Tuesday, August 03, 2004


Two months ago my grandfather, only in his mid-50's, passed away. Quick and unexpected, Grandpa apparently left a lot of unfinished business. The night of his visitation something knocked the power out to the house when the family had gathered for dinner. The night of his funeral there was a shooting star over my aunt's farm. It was so low it literally looked like someone waved a sparkler in the sky above the pasture. Coincidence? Maybe. It's entirely possible I'm reading things into this because I miss him.

BUT. My 5 and 7 year old cousins were incredibly close to him, especially the 7 year old. They had a special bond: kindred spirits from the day she was born. A couple of weeks ago she refused to ride her aunt's new horse (something Shayne would NEVER refuse to do: she's absolutely fearless) without any explanation. After some cajoling my aunt finally gave up and put the new mare out to pasture: where a frezied bout of kicking, bucking, and general wild behavior ensued. Later Shayne told her mom "Grandpa said not to ride that horse." My aunt acquired the new mare AFTER Grandpa's death. The 5 year old, Shayne's younger sister, has randomly said things like "why would I miss Grandpa? He's right here! Can't you see him???" and go on about her playtime without a second thought.

And as for the rest of us, us adults who miss him so? Another aunt (there's 8 kids in that family) was mysteriously gifted today with a kitten who looks quite disturbingly like her favorite cat. The cat who'd had to be put down this spring for various health reasons. This kitten appeared in the middle of their pasture, a long way from the road, by himself. Coincidence that the new squirt is exactly the same color and sex as her old cat, and randomly appeared in a section of the pasture she rarely visits on the day she's there?

My grandmother has dreams that she's crying and Grandpa's holding her, telling her it will get better and she'll be ok. The night before she took her horses down to the big show they did as a couple every year for 15 years she had a dream where Grandpa very clearly said "if they want to buy the team SELL." The 2nd day of the show someone wanted to buy one of her 4-up hitch team. She sold.

I'm certain there are simple coincidental explanations for all of these. I'm sure logic and science can put each occurrence into its own compartment, removing any connection and proving he had nothing to do with them. How much of faith is truly blind? I'm a very logical person, but there are some things I just can't explain away by logic. Am I simply ignorant, or is there a point where I have to leave logic behind and simply believe that 1) I don't know everything, nor should I, and 2) there is something out there bigger than I am.

I may be logical, I may have grown up in a scientific age. I still see magic in science, I see poetry and art and a Power in nature. Do I believe in afterlife? Absofuckinglutely. Do I believe in the traditional Judeo-Christian version of God? Not really. I'm more of a Lord and Lady person: balance and recurring cycles are in nature, why wouldn't they apply to us? As humans we are not above the laws of nature, much as we'd like to forget. So it makes sense that death is only another phase of a cycle. And there are times I know in the core of my soul that there IS something, someone, a Power, out there. Because I'm a feminist I see It as Her...and I see Her everywhere: in art, in beauty, in creativity, in Spring and Fall, in the way trees bend under the violence of a good thunderstorm, in the destructive wake of a tornado, and most especially in the Gloaming: that time of day when the sun is just dipping below the horizon and the clouds glow across the sky.

Maybe it's a silly thing, to take comfort in the idea that Grandpa is out there waiting. In my mind he's hanging out with the Goddess discussing planting strategies and looking out for Grandma and the rest of us. I hope so.

Friday, May 21, 2004

GoodBye Snaggletooth

I'm off to Mexico for a week, and let me tell you this vacation is completely necessary. Besides coming home from Chicago (work trip) to the stress of having one day to finish work, get all the errands done, and a job loss in my house, a very small soul in my family passed away this week. And I wasn't there to say goodbye. After 13 faithful years of demented companionship to my favorite aunt and best friend, Snaggletooth was overcome by an illness he, in his usual stubborn way, hid from all of us. One day he was fine, the next his little paws just couldn't hold him up anymore. Elyse carried him everywhere (quite a feat for a 10-15lb cat who normally hates being carried), he spent a few days in the kitty hospital, and the decision was made to put him down.

