pedestrian yellow cake, but filled with blood orange cream and topped with homemade marshmallow buttercream frosting.

I had Halloween sprinkles but didn’t use them because sprinkles annoy me. My guests seemed okay with that much of me trying to assert myself a little in the midst of all the must-dos.

The food didn’t actually take as long as I feared, although it was certainly long enough. But by the time the ol’ man and I had dinner together and I cleaned up, and then began to prepare for the feast and the ritual, the evening got away from me.

In the sadness over losing Tramp I somehow never got around to putting a photo of him in the folder. So I lost a lot of time poking around trying to find some good ones, as well as one off FB of my high school friend Butch Marlow who left this past year. And my printer didn’t want to work. And the computer is dying a slow death.

And aaaaaaaaaaaallll the candles I light during the ritual. And the Tarot cards. Brewing the strong coffee the ancestors wanted (which I totally get- I think coffee will be one of the things I miss most when I cross over.)

It was a beautiful almost-full moon, and while the sky wasn’t clear, the dancing in and out of the clouds in the chilly breeze was about as perfect as one could want. I’d also washed my acres of crystals and planned to set ’em out in the Samhain moonlight, but granted myself the grace to put that task off for a day or two.

As it was, it was after 11 by the time I set the table with all the pictures and the feast and the beer and the cider and coffee, and got all the freakin’ candles lit, and the incense going, and could finally go out to the Gates and invite everyone in.

While I didn’t get either the spooked feeling or the intense presence of the throng that I’ve experienced in the past, the rending of the veil was pretty palpable. The mood was cheerful and somewhat excited as we all made our way up the driveway. Nik and Tramp both appeared about halfway to the house, but it was a warm friendly sweet greeting, not a huge wave or sadness.

The litany did have a few surprises. Austin was hard, although his spirit is so light and full of laughter and brightness. I think that’s what was hard. He was very present this year.

My old cat from Bermuda, Katkat, provoked a strong response in me this year. She was such a gracious, lovely being, and hasn’t been front and center in a long, long time. It was sweet and very sad to remember her so very vividly.

The Moms didn’t really feel individually forceful this year, although one of the only actual messages I got came from a group that identified as the Mothers. Mom, Little Mumsie, Grandma Allred are the ones I know, along with David’s Aunt Jean who has muscled herself in there. There are others too, ones back along the Line but I don’t know their names. They just said to remember to sit with them when I’m wrestling with issues, that the Mother Wisdom is only available if I consciously avail myself of it.

Good to know.

Sam was very present too. He usually is. I’m so grateful for that. Seeing him is one of the things I look forward to most.

Michael seemed easier this year, and indicated that he’s doing fine, but that until everyone who was wrecked by his actions have stopped experiencing the repercussions of them, he won’t really be released. Which makes sense, I think, I just hadn’t had it put so baldly before. What was really interesting was that my Grandpa Allred and beloved Uncle Mart indicated the same thing. I guess some issues don’t work out until everyone crosses over and it gets sorted out over there?

Or maybe until the descendants do some Work to make it happen.

I know a good few folks who believe this strongly, and the Gods know I’ve been trying to open myself to understanding what my ancestors might need me to do on their behalf. I don’t really get it yet.

But I’m trying.

Rather to my surprise the cats and Jasmine didn’t seem particularly interested or aware of the throng. Usually my animals are way into the Samhain feast, but they were pretty chill this year. I especially thought the cats would be excited about Tramp, and Jazz to see Nik, but if they were they didn’t really indicate it to me.

One rather nice thing that happened was when I wandered out to the yard, which was still and brightly moonlit in that moment, but as I stood looking out over the front pasture to the trees it felt totally empty to me. My heart sank. The feast was going in inside the house, and there were certainly groups of spirits chatting and hanging out, but the yard was so quiet and barren.

And you know, I so wanted my Nik.

And then she was there, at my shoulder, lipping at me. And slowly the other seven horses who came this year appeared nearby, not having anything much to with me, just grazing and doing groomies in the moonlight.

Oh, I was so grateful.

My reading wasn’t memorable. At least it wasn’t the dire frickin’ OMG type reading it’s been for the last few.

