When One Tugs at
A Single Thing in Nature ~
One Finds it Connected
To the Rest of the World.
~ John Muir
The Bialbero di Casorzo – the Double Tree of Casorzo – in Piedmont, Italy, consists of a Cherry Tree growing atop a Mulberry Tree. Also called Epiphytes, large ‘double-trees’ are a rarity as they require root connection to the ground, often through the hollow trunk of its host.
1) Giulio Colla
3) Enzo Isaiah
Love is not a Victory March
It’s a Cold and it’s a Broken Hallelujah
~ Leonard Cohen (21 Sept 1934 ~ 7 Nov 2016)
Performed by Petr Spatina ~ Prague, Czech Republic
There are all Kinds
In this World ~
The Same Love Twice.
~ F. Scott Fitzgerald
What I am looking for is a blessing not in disguise. ~ Jerome K. Jerome
Aside from the occasional fortune cookie, Sister Madly is rather inexperienced when it comes to magic. She sulks when the stars refuse to tell her anything specific, like how to replace the spark plugs in her car or which market is having a sale on her favorite cider. Yet the practitioners she encountered at Utopia back in the day had either less knowledge of the craft than she, or proved to be one noodle short of a darling chow mein- like this fellow.
So when a plucky pagan lad dropped by with a homemade candle asking if Utopia would allow him to ritually ‘bless the store,’ Sister Madly wasn’t quite sure what to do with him. Even the employees weren’t that dedicated; they routinely had to be bribed with a paycheck just to show up.
Management utterly adored the idea of such a ritual- after all, it was the grand opening of Utopia in its new location and they clearly could use all the supernatural aid the universe could spare. But even in their starry-eyed giddiness did Management retain enough wisdom to take measures to ensure that the Blessing did not result in a Blessing in Disguise by assigning Sister Madly to stand guard over the candle while it burned.
Typically, a votive candle has a lifespan of 8-10 hours. That means Sister Madly will be spending the better part of her day making certain that neither the clientele, the building, the city, nor the Utopian Sweetheart -Sinner*- caught on fire. This Sister Madly was perfectly able to do; she just wasn’t looking forward to it.
*A cat. A fat, lazy cat.
It rather generous of the lad, calling that scent ‘Tahitian Vanilla;’ ‘Burnt Toast’ was more like it. As for the Blessing… well, Sister Madly isn’t too familiar with pagan rituals, but she was almost certain that what the lad was doing around the candle was not so much ‘magic’ as it was ‘Pilates.’ However, once he began chanting in a cryptic and, in Sister Madly’s opinion, nonexistent language, she began to suspect that the Plucky Pagan was a card-carrying member of Club Psych Med- in fact, his entire ritual looked like something he picked up from watching far too many Hammer Films.
And Management just gave him permission to play with fire. Precious.
Now existential thoughts are inevitable when staring at a candle for hours on end, such as contemplating the meaning of life and wondering if it is possible to make Sake out of Rice-A-Roni. Breaking into such thoughts can be just as hazardous as waking a sleepwalker, yet Management risked it all by interrupting her thousand-yard stare.
“Do you think you can hurry that up?”
And just how does one hurry up a Blessing? If Sister Madly knew how to do that, she would be the most well-to-do complex organism in the local galaxy. One cannot hurry along a Blessing anymore than one can ‘Get a Life!’ or ‘Grow Up!’ on command. On the other hand, it is only a candle, and a questionable one at that; and while there are those who swear by Pilates, the practice is hardly magical- what repercussions could there possibly be?
Let’s start with coming face to face with THIS:
Yes, no sooner did Sister Madly snuff out the Burnt Toast Candle that the Lion appeared, with little regards as to who (Sister Madly) or what (the wall) was in his way. No doubt it was like the legend of Bloody Mary, where one can summon the spirit by chanting her name three times while looking into a mirror; thus when one snuffs out a Burnt Toast Candle, one summons a Dancing Lion from some Chinese New Year Celebration of days gone by- which was all fine and dandy, but what was Sister Madly to do with a Dancing Lion?
While those in attendance found the Lion Dance fascinating, the same cannot be said for Sinner who, at the start of the performance, launched himself from the counter via Victor’s open container of guacamole, onto the stroller of a terrified toddler, whose shriek sent Sinner straight into a display of creepy African Masks where he overturned several trays of beads.
Many, many beads…
This is because of the candle, isn’t it? Due to her insufficient understanding of Burnt Toast Candle Rituals, Sister Madly rendered the Blessing null and void by snuffing out the flame early. The Grand Opening Celebration would be forever be remembered as the day Sister Madly let a Blessing go awry, immortalized by photos of a Dancing Lion, green paw prints across various antiques, pillows and children, and a fat cat who refused to climb off the bookshelf until he had finished licking his feet.