I can't even describe the wonderful mentalness of this cat. I lived with him and El for two years before moving to the Twin Cities, and life was always interesting with him. The cat who could hear a tuna can being opened over a blasting stereo, no matter where he was in the house. A big Creamcicle-colored, bad tempered, vengeful demon cat who got pissed off every time you'd sneeze, said "hmmm?" upon entering every room, and would lie in wait if you really pissed him off to ambush your feet as you rounded a corner or passed the couch. A cat with a strange fetish for biting the back of your head just hard enough to let you know he's there, who'd steal your space on the couch and look at you with his proverbial eyebrow raised as if to say "yeah, I stole your spot. What exactly do you think you can do about it?" A cat who had strange hair fetishes (eating it out of a brush, rolling in it if you lay on the floor, etc etc). Who left sweaty pawprints on the table at the vet's office, and purred when you took his temperature (hey, he WAS born in San Francisco).

Say we're silly for crying over a cat if you like, but this boy had more personality than most people I know.

Goodbye Snaggy. I hope heaven includes plenty of open cans of tunafish. I'll miss you!

Sunday, January 18, 2004

The Scourge of God

The TV movie Attila was on again tonight. As always, any story of "barbarians" attacking Rome catches my interest, especially when I've done research on the subject and know generally where the movie differs from what we know of reality. Why the "Scourge of God" title? Attila and his army nearly conquered the entire European continent (barring eastern Germany/Poland, where the Germanic tribes were so tough Rome never really conquered them), was less than a day's ride from destroying Rome itself, and seemed unstoppable.

Of course, this all happened long after Constantine converted the Empire to Christianity, so when Pope Leo (then just a priest, not yet Pope) rode out to meet Attila and "convinced" him to turn back it went down in the history books as a miracle. And, the church (as the church is wont to do) grabbed the opportunity to gain a bit more control over the Emperor via convincing the general populace that God stopped the heathen barbarians from destroying Rome.

What bullshit. In reality, Leo probably just pointed out the current situation to the Great King Attila: winter was coming on quickly and their supply trains would be hindered. Ancient wars rarely, if ever, extended into the winter months for just that reason. Even garrisoned Legions hunkered down during the cold months, because the supply trains were nearly stopped and they needed to stay close to base to survive. Attila went home, deep into his safe territory , to wait out the coldest months.

In truth, Attila was perhaps the most charismatic leader in quite some time, and also a canny tactician. He alone managed to unite the Hun tribes toward something greater than survival, his expanding empire stretched from Constantinople (which paid him yearly tribute, a fitting turn of the Wheel of Fate, Rome paying tribute instead of collecting it) to quite far into Western Europe.

I find it funny that historians (the History Channel is putting this on as "movies in time" and alternating the film with snippets of history in commercial breaks) so quickly dismiss the fiction of the story. The fact is no one knows much about the way Attila grew up, no one knows a hell of a lot until AFTER he became king. Then we have records, written Roman records, from emissaries sent to Attila's court. By all accounts, said emissaries were quite impressed by the barbarian king's manners, strong sense of justice and fairness, intelligence and honor.

The question remains, what would've happened if Attila hadn't died on his wedding night to Ildico? What if he'd lived on to whittle away at the Empire and gain Hun strength? Would his children have been able to continue his successes? They weren't able to after his wedding night, but perhaps they were too young, the Huns still held together more by mysticism and charisma, less by law. Yet it seemed Attila was on his way to creating a code of laws, of justice, of a government capable of sustaining a kingdom after the king dies. The film ends with Ildico poisoning Attila on their wedding night, causing him to bleed to death internally. The history books recorded his death as a bloody nose. The movie may be wrong, but that fiction makes much more sense than history, which was (of course) written by the victors. Would the Roman historian writing about this moment in time really admit the much feared King of the Huns was assassinated because Rome couldn't beat him in open battle? If Attila had lived and continued to conquer would the Church still have so much power? Would Italian, French, and Spanish have more Hungarian linguistic roots instead of Latin? Who knows?

Makes a nifty idea for an alternative history, though, doesn't it...

Saturday, January 03, 2004

The Best Reason...

For me to not have kids. Unfortunately this is not my own creation: must give credit to my favorite author, Mercedes Lackey. I highly recommend her to anyone who enjoys fantasy. Montoban, you should enjoy this one. Heehee

"That's not a child, it's a stomach with a warhorn attached to one end, and a mechanism that produces more excrement than a full-grown cow attached to the other."

Ah, the joy of babies.