And that’s it. Pretty quiet, pretty lovely, pretty full of love, with some needed tears sprinkled in.


Posted November 7, 2017 by suzmuse in Uncategorized

In defense of adverbs   7 comments

It’s all the rage in the writing world these days to eschew adverbs. All the ‘How to Write Books’ books talk about it. We’ve got some folks in my writers’ critique group who just red pen every one willy-nilly. ‘Use better verbs!’ goes the battle cry.

I get it. Adverbs can be the crutch of the lazy, qualifying dull verbs that can’t carry the message on their own, or of the terminally over-descriptive, drowning the reader in too much goopy excess. (Eye-shift.)

I really do get it.

But it’s being taken to ridiculous levels.

Instead of pruning judiciously (yes, I plugged that in, even Stephen King says you can use one if you just can’t stand the sentence without it), more and more what I’m seeing is just replacing a perfectly good adverb with an inappropriate adjective.

That’s not good writing. That’s bad grammar.

And it’s friggin’ EVERYWHERE. Not just in ad copy, where decent grammar fled the scene long ago. Not just in newspapers, who no longer bother running a story past a good editor. But even in books, good books, by good authors, who presumably have good editors.

Maybe I missed something. I beat the war drums against my long-time nemesis, the split infinitive, until my friend Jess (who is a librarian and uber-tough grammarian) convinced me of both the futility and the lack of foundation for it.

I was rigorously eddicated in the British school system and it’s hard to give up what was driven so deeply into my pscyhe.

But I can learn. I can grow. I can grasp new concepts. Eventually.

What I can’t get past is ‘Run fast,’ ‘Breathe deep’, ‘Sing loud,’ ‘Type slow’, ‘Drive reckless,’ ‘Pat gentle’ and the like.

Just chopping the ‘ly’ off the gorram adverb does not make it okay.

Using a noun qualifier to qualify a verb is incorrect.

I’m also tired of ‘It sounds funny’ being the reason behind changing grammar.

Yes, language is alive, and it grows and changes and morphs. This is a good thing. But changes to grammatical rules should occur thoughtfully and with due consideration, not simply that the vernacular (which changes rapidly and wildly) doesn’t grasp it.

We may rarely respond to ‘Who’s there?’ with ‘It is I,’ any more, but there’s really no excuse for ‘Me and Dad are going to the tractor pull’ or ‘I was so thrilled when they gave the prize to Mary and I’. Not in the written word. Not even in the spoken word, except as the exception. We don’t need to be grammar Nazis in casual conversation, but I simply cannot countenance lying down for the gross and careless in our published works, even when the publication is a newspaper or online article.

Words are sacred. Treat them as such.

Or expect me to gouge out your eyeballs all vicious like.


Posted October 25, 2017 by suzmuse in Uncategorized

Mabon ’17   Leave a comment

10626645_10152403902861546_5917634191121240414_n.jpgWell, the photo is from a couple of years ago in the Grand Tetons, but you get my drift.

It’s Mabon, and the last day of posting to the Gratitude Project 2017. Now that it’s time for me to finally quit whingeing about the early end of summer (and face it, I DID get robbed this year), I can sink into the joy that truly is autumn.

As a pagan priestess, I believe that the seasons come when they come, and not when the calendar says they come. And this autumn started a month ago, despite the surprising and delightful heat of the last week.

But today is when Helios balanced Himself adroitly on either side of the day, and it was palpable.

And I’m grateful. Not just for the oncoming joys of autumn, but for what is right now, today.

Tyr and Oberyn both have little Apaloosa spots of autumn color, Tyr’s yellow and Oberyn’s orange-red. Murbella’s feet are deep in her shed dark purple leaves. Berkana is well into the molt, but Freya is still in her summer garb. The woods beside the front field are already thin, and the thick still-lush grass under them crunchy with brown leaves. But the back woods are still towering and green, with only hints of autumn in their high crowns. They, and Ruby in the grove, turn last.

The hummingbird feeder sits neglected and droopy after the frenzy. But soon it’ll be time to start making homemade suet cakes, and my woodpeckers will come out of the woods and greet me every morning.