Indeed, Utopia missed out on a Blessing that day…
But Sinner has liked guacamole ever since.
*The Lion Dance was planned weeks before by Management; they just neglected to mention it. To anyone.
THEME SONG: Dance with the Dragon, Jefferson Starship
All Images via Pinterest
And the day came
When the risk to remain
Tight in a bud
Was more painful
Than the risk it took
~ Anais Nin
The Queen of the Night (Night Blooming Cereus Cactus) blooms only one Midsummer’s night a year. The flower takes around 2 hours to blossom, during which it emits a sweet, calming fragrance to the surrounding area. Not long after reaching full bloom does the flower begins to wilt, and has withered by dawn.
Sister Madly so wanted to be an orphan when she was young. The Boxcar Children can do that to a girl.
No doubt it would be a dreamy life, where she would spend her days collecting pretty rocks, cooking over an open fire, bathing in a babbling brook (but only when she felt like it, by golly!) and stocking her humble abode with treasures found at the local junkyard. She would be a pioneer in the industrialized Midwest, where she would eat nothing but jerky and Zingers- which was only logical, since these foods never spoil. Also, they were readily available at the party store down the street.
Despite its flawless beauty, there was something about this plan that offended her mother so horribly- seriously, what did being an orphan have anything to do with her mother, anyway? After all, it was a perfectly normal childhood desire to be a foundling; even her sister, Tallulah, had orphan aspirations, which were inspired by the movie Annie.
*Turns out, being an orphan had everything to do with her mother.*
Alas, the dream began to sour when it became clear that Sister Madly could never survive in a boxcar; in fact, she is reminded of her own incompetence every time she goes camping. And it’s not just setting up the tent; getting in and out of the horrid thing can only be achieved through a sophisticated network of zippers which leaves her whimpering within the confines of that canvas prison until someone lets her out. If she can’t figure out a tent, surely the boxcar would have eaten her alive. Not to mention that she has no idea where the nearest junkyard is, that babbling brooks are hard to come by, and what on earth does she know about intentionally starting fires?
But what killed the orphan dream was not only the discovery that the frosting can be peeled off a Zinger in one rubbery piece, but that it can stick to the ceiling for hours.
And that riffraff is FDA approved.
Fortunately, her plucky spirit did not die with the dream, for even prior to these discoveries Sister Madly was fascinated with the idea of alternative worlds- especially those found down rabbit holes, inside of cupboards or magic books, or behind mirrors. It is so much easier to survive in these realms than in a boxcar as one’s basic necessities are always provided for through magic, with no shortage of life lessons learned through a host of mythical creatures, arch nemeses, and lovely lunch pail trees. Sister Madly never understood why those who stumbled upon these worlds spent their entire time trying to get back home- seriously, just think about it. Magical jewelry. Luck Dragons. Ancient texts. A moon that becomes a kitten’s smile. Spontaneous musical numbers in which you instinctively know all the songs and all the choreography.
And again- lunch pail trees.
But as the years passed, her looking-glass remained inaccessible, she never encountered the Goblin King, and her mother was constantly preventing her from traveling Over the Rainbow by dragging her to the basement whenever there was a tornado in the area. Apparently, Sister Madly’s insistence that she knew exactly how to get home from Oz was not at all reassuring.
As neither her mother nor the laws of physics were on her side, Sister Madly sulked at the prospect of living out the rest of her life in the world of the mundane.
But is there really such a difference between the two worlds?
In one world, roads are made of yellow brick.
In the other, roads are made of asphalt, in which large, gaping sinkholes appear without warning and swallow everything whole.
In one, the animals speak the native language and join you for dinner.
In the other, the animals speak a foreign language and are made into dinner.
In one, certain foods make you grow taller.
In the other, certain foods make you grow wider.
In one, the moon is a smile.
In the other, the moon has a face. Sometimes.
In one, mushrooms make you hallucinate.
In the other, mushrooms make you hallucinate.
In one, animals wear human clothing.
In the other, animals are human clothing.
So Sister Madly, explain to us if you will, why should you prefer the mysteries and adventures of alternative worlds when the one you live in is just as bizarre?
Then again, there’s that whole lunch pail tree thing…
THEME SONG: Mad World, Tears for Fears
Believe in ourselves
We can risk Curiosity,
Spontaneous Delight ~
Or any Experience
The Human Spirit.
~ ee cummings
3) Al Bruni
In the Madliverse, curiosity not only kills the cat, it buries it at the nearest construction site, fills the hole with cement and makes it the foundation of a fabulous 5-star hotel.
