Sep 30, 2015

The Great October Book Giveaway 2015

Welcome to the 5th annual Great October Book Giveaway!

This yearly party is my way of giving a big virtual hug to all the folks that have connected with me over the years, especially everyone who has ever stopped by to read a post here at Rue and Hyssop. This little blog holds a big place in my heart, and so do all of you (squeeze in - we will all fit, I promise).

The Goods:

Books. And more books. Plus a few extra super-cool things that came my way this year via awesome people of the interwebs.  

Whenever possible, books were purchased from the author directly and autographed for you. There are also a small handful of unautographed books coming directly from publishing houses. I'm no virgin when it comes to Amazon, but I still prefer to buy books from authors, publishers, and small bookstores whenever possible. Please support them too!

The Details:

*  I will post a giveaway approximately every four days this month.  You've got those five days to leave a comment on the blog post for that particular giveaway, and then I'll draw the winning name(s) and post the next giveaway. I'll leave dates and times in the posts, so you know when you need to have your entry in by.

*  Please ensure that there is a way for me to get a hold of you.  I'm not going to allow anonymous comments because I get terrible spam if I do, but you can use Open ID or a registered account to comment. For now I'm going to leave the comment moderation feature off, but if it turns out that I've got to spend time each day deleting comments, it may have to come back on.  Let's hope the Halloween gods get rid of the trolls for us.

* You will have exactly one week to respond to my request for your mailing address, and I'll send your book out within a week of receiving that info from you.  If you don't respond within 7 days, I will have to draw a new winner for that particular book.

* I am in Canada.  I will send the books to Canada, USA or overseas (according to the legal rambling below) at the most cost-effective shipping rates.  This means your book may arrive anywhere from 5 days to 5 weeks after I mail it.  (In Canada - approx 5 business days.  To Germany - approx 5 weeks.)

Legal Bits:

* This giveaway (or "sweepstakes") is open to all residents of Canada, (exluding Quebec residents) the USA, Great Britain, Europe, South America,  who are 18 years of age or older. This giveaway is void where prohitibited by law.  Please be aware of the contest/sweepstakes laws in your area.

*  Canadian residents will be subject to a skill testing question before being able to claim their prize (this is standard law in Canada).  The skill testing question will be in a form similar to: 1 + 2 - 1 =

*  This giveaway is not for profit and no purchase is necessary to enter.

*  This giveaway is sponsored/administrated solely by this blog/blog author and is not affilitated with or sponsored by Blogger, Facebook, Twitter, or any other entity, nor can they be held liable.

* By leaving a comment intending to enter into the draw for the giveaway (or "sweepstakes") you are knowingly agreeing to these rules/conditions.

I have chosen all the books featured this month myself.  I have not been paid to feature a book, nor have I been asked to advertise for anyone.  This giveaway is not endorsed or sponsored by anyone other than Rue and Hyssop.

Make sure you are back here on October 1st to put your name in the cauldron, and keep checking in!  Click the pumpkin photo in the sidebar on the right to see the latest giveaway and leave your comment there.

**Comments on this post are not included in any prize drawing. Please comment on the current giveaway post (click the image in the sidebar on the right that looks like the one above - it will take you to the current giveaway). Or, if you have found yourself somewhere on the mobile site, click the "Rue and Hyssop" header at the top of the blog, and scroll down until you see the current giveaway.**

Sep 25, 2015

On Lines and Expectations and Perfection

"She loved the lines around his mouth."
~ 5 Days in May, Blue Rodeo

Another birthday has come and gone and this morning I looked for a while at the lines that are appearing around my eyes and starting to reach out, toward my temples. It's an odd thing, to wake each morning believing that you are still just moments past your teen years and then discover that two decades have passed. I routinely get mistaken for someone much younger, but I'm quite happy to be settling in to this early autumn of my life. Just as the tree outside my window is turning a remarkable golden colour, I see my edges mellow, and enjoy the sense of calm I have found while life flies madly around me. A whirlwind of leaves rip free in the blustery north winds and yet the tree bends and releases without a fight, knowing there is always more to come.

There is so much more to come.

I sat for a while this week with my friend's 93 year old mother. She is tiny and frail and yet still so strong. She has outlived a husband and a son, and so many friends. She tells me the same tales (often several times during a visit) of what her life was like in Bangladesh, how she spent her time sewing at the convent for the nuns, and the jubilant gatherings that happened almost every evening at her home as family and neighbours came by to visit.

I watch her face as she speaks. It is the closest thing I have seen to perfection. Her lines, in the winter of her life, fly from her eyes upwards toward her temples, and then downward over the apples of her cheeks - the feathers of a phoenix waiting to be reborn. They are as exquisite in her laughter as they are when her eyes well up with tears as she speaks about her lost son. A face so full of life that it is etched into her divine coffee skin in fractals prettier than any computer could conjure.

One day, I wish to have phoenix feathers that tell tales of my life and loves and losses. For now, my little lines are just starting to deepen, showing more when I smile than when I cry. They will be seared into my skin a little more each year over the remaining summers of my life spent in gardens and wandering hillsides. They are often hidden behind my hair that I wear long and wild, bucking every comment of "you know, at your age..." Yes, yes. At my age...

At my age, the "grey" strands that are appearing are coming in pure white, and are camouflaged by the blond that they snake through. At my age I wander alone in the woods, go to theme parks even though they scare me, and would absolutely jump out of an airplane again. And again.

At my age, my oldest niece has moved out after living with me for two years, and now I find myself with no excuse to refuse the offers to set me up on a blind date with a friend of a friend of a friend. I find it odd - this idea that unless there is someone in your life, your home, your heart, to fuss over, that you should be lonely - at any age. I have told my friends that I have never been lonely. Not once. Not when I was engaged to a man that was never around, or throughout my single years, or while taking road trips by myself. Not even in my twenties when I thought that I loathed myself - I've never been afraid of my own company, and the host of unseen others that wander with me.

