The Tale of a Novel (Cherokee Home)

An artist’s craft does not come from their own mind, but rather from somewhere indescribable.  Authors often talk about when inspiration hits, the dishes pile up, things get set aside, and they just write before it leaves them.  Writers certainly incorporate their own experiences and their own knowledge.  Writers will double check dates, facts, history, making sure that everything works together.  But the writer will be surprised and delighted as they actually jot the story down on paper or wildly type to keep up.

Ever since I received a spiral notebook for Christmas in 1984, I have been writing.  Inspiration and the Beyond have been good to me this year.  Three books in one year.  (I am smidge exhausted!), including my very first novel which came out this last week.

Many times ideas will not wait for the writer.  If you don’t take advantage of the gift of inspiration, it will flit on to the next writer and it won’t be long before you see “your” idea in a bookstore near you.  I was lucky this one waited for me.

Two and a half years ago I sat in my apartment researching my genealogy looking for the names and tribes that my mentor had mentioned to me while we were working together.  Medicine people are usually quite clairvoyant and he had told me names and places of my Native American ancestors.  I found the name of the grandmother on the side that I knew was Cherokee (before I found the line on the other side as well) and pieced together her history.  Her son had killed himself while gathering corn for supper one evening around 1930.  His widow’s brother came from California to retrieve her and her three children, the youngest of which was my grandpa George.  I did not know he was born in Oklahoma.  In Chickasaw territory.  During the time when Natives were being killed for their land by the oil companies.  During the time that Cherokees were flocking to California, by force or by promises of riches, at that very time.

As family silence would have it, or I suppose most of the time families just don’t know, I will never really know what happened but a story so beautiful and thrilling filled my mind utilizing all the ceremonies and language and happenings of that era and swirling them into a fictional tale.  My love of Little House on the Prairie and of history came painting forth.  Several chapters too long and an unknown ending caused me to put it away.

Shyanne, my lovely daughter, was the only one that I let proofread it, and she inquired suddenly a few months ago about the book and where it was.  I decided to open it up and see if the inspiration was still there.  And to my great joy it was.  Having forgotten most of it by this time, I was enthralled as I read it.  Most of the latter chapters were scrapped, a new ending unfolded, and a smaller sized novel was created.  I love this book.  I am so thrilled to be the one to write it and bring it forth to the world to read.  It is based on true events because of the history of the time, most of the herbalist events were actually my own true stories, and the ceremonies and many memories of how things were are transposed from my friends’ tales to this book.  All caught together in a synonymous web of truth meeting mostly fiction.  It could be classified as either teen or adult fiction.  I think the prose would suit anyone and will certainly educate and entertain.

I am so pleased to present to you my first novel, Cherokee Home.

Click Here to see it on Amazon!

The Dance of Medicine and Wisdom Keepers…writing my life story

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I finished my book.

Two years ago, exactly, I was sitting in my friends’ living room in San Diego.  I loved visiting Lisa and Steve.  Over glasses of wine we discussed future, the spirit world, wisdom, and a book I should write.

“You should write it on the beach!” Lisa suggested.  How lovely that would be.

“I could be on Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday!” I exclaimed.

The book came to me in pieces but then our financial stress made me put it away.  It came back in a novel form and I didn’t like it so I put it away.

In many books that I have read, spirits help put ideas into one’s head.  As soon as Lisa died, my book came to me in a torrent of rapid fire typing.  It was finished in two and a half weeks.  It is being edited now.

Living my own life again through writing about it was quite the emotional rollercoaster.  I was faced with being honest about people in my life.  Seeing the truth of matters.  Of reliving abusive situations, of struggle, of triumph, and love.  The lessons that I have learned along the way from my mentors and my friends and the earth have been staggering, and beautiful, and have led me to this place where I am now.  As a healer.

After I finished, I opened a cupboard and a memorial bracelet for my friend, Nancy fell out.  I haven’t seen it in a long time.  I can feel Kat’s presence.  I know that my friends beyond the veil helped me write this book and I hope it will help others, or at the very least, entertain.

This is the book I have been waiting to write.  I already have a book signing scheduled.  I hope to have many more. I am grateful.