So it was with some trepidation when Sister Madly succumbed to her curiosity and asked Midori, a recent transplant from Japan, the question that had been plaguing her for days:
What language do you think in?
But Midori thought it the most natural question in the world, just as she thought dandelions made the lawn look ‘untidy.’ She also despised the name ‘Chad’- which proved to be most unfortunate as irony would one day find her married to a Chad. Midori was one who could trace her family tree back many, many generations straight through samurai Japan, while Sister Madly’s family tree was once handed her on a yellow post-it and whose branches were as alive and lush as a twig in the dead of winter. This family sapling covered no more than 5 generations and scattered them across Europe, Asia and the Middle East- something which seemed to fascinate Midori.
That was how the 2 of them found themselves lounging amongst the pillows of the opium bed at Utopia, debating over the proper pronunciation of the word Pączki*- until Management appeared, which resulted in the 3 of them lounging amongst the pillows of that antique opium bed, debating the proper pronunciation of the word Pączki. Similar debates would occur over the pronunciation of Gruyere, Reykjavik, and Jicama during the next several months, just a handful of the words they had both before seen, but had never heard spoken.
There was once an attempt to teach Sister Madly the Japanese language- and she is proud to say, to this day, she can still count to ‘1’ like a champ. Yet Midori steadfastly refused to teach her any Japanese recipes- “What is there to teach? Raw fish is not a cuisine.” In fact, Midori found America’s fondness for deep-frying anything remotely digestible as irrefutable proof that there is, indeed, a god.
*It’s pronounce POONCH-key. Say it: Pączki.
So it came to pass on the eve of Midori’s 22nd birthday that she and Sister Madly found themselves wandering the town, when…
“Oh my god- I’m so old!”
You know, Sister Madly once looked forward to the day in which she unintentionally frightened small children simply by being old. However, as Midori now finds herself ancient on the eve of her 22nd birthday, one can only concluded that Sister Madly has been laughing in the face of the Grim Reaper since the beginning of June.
Naturally this led them to the roof of the nearest parking garage that night with a roll of SweeTarts and some cider, doing that which all the Ancients find inevitable: discussing the laws of Thermodynamics.
Indeed, Sister Madly was untamable in those days.
But it wasn’t until they arrived back at Midori’s later that night that the conversation took on an entirely new meaning.
“Where’s my porch?”
The question was facetious, really, for one only had to look no further than the charred bits of wood smoldering at their feet to find said porch. Still, one could not help but wonder how the lovely wrap-around porch was suddenly reduced of a pile of charbroiled ashes without at least a note of apology.
That is, everyone except Midori.
There was no arguing with this logic, for obviously there had been some thermo involved in the removal of the porch; and there was no arguing that the dynamic of the porch had drastically changed. There was no arguing because of the few too many ciders Sister Madly had consumed not long before, and no longer found the topic remotely interesting.
However, when one removes the wrap-around porch from an old Victorian, one also removes the method of conquering the distance from the lawn to the front door. Fortunately- for Midori, at least- Sister Madly was able to offer up what remained of her strength and her brawn, and attempted to stand en pointe upon a stack of cinder blocks while she hoisted Midori upon her shoulders so she could unlock the front door.
This plan went much more smoothly in her mind, for in her mind, Sister Madly was skilled in ballet, had impeccable balance, and was not three sheets to the wind. In reality, her balance was as such that Sister Madly not only toppled Midori multiple times against the door, but multiple times against the doorbell as well- a doorbell that played the first few chords of Beethoven’s Fifth. Bet the landlord regrets that purchase now.
Still, it was the least Sister Madly could do; one simply cannot leave the elderly out in the frigid night air- that would be rude. Especially on her birthday.
*Midori tends to think in the language that she is currently speaking, by the way.
When you become
In your life.
~ Eckhart Tolle
3) Angela Kelly
4) Hope Carter
5) Don Komarechka
I would rather
Live in a World
Where my Life is
Surrounded by Mystery
Than live in a World
That my Mind
Could Comprehend it.
~ Harry Emerson Fosdick
1) Alexey Kljatov
2) Don Komarechka
3) Don Komarechka
4) Alexey Kljatov
5) Don Komarechka
Those who are
Live in a
~ Jack Kornfield
2) Gregory Basco
3) Bill Holsten
Having decided to embrace the change of seasons, Sister Madly has taken a moment out of her not-so-busy schedule to give you a glimpse of autumn in her neck of the cosmos:
The Golds in all their glory!
Resting gently on the sidewalk!