At my age, my caregiving is slowly transferring from my nieces to my parents. But mostly, this year at least, I've been taking care of myself. I've been delighting in movement (from ass-shaking dancing to long yogic stretches) and creating oil blends to bless my sun-weary skin. I've been gathering my friends more, around fires and wine glasses and dinner tables. We speak of all the things that happen to us "at our age" which is intriguing and eye-opening because I have friends ten years younger than me and friends a dozen years older, and how wonderful and strange to hear all their "at my age" stories.

Should I have the blessing of time, I suspect that over the years I will disrupt all sorts of people's expectations of what might be acceptable of a woman of my age. I haven't yet had turquoise hair. There are still a few settings I have in mind where I'd like to tumble all naked and unruly with someone. I intend to keep giggling at inappropriate moments. I have no plans on ever letting a season go by when I don't find some childish wonder in the world around me.

I will earn my phoenix feathers. I will tear apart the world's ideas of what might be appropriate at my age - whatever that age becomes. And perhaps one day, when I am 93 and my nieces sit and talk with me, and I tell all kinds of stories of the wildness of the early autumn of my life, they might look upon my face all tattooed with lines and find it perfection, and wonder what they might do to earn phoenix feathers of their own.

Sep 16, 2015

Tools of the Game

The light was slanted and golden yesterday as I made my way along the lake to the next town. The trees, just starting to blush at their topmost places, looked lit from beneath like they were on display at a gallery. The residual smoke drifting up the Valley from the wildfire still burning in the south softened the sky and created an amber haze. These first weeks of September have been stunning.

I'm enjoying the feeling of the heightened summer energy dispersing as if it were the mist in the hills, while the autumnal spirit slips out of the rapidly cooling lake and river waters and blows in on the north wind to fill us with thoughts of comforting meals, a fire in the hearth, and some good ghost stories.

Summer was wild and long and so very warm, and yet...every month now, every season, seems to have floated by on the shoulders of the cottonwood fluff, and then the dandelion, and the milkweed seeds, and on...and on...

I whisper often, "Grandma, you were right, it all moves so fast."

But there have been beautiful armfulls of lovely moments, as there always are when you expect to find them. And as the garden fades, and my favourite months settle in, I continue to eat the last peaches and plums, and play with the outrageous number of apple varieties grown here, and still spend time at dusk in the garden watching the last few blooms of the evening primrose open.

Life is rarely syrup-sweet for long. There is the bitter too. Rebecca speaks of moving forwards, even when you aren't sure you can or want to. She says,

Sometimes I feel like a tiny human facing down the gaping maw of misery and destruction and the only weapons I have in my hands are a little piece of plant matter and a pen. And then I realise that its not the tools in my hands but the fact that I’m willing to turn and face it despite only having those tools in my hands that makes the difference.

I asked once, in despair, "what is this life?" The answer was immediate. "A game," It said. (Whatever the unknowable It might be.) And I was satisfied with this answer - as much as I could be satisfied in my little human mind - because I like to play, and I once spent years in theatre classes which gave me a molecule of an idea of being in a world of my own making.

I am quite happy to believe that the poets, artists, writers, actors, inventors, and all the creators who play with the world (which is to say all the creators) might feel on some level that we are adventuring through this grand game, and they are willing to have a go at it with whatever meagre tools they are carrying.

My tools these last few months have been a pair of cast iron frying pans I rescued from my camping supplies. They were sad-looking and so under-appreciated, barely feeling the fire beneath them more than a few times a year. A good scrub and a proper re-seasoning, and they are now the stars of the kitchen. And they conjure up such wondrous things.

My hands have served me well this summer digging garden beds, creating magic with plants, pushing a lawn mower, office work, holding books, and rubbing the belly of a big black cat. They have some scars and some freckles because I refuse to wear gloves, but they are strong and soft and just as happy to be wrist-deep in dirt as they are wrapped around someone I love. Hands and frying pans don't seem like much, but both can serve you up all kinds of goodness, or knock you into next week.

What tools have been your steadfast companions this year, or this last season? How are you getting along in the game (or the great play, or the divine comedy)?

I've just begun another year on this peculiar gameboard. I'm ready to see what magic and mischief I can make as I head out to meet the arrival of autumn. Come along friend. Grab your favourite tools and let us turn and face what comes this way. Let's walk out to meet it.

This and That:

~ If it matters to you at all, I season my cast iron with avocado oil, but any oil with a high smoke point will do the trick. I still know old-timers who use lard or bacon grease on theirs, but it can leave a smell. Whatever floats your boat and keeps your iron in good shape. I clean the pans while still warm with a paper towel, and if there is any residue after that, I toss some salt in the pan, let it sit, and wipe it out with a towel again. That should take care of it. A drop of oil before putting them away, and I'm done.

~ The grass pictures are part of my summer fun. I cut runes in to my lawn before I mowed it, all season long. On the left is Algiz, and on the right is Fehu. As I cut the lawn, I meditated on the rune, essentially sealing it in to the land. Perhaps give this a try (or a sigil of your own making) for your last cut of the year.

~ Mercury heads into retrograde tomorrow, and it affords us (especially so soon after a Venus retro) a perfect opportunity for a good clean, sort, and organize before the winter arrives. Trust me on this. Recycle, re-gift, donate, and look at all the things you surround yourself with. Do they feel good? Do they move you? Can you breathe in your space? Getting the "big clean" done early in the autumn will put you in the perfect zone to concentrate on the upcoming seasonal celebrations without worrying about the haunted dust bunnies of summer past.