The Making of a Medicine Woman coming soon….(still working on a subtitle!)  May 1st.

A Novel Breathes Life and the Wisdom of the Elders

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My friends, you must read Big Magic by Liz Gilbert.  I keep referring to it.  I loved how it stated that genius lands on people, not people become geniuses.  An idea has its own entity, its own life and “lands” on willing recipients.  Sometimes a recipient isn’t ready for it and it goes to another person.  That is the reason we see books, movies, songs that we were going to write.  With this in mind, I asked for an idea to land on me.  I wrote snippets in California.  I asked every day for an idea.  And one landed on me last week.

I then sat in front of my computer, a first time novelist, trying to construct a “proper” novel setting.  Where do I insert dialogue?  How many adjectives should I use?  How do I set the pace?  I have been reading novels this month trying to see the map of it all.

When I do my work in herbalism, I just kind of zone out, so to speak, and do the work.  My hands move deftly to the right plants and combinations, and I can “see” easily.  If I were to overthink it, I wouldn’t get much done.  I went into that same zone and just started writing.  It was as if I were meeting the characters myself as they hopped from fingertips to screen.  “Oh, well, hello, nice to meet you!”  “Are you coming back at the end of the book?  How nice.”  The prose and which person I used to speak changes and surprises me.  I am not writing this book, it seems, I am just privy to how it is creating itself, much like my paintings, much like my recipes, much like my work as an herbalist, I am merely the middleman…woman.

The book starts in the nineteen thirties.  As I was visiting my grandparents yesterday I asked a few basic questions, like did they drink tea or coffee more?  Did many folks have cars?  I told them I was trying to research the Cherokee land disputes that took place in the 30’s due to land rushes and oil companies.  Turns out Grandpa remembers all about it.  Grandma and Grandpa took turns illustrating in real life the dust bowl, the depression, the locusts, the farming, history unveiling itself.  Many, many things we never learned in public schools.  I was fascinated, humbled, grateful.

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These beautiful old dolls are among my grandmother’s.  As if my day couldn’t get any better, they were gifted to me.

Sometimes I fall into an irreconcilable sadness, wondering if we will ever get our own place, our own homestead, the city life here…I try to make the most of it.  I visit other’s farms, I try to save money (try being the key word), I cry.  It all seems so impossible.  But I can, at this moment, write….

Farmgirl Gardening Series Week 5 (Jalagi Adusgi, plant markers, and weeds)

 

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Cherokee Garden

Welcome to our Cherokee garden.  Maryjane loves to garden.  She likes to play in the back of my truck, then come over and plant some seeds, then water, then relax in the sun.  “This is too fun, Grammie!” she squeals.

This last week the nights (and frankly some of the days) were too cold for summer plants.  This week I will plant tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant.

This week we made signs denoting where everything is.  Selu-corn, Iya-Pumpkins, Nunv-potatoes, Sahlol– lobelia, Jisdu unigisdi– what the rabbit eats, or rose hips.  I even labeled the “weeds”.  Plant markers are notoriously impossible.  They shed their lettering by mid-season.  This time we “laminated” them with packing tape.

 

My garden is already beginning to flourish.  All the cold crop seeds have germinated.  Potatoes, onions, and garlic are just peeking over the soil, there are more to come up.  Mustard, kale, chard, lettuce, peas, radishes, cauliflower, beets, cabbage, carrots, pak choi, spinach, broccoli, herb seedlings, all raising up in song to Nudah (the sun) and to another beautiful day in the garden.

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Maryjane in the sun

A note on weeds:  Heavens, weeds will be there from the beginning to the end.  No use trying to eradicate them.  Mother Nature is a smidge savvier than you and I.  I go through the garden nearly every day and pick wayward, tiny weeds coming up.  That is the best we can do.  No worries.  The plants will still grow.  Plants want to grow!

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The Little Farmgirl

I hope your seedlings are up, your weeds are down, and you are watering each day if it doesn’t rain!

See you next week in our Jalagi Adusgi!

