Friday, September 30, 2011


(See, I am right, darn it!)

Once again I have been "corrected" by a blog reader who wanted to tell me that the Welcome button on my sidebar is incorrect.

When I first posted this I was corrected because I used the phrase "Ceud Mile Failte". I was told, rather snottily by some people, and nicely by others, that the correct spelling is "Cead." No, I used the spelling "Ceud" deliberately. To clarify things, I changed Gaelic to Scottish Gaelic.

But today, I get a "correction" saying that "Cead Mile Failte" is Irish Gaelic. For heaven's sake, read it correctly : "CEUD MILE FAILTE" - Scottish Gaelic. And yes, I know that it (both Irish and Scottish) means A Hundred Thousand Welcomes, but I shortened it to Welcome.

I suppose, to be ultra correct, I should present it as Ceud Mìle Fàilte, with the accent marks.

To be fair, I have noticed that Cead and Ceud are sometimes used interchangeably. And, when you Google Ceud, you still get 100 times more Cead results than Ceud. However, I am going to be a stickler on this point and continue to use Ceud.

I'm going to prove I'm right by showing a whole bunch of images I found with the word Ceud:
Maybe I should demonstrate the correct spelling of Ceud on my thong. But no one sees my underwear (and they are not thongs anyway). So perhaps I should let my dog advertise it instead:

They get the spelling right at The Country Squire Restaurant in Warsaw, NC (Owner Iris Lennon is of Scottish descent):

And at The Thistle House Bed and Breakfast in Granite Falls, NC:

And at the Texas Scottish Festival and Games:

They have Ceud spelled right on bumper stickers:

And on rubber stamps:

And on cross stitch pictures:

And on a pewter quaich (traditional Scottish drinking cup):
And on commemorative plates:

And on paper napkins:

And on decorative tiles:

You may wonder why I chose to use Ceud over Cead anyway, since I am of both Irish and Scottish descent. For one thing, I feel closer to my Scottish heritage, not having known about my Irish connection until about a half dozen years ago. Second, everyone knows about Irish heritage and symbols - leprechauns, harps, the claddagh, shamrocks and all that.

It seems to me that Scottish Gaelic or Celtic traditions and symbols are less well known. Aside from the ubiquitous bagpipes and tartans, there are several other national symbols of Scotland. For example, see the napkin and tile above, utilizing the thistle.

Do you know why the proud Scots use the thorny, humble thistle as a national symbol? There is a legend which relates how a sleeping party of Scots warriors were almost set upon by an invading band of Vikings and were only saved when one of the attackers trod on a wild thistle with his bare feet. His cries raised the alarm and the roused Scots duly defeated the Danes. In gratitude, the plant became known as the Guardian Thistle and was adopted as the symbol of Scotland.

Sadly, there is no historical evidence to back up the tale. But whatever its origins, the thistle has been an important Scottish symbol for more than 500 years. Perhaps its first recognisable use was on silver coins issued in 1470 during the reign of James III, and from the early 16th century, it was incorporated into the Royal Arms of Scotland.

The members of Scotland's premier Order of Chivalry, The Most Ancient and Noble Order of the Thistle, wear a collar chain whose links are made of golden thistles. The Knights and Ladies of the Thistle also wear a breast star which bears the thistle emblem and a motto which is regularly associated with it, Nemo Me Impune Lacessit  -  " no one provokes me with impunity".

Scottish Rampant Lion Flag

Another popular symbol of Scotland is the lion. It has been used as a heraldic device for many centuries by Scottish kings. William I of Scotland was known as "The Lion" after he introduced the lion symbol into his coat of arms. The Scottish lion has always been shown on the royal shield as being rampant, i.e. standing erect on the hind legs with the head in profile and forelegs extended.

There is a suggestion that perhaps the Kings of Scotland kept a real lion when in residence at the castles of Stirling and Edinburgh. Both castles have a building within the walls known as "The Lion's Den". This flag is really a flag to be used solely by Scotland's royalty, and so in theory at least its usage should be confined to use on state occasions. However, its image can be seen all over Scotland.