At night the cool grass is alive with faery lights. The fireflies are no longer writing mysterious runes for me in the trees. Instead they give me a labyrinth to walk as I follow along, light by fading light, through the orchard, past the shrines, to the faery grove. There were many of them around Hekate’s spot when I took the deipnon out the other night. Saying goodbye to them is so sad, and so poignantly lovely.

Jasmine’s winter coat is almost all the way in, which makes the hot days harder for her. But she has her fan, and the vigorous late season flies have a harder time getting through her pale furriness. They feast on her sleek dark gunmetal blue summer coat.

My first baby is getting married in just a week. I’m so happy for him, and for the beautiful girl he’s marrying. Then I go to my beloved Utah for a week of bliss. The quakin’ asps will be shimmering gold, and the orchards full of pumpkins and apples. The mountains will smell wild and sweet.

When I come home it will be time to put away the summer things and get out the tub upon tub of Halloween stuff. Maybe my younger and his fiancee will come home and help me. They usually do. That’s another Happy Thing. If the fine weather holds I might have time to start on my planned faery gardens by digging some wandering trenches and filling them with bulbs, and maybe buy a couple of shrubs to tuck in before the winter sleep.

My witch and I wove some good magick at our Mabon. It’ll be interesting to see how we manage to manifest it as we go down at Samhain.

It’s time to greet Persephone.

All hail the Queen.


Posted September 23, 2017 by suzmuse in Uncategorized

spider time   2 comments

10259983_10152083686661546_6502648281315963197_n.jpgearly onset autumn is making me a little melancholy.

not a LOT. i mean, life is good, and it is still summer.

but the signs are rampant.

when i got up pre-dawn today the still-fat moon was wreathed in mist. when i went out to fill the bird feeder in the pearly light, the grass was swathed in hundreds and hundreds of the tiny delicate spiderwebs that presage autumn.

the big spiderwebs were strung across the manure pile. to get in and dump my load i had to carefully pinch off a judicious thread, here and there, to give me access without destroying all the masterworks. i didn’t see any occupants, but an interested mosquito hung about, so i guess the spiders are eating well.

jasmine is still a sleek and glossy gunmetal blue, but the first hints of her pale winter coat just came through. just this morning. i swear they weren’t there yesterday.

the ol’ man and i suddenly realized yesterday that we’ve only had the Goldberry out ONCE this summer. we haven’t gone tubing with the kids at all.


the calendar says it’s still summer, even though i haven’t been able to swim for days. my hummingbirds haven’t left yet, although they’re beginning to swarm. my flowers are bright and thick. the pastures need to be mowed. the fountains are tinkling merrily.

but the spiders say that autumn is coming early this year.



Posted August 10, 2017 by suzmuse in Uncategorized

Last Day at Gramarye Cottage…..   Leave a comment



and incidentally, the last Ireland post (since I blogged earlier about our actual last day.)

And the title’s a little misleading, since we didn’t actually spend the day at the cottage. But there you go. It was still our last full day at our beloved little temporary Irish ‘home’, and a fine day it was.

Not fine in the weather sense, of course. Not as relentlessly rainy as the day before, which was probably the worst weather day of them all, but it still rained, and the sun only put in occasional glimmers.

Slept better than the night before but still not particularly well, and went briskly through our morning routine (amazing how much faster it goes with no inTrawEbZ to distract me) and we were off to Parke’s Castle in County Sligo.

Like Enniskillen, Parke’s is a very nice castle in a very *managed* sort of way. I enjoyed it more, perhaps simply from being better rested. We got in for free, which was nice, because a large part of the castle was shut off for renovations, which was a pity. There was a fairly lengthy video to start with, and a lovely old well in the courtyard, and fine big battlement walls and an overgrown moat, and some nice dioramas and gorgeous woodwork in the castle, and a stormy grey sea billowing in the rain outside.