Stealing your favorite parking space!
And the Reds, majestic in their splendor!
Falling in the orchards!
Dancing across the pavement!
And the Oranges, ablaze in their… hm.
Once again… The Oranges, awaiting your kamikaze dive!
Assembled and ready for festive disembowelment!
Yes, the Oranges!
The ORANGES that hunt you!
The ORANGES that haunt you!
The Oranges that seek to consume your very soul!
… and the ones that bring you back to your childhood.
So put on your best furry socks…
… turn out all the lights…
… and hit ‘PLAY’…
… because it is far better to be haunted by a pumpkin than to be devoured by the Great Old One…
Yes, welcome to the Madliverse. Cheetos should be here by noon.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
HARISSA SWEET POTATO TAGINE
- 2 Medium Sweet Potatoes, cubed
- 2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
- 1 can coconut milk
- 4-6 chicken thighs, cubed (opt)
- 2-3 carrots, sliced
- 8 oz mushrooms, sliced
- 1 cup peas
- other veggies as desired (cauliflower, butternut squash, etc)
- 3-5 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 inch ginger root, grated – OR – 2 tsp powder
- 2 Tbsp Harissa sauce
- 2 tsp smoked paprika
- 2 tsp coriander
- 1/2 tsp cumin
- 1/2 tsp pepper
- 1/4 tsp salt (or to taste)
- 1/4 tsp turmeric
- 1/4 tsp cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp nutmeg
Combine sweet potatoes, broth, and coconut milk in a large pot
Bring to a gentle boil and cover
Cook until the sweet potato is easily pierced with a fork, 10-15 minutes
Puree w/immersion blender or food processor until desired smoothness
Add chicken, veggies and spices to sauce and mix thoroughly
Add broth if necessary/desired
Bring to boil
Reduce to a simmer and cover
* STIR FREQUENTLY * to prevent burning, especially if using cast iron or other nonstick pan
Cook until veggies are tender and chicken is cooked through, 25 min or so.
THEME SONG: Autumn Leaves, Coldcut
Your Sacred Space
Is Where You Can
Over and Over Again.
~ Joseph Campbell
Las Pazoas (‘The Pools’) ~ Xilitla, Mexico
5) Georgina Avila
Just as a Lotus
Never Refuses to Flower ~
A Leaf never Resists
At the Appointed Time.
Portland Japanese Gardens ~ Portland, OR
1) Protik Hossain
2) David Gn
3) Paul Pichugi
It began around 5 AM, when Sister Madly was awakened by this cryptic message:
“Err n and I want to ws ‘ll err I’m here to westv xxx and bj ask.”
Apparently, auto-correct couldn’t be bothered to interpret the Professors’ fantastic twaddle- that or, as Sister Madly suspected, just didn’t dare.
As it turned out, the Professors wanted to lay out itinerary for the day, consisting of a leisurely salad, followed by an advanced yoga class, after which they would be hitting up every Happy Hour between the studio and the drunk tank.
Yeah, Sister Madly doesn’t quite understand the logic behind the Professors, either. To begin with, Sister Madly does not do this thing called ‘salad’- in fact, the very sight of a leafy vegetable is enough to send her into fits. As for yoga- she has this thing called a spine, which is determined to prevent Sister Madly from bending herself into a pretzel.
Besides- yoga poses are for mountain tops.
But she’s totally down for the Happy Hour part.
As she was politely declining the salad and the yoga (i.e., Salad? Hello, have we met?!) there came a knock on her door, which she decided to confront while wrapped in her leopard-print bed sheet (not as sexy as it sounds.)
There are few things more terrifying than finding a man in a HAZMAT suit at your door. This post-apocalyptic missionary’s message was regarding the upcoming window-replacement that afternoon, and how Sister Madly was to vacate the apartment for the duration due to something called ‘Lead Paint.’ Apparently, it is not the most nutritious substance to inhale.
Society is always warning us of the dangers of inhaling substances other than air- even water has gotten a bad rap. Surely these fears are greatly exaggerated!
Take, for example, the first time Sister Madly tried cooking with wine: she got quite a buzz just standing over the skillet. Seriously, inhaling the steam was almost more fun than drinking the wine- almost. But she made it through the incident without much damage to body and soul, and ended up writing a very lovely email to a friend. What if it’s the same with Lead Paint? It could be the key to unlocking one’s creative genius! Yet Sister Madly will never find out; no, she’ll be whimpering through salads and sprawled out dead on a yoga mat while the HAZMAT Missionary returns home and paints some masterpiece worthy of Michelangelo.