Sometimes the lion and the thistle are used together:
Another long-standing symbol of Scotland is the unicorn. The Royal Coat of Arms of Scotland, used prior to 1603 by the kings of Scotland, incorporated a lion rampant shield supported by two unicorns.

Valued for its associations with chastity, nobility, and freedom, the unicorn was a fierce, proud, and dangerous creature. He contended all those who would see him captured or oppressed, and would rather die fighting than surrender and face imprisonment or slavery. It is no wonder, then, that this creature was such a perfect symbol for the Scots, who for centuries struggled to remain independent and free of foreign influence.

Below, the unicorn is shown with other Scottish symbols: the lion rampant, the thistle and Scotland's national flag, the blue and white St. Andrew's flag, or Saltire.

Final Note: Please no more harassing me about Cead/Ceud. Remember, although I appear to be a gentle soul, I have the fierceness of the Scottish unicorn and the roar of the Scottish lion in me. Nemo Me Impune Lacessit!

Friday, September 23, 2011


I love how Titian tresses are transformed
into autumn leaves in this painting.

The autumn equinox occurred in the central time zone at about 4:00 this  morning. It was a day observed by my ancestors, the ancient Celts. These days it is often called Mabon by neopagans and Wiccans. However, the name Mabon is a modern invention. The Druids called the occasion Alban Elfed.

Be that as it may, it was a harvest festival for the ancients and remains so for us moderns. For this post, I'll go with the name Mabon, especially since I found most of these lovely artistic interpretations of the autumn equinox by Googling "Mabon".  Unfortunately, hardly any of them were credited.

This harvest goddess is also a
dryad, for her gown becomes
the roots of a tree.

The wheel of the year has certainly turned here. It has frozen twice already, once on the 14th and again on the 21st. Each time, I scrounged as many sheets, blankets, comforters, tablecloths and towels as I could find and covered my annuals, both those in pots and those planted in the ground. Ultimately there will come an evening when frost is forecast and I will have to let them go, but not for now.  Because we are experiencing a
delightful Indian Summer that promises to last into early October,  I feel compelled to water, sustain and protect my annuals from Jack Frost.
This is the time for me to purchase pots of yellow and purple mums and also to get more pansies. I buy pansies in the spring, but they always peter out by July, so I jumped at the chance to purchase some of these cool-weather-loving plants at Lowe's for just $3.33 a pot. In yellow and purple tones, they really compliment the mums, as well as the purple scaevola and orange marigolds that are still going strong.

Celts and moderns alike, we all pray
for such abundant harvests as this.

My tulip and daffodil order has arrived, but I am waiting just a bit longer to plant them. About 2 months ago I covered strips of lawn by my front-yard fence with landscape fabric. The grass under the fabric is now yellow, and in a couple of weeks it will be so easy to rototill and amend this ground. In six months or so, it will be awash with spring-flowering bulbs, as well as tiger lilies, a few Martagon lilies (new to me and still on order), and a few more daylilies I couldn't resist (one can never have too many daylilies.)

This year, for the first time, I am planting perennials in the fall. I'm trusting our local nurserymen who say it is okay to do so. I've already planted Black-Eyed Susans (rudbeckia), Carpathian bellflowers, liatris and phlox. Still waiting to be planted are peach-leaved bellflowers (platycodon) and sedum Autumn Joy.

I mentioned that there will be a time when it really isn't feasible to cover my annuals anymore. When they freeze, I will mourn them. But then a sea change will take place in me. Instead of dreading autumn, I will embrace it, buying and setting out pumpkins, picking sprays of maple leaves and seeking out the hidden haunts of bittersweet.

I have always resisted autumn, way back to the days of my childhood when fall meant going back to school. As much as I loved school, I loved summer vacations more. The first sight of wild asters and goldenrod always put me in a melancholy mood. That is why, to this day, I have never have planted either plant in my gardens.

"Mabon" by Elli Mader

Here we see a corn dolly made from
the stalks of wheat. Traditional
corn dollies are much smaller!