Friday Farmgirl Gardening Series Week 4 (summer seeds and the four sisters)

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Four sisters?  All these years I have talked to you about beneficial and interplanting   The three sisters is my favorite way to bring it to life.  Many Native tribes planted corn with beans and squash.  The pumpkin (iya) leaves suppress weeds and deter nighttime corn marauders, beans (duya) grow quickly and happily up the stalks of the corn, and corn (selu) is an absolute staple, corn meal, boiled corn, and don’t forget popcorn!  (That colorful corn one buys every year for decoration at Halloween if not treated is actually popcorn…)

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The Cherokee have another plant that joins the group.  The sacred plant, agaliha, or sunflower.  The sunflower follows the sun, her head tilted towards it, just as the farmer.  It’s leaves when young are delicious in salads, the seeds are a great source of protein, and the flowers encourage beneficial insects.  The north and east edges would be planted with the three sisters and the fourth sister, sunflower, which is just what I did.

I planted four different types of pumpkin, because after all, I am still Pumpkin Hollow Farm even in a community garden, showy white Lumina, mini, small blue, and princess pumpkins will bring whimsy to the garden and sustenance to the root cellar…or apartment corner, whatever.  I planted early sweet corn, a 90 day sweet corn, and Calico, an heirloom Indian corn which will make cornmeal and popcorn for my kitchen.  Yellow Indian woman, Bolito, Cannellini, and Bird’s Egg beans, all heirloom, all grew in a garden of a pioneer woman or a Cherokee woman.  I hold the brave spirits of both.  And they will grow in my garden too.

The easiest way to plant long rows quickly is to lay the seeds out in a somewhat straight line then follow up with a covering of organic garden soil.  Bean, 3 inches, corn, three inches, bean, 12 inches, pumpkin, 6 inches, bean….

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I also planted okra, green beans, white string beans, zucchini, butternut squash, and soybeans.  It is not time to plant tomatoes, peppers, or eggplant yet.  I did place tomato cages where they would go for staging purposes.  The nights are too cold yet.  But, summer seeds are most welcome and will love the rain/sun mix we have right now.

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The peas are just beginning to show their sleepy heads, unfurling just so.  The mustard and radishes are filled with wonder, and other seeds are just germinating and showing their tiny heads above the soil to look about.

I hope you are joining me in the garden this year.  There is just nothing more therapeutic.

“You Got to Learn Them To Eat.”

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He adjusted his cowboy hat as he entered the shop.  Beautifully dark skin and an easy smile shone from his slight frame.  He had come in to see the medicines.  A bit reminiscent, he was.  His grandmother was half Cherokee and she knew all the remedies and how to doctor up everyone on her place in Oklahoma.

I am not sure how we got from plants to homesteading but it was a seamless jump and his stories filled me with wonder.  He is about the same age as my friend, Rod, who was there making his jewelry and he came over to join the conversation.  Soon, I was quiet, a child, listening to tales and bits of wisdom I had yet to learn.

They grew a lot of food.  They grew corn for the pigs.  Good corn.  The cowboy talked of catching ‘coons and how good of eating they were.  A bit like bear.  Rod talked of hunting rabbits.  Nothing was wasted.  “You got to learn them to eat,” the cowboy’s grandmother said.  “They might look at you and wonder how you eat that but they are sitting there not eating.”  He told this as he explained how to use a sling shot to kill pigeons.  They are little but you just take the feathers off, and cook ’em.  They are good with dumplings.  They taste like chicken.  “Everything tastes like chicken!” Rod joked and added to the recollections.

Growing up in the seventies and eighties in the city there wasn’t much chance to “learn to eat”.  Sure, I learned to cook.  I learned thrift and such but everything we had came from the store.  Who knows what folks would have thought of us if we were out getting birds.  Or raccoons.  And I am pretty sure my mother would have avoided that like the plague.  She may never have learned to eat either!

But I think of that.  I have been writing a “how to homestead” blog for over three years now.  Almost a reenactment though.  This is how to homestead, as I eat a piece of veggie chick’n (which is quite good actually).  We had a hard time putting a hit on our roosters.  But, Doug and I were not brought up to hunt or feed our families.  Not many of the kids I know were.  I suppose if we were in dire straits, we may learn real quick, but as of right now the thought of my sheep from last summer in someone’s freezer brings me great sadness.