After being shooed from her apartment, Sister Madly began the death march towards the Leisurely Salad- and was waylaid by a cackling crow, who pitched a dead bird at her from the tree branch overhead.
For heaven’s sake- what did Sister Madly ever do to you? Not only was this act deliberate, it was executed with force. And yet the incident wasn’t a total surprise, for she had recently come across a crow in the most peculiar way: having found a Tarot Deck in a free bin nearby, Sister Madly was naturally curious as to what this deck was all about.
And the first card she drew was The IX of Dead Sticks.
Ok, so ‘crow’ wasn’t the first creature
that came to mind…
It’s said that there are different methods of interpreting Tarot cards, one of these being intuitively. In retrospect, Sister Madly’s intuition had revealed that The IX of Dead Sticks meant that even though she would be flirting with a vegan lifestyle, the crows would not fooled by this pretense will pelt her with the corpses of their kin.
This is why The IX of Dead Sticks never turns up in horror stories: such a plot would only sell on the West Coast.
You know, Sister Madly, Leisurely Salads and Yoga are only in your future if you permit it. You are at liberty to change that future if it’s heading in a direction you don’t wish to go- maybe that’s what The XI of Dead Sticks is really trying to tell you.
And so Sister Madly informed the Professors that she will not be participating in the pre-Happy Hour Vegan Extravaganza; she’ll be eating dumplings and General’s Chicken* at the Chinese Restaurant, the one with the palm trees painted willy-nilly on the walls.
* With a fork, which caused the Professors to have a meltdown.
Fortunately, they do not know where that is.
The IX of Dead Sticks. Sister Madly is not fooled; she knows exactly who’s behind all this:
THEME SONG: Black Crow, Peter Murphy’s Carver Combo
Creates Wonder ~
Is the Basis
~ Neil Armstrong
Winchester Mystery House ~ San Jose, CA
~ The one Decision
That Scares you the Most
What the Caterpillar
calls the End
The rest of the World
calls a Butterfly.
~ Lao Tzu
There are times when Sister Madly prefers the world she creates rather than the one that was created for her. Yet every once in a while she comes across an individual who lives in such sweet naivety that her world seems dull by comparison, such as the case of the Little Hippie- a customer she encountered some years ago who had but one complaint: the hemp seeds he had recently planted- the ones he had cut from a bracelet purchased a month before- never sprouted.
It was at Utopia, a bazaar of sorts once described as ‘a bunch of weird people doing weird things.’ At best, they were a bunch of incredibly dull people doing incredibly dull things, frequently regarded by the devout about town as heathens in search of a ripe little soul to snack on. This was patently untrue, as several of these Utopian Sweethearts were vegan and wouldn’t dream of consuming any animal or its byproduct- souls included.
As it was her duty to provide excellent customer service – and as it was nowhere near soul-snacking time- Sister Madly guided the Little Hippie’s attention to the word STERILE boldly stated on the bracelet’s tag.
The Little Hippie merely stared with vague comprehension; to him, sterile meant nothing more than an exceptional, if not psychotic, cleanliness- a trait not typical of most hippies in the region. But then, he was rather new to the lifestyle.
In spite of the array of bizarre tasks outlined in her job description, Sister Madly felt that her hourly wages fell short of informing strangers the particulars of the birds and the bees- even when pertaining to plants. That sort of assistance is reserved for Management- should they ever put down their soul sandwiches and set foot out of the office.
So she decided to skip the particulars and just use a rather broad analogy:
Think of it this way, little one: if someone drilled a hole completely through you top to bottom, you probably wouldn’t be able to produce any offspring, either. Or, say, vital signs…
Essentially, it means these little seeds can’t have babies.
Perhaps that wasn’t the best analogy, as indicated by the Little Hippie’s distressed whisper of “You mean they’re, like, impotent?”
There are no words to describe the devastation of that poor innocent who, while still trying to grow into his week-old dreadlocks and hand-woven mukluks, suddenly realized that he had only sober plans for the weekend. It was as though Sister Madly had heartlessly revealed that Rosebud was nothing more than a sled- had he been the type to care about that in the first place, that is.
Of course, she can recommend one of the state-of-the-art fertility gods just in from Africa. Sister Madly can personally attest to them having some form of mystical properties, as they have a tendency to pop off the wall for no good reason whatsoever- especially around Victor, which would terrify him into long periods of celibacy.
“So, I bury the Fertility God with the seeds.”
If that is what makes you happy.
The happiness lasted for all of 2 days, when the Little Hippie appeared once more to return the Fertility God after finding his backyard overrun with dozens of baby bunnies.
THEME SONG: Evil Seeds, The Raveonettes
Is No Reason
To Stop Dreaming.