"Mabon Demeter" by Wendy Andrew, reminding us of
Persephone, who spends one-half the year underground.

Pumpkins and gourds are Mabon
harvest symbols worldwide.

At the equinox, day and night and
the seasons are in equal balance.

"Mabon" by Rosie Lauren Smith

This painting embraces all the rich browns,
yellows and oranges of autumn.

"Mabon Sleeping Goddess"
(She sleeps to awaken in the spring!)

Saturday, September 10, 2011


Dan and I at the Sundeck of Aspen - or Ajax -
Mountain, 11,212 feet high

Just after I graduated from college, I made my first trip to the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. This past week - FORTY YEARS LATER - I went back. It was good to be on a Rocky Mountain High again.
I won't bore you with a travelogue, per se. I'll just give a few impressions of my trip.

Boulder and Aspen are both such dog-friendly towns. I saw more dogs - and more different breeds -  in a few short days than I do in a year in Bismarck. I'm not exaggerating. Dogs are everywhere - on the plazas, in outdoor restaurants, even welcome on the gondola going up Aspen Mountain. To name just a few, I saw cocker spaniels, an Airedale, a papillon, a drooling Labrador with a bib, Maltese, a bichon frise, an Irish Wolfhound, a Gordon setter, many black labs and even more golden retrievers. Plus, a lone German short hair pointer, which made me lonely for Gracie, stuck back home in a kennel.

Taking the gondola ride up Aspen Mountain was one of the highlights of our trip, which was a mini-family reunion for the Fredericksen boys of Williston, ND. (I say mini-reunion because one brother didn't bother to come, and there were no kids or grandkids, just the "boys" and their wives.

From the top of the mountain, you can see the Continental Divide, the Elk Mountain range of the Rockies and a glimpse of the famous Maroon Bells. Called "fourteeners", each of the Maroon Bells is over 14,000 feet high.

The Maroon bells are the farthest-back, deep
blue mountains just to the left of Dan's cap

Boulder and Aspen are both Colorado mountain cities, but they are so different. Boulder is a funky college-town, full of youthful students, runners and bikers, old hippies and tree huggers of all ages. Aspen is a town for old money, new money and newer celebrities. Instead of New Age shops, there are expensive art galleries and very high end stores like Prada.

Since my Achilles tendinitis was really bothering me, I knew I couldn't do much shopping in Boulder, but I had hoped to check out some shops that I had Googled. I only made it into two. But I did find some lovely garden ornaments at one, West End Gardener.

Pearl Street, Boulder, CO

I had much the same problem in Aspen, compounded by trying to keep up with Dana and Bonny, my two fitter sisters-in-law, and the high altitude which made me huff and puff even more than usual.

We enjoyed an outdoor dinner one evening at the
lovely Italian restaurant, Campo Di Fiori, in Aspen

I knew most Aspen shops would be off limits budget-wise. The shops there are so expensive that you don't even dare venture inside. However, Dana brought us to a place she knew I would love, the very charming Explore Booksellers, shown below.

Explore Booksellers

The newly-restored Victorian splendor
of The Hotel Jerome in Aspen

I was to find another great shop, however. After we had lunch in the outdoor restaurant at the resplendent Hotel Jerome, we walked across the street to find the little "Old Hippie Antique Shop" in a bright yellow clapboard house with dark green trim. There, I found a gorgeous, tall (and heavy) blue and white Italian vase for a great bargain. Bonny and Dana were gracious enough to carry it back to the van for me!

The six of us stayed at The Timbers Club at
Snowmass Village, just a few miles from Aspen

The Gathering Room at The Timbers

The night before Dan and I left (we had to leave earlier than the others), we all did get to have a down home, meat and potatoes dinner: steaks brought from ND by Dan and me, baked potatoes, corn on the cob, toasted bread and salad. And afterward, the six of us hunkered down before the fireplace to listen to the "boys" - Dickie, Danny and Scotty - reminisce about their grandparents' homestead,  their boyhood days, their parents and other beloved relatives. It was a great ending to a great trip.

In front of the fireplace
at The Timbers Club