But Sligo Abbey was a gem. Just magnificent, ruined glory, SO much fun to scramble around. David liked it even better than Boyle, and I get it. Sligo is less fussed-with. Its stones lie where they fall, and there are marvelous obscure creepy subterranean chambers with broken bits of sarcophagi just begging to be tripped over, and dark doorways into dank places that drip, and graves EVERYWHERE. I love Boyle for its many and various and strange and Pagan-esque carvings, but Sligo’s slow decay is mesmerizing, especially set as it is right smack in the middle of a very busy, bustling town. We crawled over every inch of it and took so many pictures I’m afraid my phone will melt down when I try to upload them all.

One of my favorite things to see was James ______’s grave. His last name, his birth and death dates, and even his dear old mum’s name were all ruthlessly expunged, leaving only the mystery as to why this poor fellow had been so badly dissed after his expiration. What did he do to warrant being X-ed out like that although not (presumably) exhumed and evicted? Also the engraving reads ‘Here lies the boby of James….’ giving rise to the supposition that the engraver was illiterate. I myself think he may just have been a poor speller.

When we finally tore ourselves away we decided to lunch in Sligo, and remembered that my brother Richard, who came to Ireland with his wife a couple of years ago, told us that he’d had the best lasagna of his entire life while in Ireland. And since Richard is my much much much older brother, so old and wizened and desiccated and gnarled as to be absolutely fabulous, he may actually have something useful to say about lasagna.

On the other hand he’s a vegan and lasagna is cheesy, so it’s very suspect, but he confesses to indulging in the creamy goodness of cheese when he was there. And he was right- we went to an Italian restaurant where David got a calzone the size of a small baby and I got the best lasagna I may have ever had. Then we wandered briefly, snapping the shot of the pretty bridge at the start of this post, before heading off for our next adventure, the Megalithic Cemetery just outside of Sligo.

Next to ruined abbeys and castles, stone circles and prehistoric grave sites are pretty much my favorite thing in the world. I had no idea that this site was so huge, and so very very very packed full of ancient stoney burial things- dolmens and circles and capstones and one gigantic hollow herm. People brought their dead, and the offerings that went with them, to this place for thousands and thousands of years, going back 5700 years, older than Gilgamesh. We know nothing about the rites they performed, the prayers they sent up, the dances or religious plays they may have enacted, the music they played, the tears they wept. All of the details are lost in the mists of time, and the stones and the eternal grass hold their secrets and do not surrender them, but even across the lost millennia we can hold onto something they passed down to us along with our DNA and our upright posture- the strong call to honor and pay cultus to our beloved dead.

Rising magnificently behind the rolling fields of this cemetery is a hill topped by another burial mound, known as Maeve’s Nipple. Maeve was a legendary queen with tales much like King Arthur’s, with the expectation that she’ll ride out of her barrow with her warriors when Ireland has need of her. I imagine there have been a lot of folks pleading with her to make her grand return in recent centuries.

I felt no ghosts, and heard no whispers. I always hope I will, but I didn’t expect to and that’s good. I can’t honestly say whether it’s because there were a lot of tourists milling about, or that the site is so very ancient that all the spirits have long moved on, or if because my ancestry isn’t very Irish that I couldn’t hear them, or if I would need to be in ritual space, cleansed and prepared, in order to do so. But we were nonetheless moved and entranced and delighted and awed.

Didn’t hurt that there was a riding stable right across the road, and pastures full of beautiful horses and placid cows all around the acres and acres of peaceful dead.

Back in Leitrim County we decided to try and get into a lovely ruined church we’d passed many times near the cottage, but for which there didn’t seem to be a parking lot or any information. We just parked in front of the forbidding iron gates, and were pleased that there was a stile sort of arrangement that let us in. Like Sligo the main purpose of this one, called Fenagh Abbey, is apparently to be a cemetery, but this one is modern. We couldn’t get into the building itself, but through the cast iron gates we could see very neat and well-tended graves, obviously fairly recent, as well as a mix of old and new graves in the yard around the church. We poked about happily for a little while, took a few pictures and headed out. When we exited the gate we saw another car parked just a few feet from ours with a gentleman standing outside it. He didn’t speak or give us a dirty look or anything, but his presence was very clear- ‘Wot are you Americans doing poking around our cemetery? Clear orf, nah!’

And we did.

Back home for a nice tea by the waterfall, and a final early evening walk through the faery gardens. I loved seeing how drawn David was to the deep dark under the trees. He has Druid in his blood, I have no doubt.