But I listened intently.  I am fascinated with all of the wisdom that was lost in such a short time.  The things I never learned, but I pay attention.  Doug and I hope to buy a place to homestead next year and even if we never use a sling shot to kill pigeons or if we end up with a pet raccoon instead of dinner, at least I will know how things were.  And one day we may need to learn our grandchildren to eat.

 

A Feast for the Senses on an Urban Homestead

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I put the kettle on. I am oddly consoled flipping the switch to turn on the fireplace. The sound of the dryer after nine years naught reverberates softly. I sip tea and watch the moon drift silently away above the rose hued mountain top in the early morning dawn. What shall I do now in my third floor apartment looking over the city blocks and the glorious mountain range? There are no chickens to tend to. No young lambs following on my skirts. No goats in need of milking. No ducks swimming in their icy pond. What shall we do?

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I positively glow at the sight of my kitchen. It is a beautiful, large expanse of creative space waiting for dinner parties and garnishes. For finishing touches of truffle salt and a sip of local Cabernet. It calls for melting butter and the smell of homemade bread. It speaks of decades of cookbooks and articles, of sustenance and my internal need to cook. Nay, create. Cooking is meatloaf every Tuesday. I have never made the same thing twice. I can be the entranced chef I long to be and still be in bed by nine.

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There are community gardens close by. My bicycle and basket yet to be purchased await and I can already feel the breeze against my warmed cheek as the summer sun heats the pavement as I whir past the buildings. Fresh produce overflows my carrier. I am planning a traditional Cherokee garden complete with language. Sacred sunflowers, the three sisters….more. Agaliha. Selu. Watsigu.

What shall we do here in our third floor apartment? Let’s cook. Let’s be chefs and farmers, shall we? Let’s preserve. Let’s not just can corn; let’s make relishes and marmalades and chutneys and more. Let’s create.

What’s that old saying? I think I have quoted it a time or two, Grow Where Planted!

Smudging 101, Deer Visitors, and the 10%

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There is a Talking Circle at my shop the first Sunday of each month.  Not really church, just a place to be with others and pray traditionally with Native influences and customs.  This last Sunday we talked about focusing our energies on the 10%.  90% of what we worry about is what the media tells us about, world issues, family issues, and many, many things that we have absolutely no control over.  As we focus more and more on the 90% we lose track of the 10% of things we can control and our gifts that we carry that can assist in this world.  Focusing on the 90% leads to anxiety and depression and helplessness.

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Last night I felt an overwhelming sense of desperation and helplessness.  How can we possibly afford anything in the state that has the newly highest cost of living?  How can we survive?  How can we stay near our babies if we had to move?  and on and on with scenarios that may or may not exist.  I went to sleep early as slumber will renew me and oft give me answers.  I woke up renewed.

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Within the realms of the 10% I can choose my back up plan in case we cannot get the large farm.  I could very well be an urban homesteader while making a difference in a career.  The career that I would be best in (in my opinion) is teaching young adults.  So, I relooked at my curriculum choices for school with a renewed sense of purpose.  I will let things unfold naturally, while saving money, since I cannot see the future.  No matter how hard I try.  Meanwhile I call on strength from the Great Spirit and the Directions.  This is how to smudge (prayers and blessing).

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Traditionally Cherokee prayer herbs would consist of Sweet grass to renew positive energy, Sage to rid negative energy, Tobacco as an offering to the Great Spirit, and Cedar as an offering to the spirits; animal, plant, and the deceased.  In a pottery bowl (heat proof) place the herbs desired and light.  Using a feather to spread the smoke around a room, over thyself, or in the Four Directions.  Any feather will do.

We call on the spirit of the East direction for strength and hope and faith.  We give thanks to the Creator for all the things in our lives and our own life.  We thank Grandfather Sun for rising each morning and providing warmth and light. 

We call on the spirit of the South for childlike wonder and awe, for lessons, and we thank our four legged brethren for providing us with companionship, food, and clothing, and to the plants for giving of themselves for food and medicine.

We call on the spirit of the West for strength, health, and endurance.  We give thanks to our ancestors for guiding us and praying for us.

We call on the spirit of the North for calm and wisdom.  We thank the north for rain and snow, for lessons learned, and for peace and breath.