David packed when we came in. I tried but wasn’t feeling it, so took my farewell offerings around the gardens in the deep dusk, candies and strawberries and cream. I knew the morning would be busy, so took my time and lingered in the most numinous spots, sending love and thanks.

I will never forget the spirits of this beautiful, beautiful place.

Posted July 7, 2017 by suzmuse in Uncategorized

Northern Ireland and Rain   Leave a comment



Woke up Sunday morning to relentless rain after my first poor night’s sleep in Ireland, not a great combo. I had a cup of coffee which did almost nothing to revive me, but did manage to doze a little more on the couch. By the time we set out for our Northern Ireland day (in the relentless rain) I was still feeling pretty draggy.

Good drive up in spite of the weather, and I drove for a fair bit of it so David could sightsee. We finally drove through some actual mountainous areas, not seaside cliffs or big hills, and if there had been even a smidge of sun I’ll bet we would have stopped to take a zillion pictures and gasp. But as it was we just chugged straight on through to Enniskillen, just over the border (which is still wide open, pending Brexit complications.)

N.I. looks, obviously, like the Republic, since geography don’t care nothin’ about politics and boundary lines. But it’s different too, what with the signs being shown without the Gaelic (which is always listed first in Ireland) and the speeds in MPH, which was somewhat of a relief except that by then I was acclimated to Ks. But the roads are also wider and better paved, and with more visibility. I welcomed this, although the more groomed aspect overall didn’t please my Inner Wild Child as much as Ireland’s overgrown tangled opulence.

We made our way to Enniskillen Castle, our putative raison d’etre for making the drive, but I tell you true, I was just a little underwhelmed (possibly due to the relentless rain and poor sleep.) It’s a very nice castle, mind, but more of a museum, really. Very NICE museum, with interesting info and artifacts about the pre-literate history of the inhabitants of region, and some good dioramas about wars. But I tell you true, for me the highlight was the exquisite tea and cakes we had in the cafe.

I found a stone circle only 20 minutes from the Castle, and a stone circle was very much on my Things I Want To See list, so David obliged and we headed off, in the relentless rain. Enniskillen is a biggish town, but like the rest of Ireland, it ends so abruptly that it seems cut off with a sword, and you’re back out into the countryside again. A few miles of smallish roads (but not the nightmares around the Cottage which we now consider ‘home’) we found our stone circle, which we had all to ourselves due to the relentless rain. It was a fascinating circle, although there was little info on the site about it other than that some neolithic potsherds ┬áhad been found there. The wind was strong and bitter, and the rain relentless, so we walked around briefly and took some photos, but didn’t stay to listen for whispers, or for me to do a nice little EBR the way I was able to in the Lake District of England.

Next on our agenda was the Lough Ryan Castle, right nigh to our Cottage in Mohill, so back home we drove, and were treated on the way to the odd slice of sunshine slanting through the clouds and lighting up a mountainside, which just thrilled us.

You can see why people ask us what we’ve been up to and we just gaze blankly at them. It can’t be quite normal to be that dang tickled about a sunbeam. In our defense, the rain had been relentless.

Lough Ryan Castle promised, according to the handy brochure, a druid altar (spelled alter in the brochure, Gods give me strength) and dolmen. Well, we drove round and round and up and down and found not a friggin’ thing except a huge tarted up trophy resort. We finally flagged down a waiter in a parking lot, who looked blank and then told us where to go to find it, but said it was so overgrown that it was probably impossible to locate. And he was right.

Boo hiss to Lough Ryan Castle for having a druid altar and not bothering to maintain so much as a footpath to it with a wee sign.

This disappointment after a day of relentless rain sent us home slightly despondent, so we built a fire and snuggled in blankets in front of it. Then David fixed a dinner that couldn’t be beat, and when we finished the sun burst through, briefly but miraculously. We cheered and went out for a post dinner walk, for miles, through fields of splendor on lanes paved with magic. Thus the day ended brilliantly, and we tucked ourselves in happily for an early night.

Posted July 6, 2017 by suzmuse in Uncategorized