We call on the spirit of the sky (galun’lati), to the star people and Grandmother moon for protection and inspiration.

We call on the spirit of the Mother Earth (alohi)for caring for us, for her life, therefore our life as we pledge to be more careful with her.

We are thankful for the ceremonial fire as our prayers are taken upward on the smoke and carried on the winged ones’ feathers and for our connection with all around us. 

We draw the smoke over ourselves that we will have a clear heart, a love for all, and will do things in the right way. 

And as my breath and peace came forth, the beautiful deer (ahwi) came to see me.

Wishing you peace and less worries….ehmenah.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Greatest Quotes

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When you think back on your life of quotes, those given to you, those read, which ones stand out to you?  Which ones offer direction for how you live?  Or simply whisper wisdom?  When I think on this question two quotes come to mind as the ones that ring loudest and most often.

I was caring for an elderly lady some years ago and told her that I wanted to be a veterinarian.  I later changed my mind and started an herbal line of medicines for animals instead but her advice is still relevant today.  I said something about being thirty-eight years old by the time I finished.

“You will be that age before you know it so you may as well be doing what you want.” she advised.

I started school but did not finish due to family responsibilities, costs, and life went on.  But now I would like to finish my teaching degree.  I would love to work with “spirited” kids.  Older teens to early twenties.  College maybe, high school likely.  Maybe a director of somewhere that encourages youth.  Or history.  Or culture.  By the time I get my master’s degree I will be forty-six years old at the very least.  Then Marsha’s words ring in my mind and I may as well see.  Why not?  I’ll be there soon enough.

Fast forward and I am sitting in the living room of a respected Native elder who has entrusted me with the words he wishes to share with his children.  I listen.  I want to be a bigger part of the Native community.  I want folks to know I make powerful medicine.  I want to have a sense of belonging.  What if I am not accepted?  I didn’t know if I needed invitations to places.  I didn’t know how to get involved.

“Just show up.” he said soundly.  “Just show up.”

So Doug and I took Maryjane to a Cherokee Circle meeting in Denver even though it was over an hour drive.  My best friend from middle and high school came with her family.  Her granddaughter is the very same age as Maryjane.  We showed up and were welcomed.  If we don’t embrace our culture it will be gone.  We have missed too many generations of traditions and community.  If not us, the grandmothers, then who?  So we showed up.  And it was wonderful.

What quotes have stayed with you?

The Homeschooled Mama (and clever flash cards)

 

IMG_2136I believe homeschooled children have moms that have always homeschooled themselves.  A desire to learn.  A desire for knowledge.  Boredom sets in, we grab a book.  I think I loved homeschooling my children so much, and now giving my granddaughter, Maryjane, a head start because I, myself, love to learn so much.

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Losing my farm was devastating in as much as I was losing the ability to practice what I had learned and in learning new skills as it was waving good bye to my adorable sheep.  Homeschoolers get bored easily.  Homeschooling mamas are the worst.  I cannot simply relax with a novel and a cup of tea for more than five minutes.  I must continue to fill my mind with wondrous and new ideas.  And the obsession!  Homeschooling folk are obsessive in their thirst for more information.  We want to learn something?  We need to learn everything about it.

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I was the child that would ask folks at church and school if they could teach me.  I am indebted to the substitutes, church and community members, and teachers that would spend precious off hours to teach me.  I learned braille, sign language, a bit of Japanese when I was entertaining a modeling contract in Japan, a small amount of Spanish while living on the west side, and six years of French.  I do wish I had a better memory!  So, now I am learning Cherokee.  It is not a Latin base so therefore the hardest language I have ever laid eyes on.  And it fuels my need to learn something.

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For my learning friends out there, I found a way to use up those excess envelopes.  There are always extras from stationary and cards.  Turn them into flash cards.  Write what you want on the flap and the answer underneath the flap.  Then reuse by putting a word on the front and the answer on the back.  The Martha Stewart in me finds them prettier than boring old 3×5 notecards.  The environmentalist in me likes to see these envelopes being used.  And the homeschooler loves to see how they can be transformed into a new world.

Keep learning out there, Folks.