Monday, October 17, 2016


Pancho had a bathroom/water fetish!

When my cat, Pancho, died of feline leukemia, I took to my bed for three days and cried more than I think I've ever cried in my life. He was only three and this was in the early 70's, before there was a vaccine. I'd never even heard of it. And, except for a couple of months in the New Hampshire woods with my parents' cats, he was an indoor cat. I loved Pancho more than any cat I've lived with before or since. He was fun and spunky and smart.

Maggie, going gray

And now I've lost two dogs and a cat in the past five months. I haven't cried as I did with Pancho, but I feel utterly anchorless. And I've always believed that I don't like anchors. It's almost a hollow feeling, as though I could blow away. I guess I never fully realized how much my life revolved around my animals. I continue to plan my days around the trip to the dog park at noon. When I come home late, I immediately think about how hungry Maggie must be. I just saw the note on the calendar that it's time to buy more flea/tick medicine and was about to make the phone call.

Poor Myrtie!

I've lived with cats my entire life, beginning with Myrtie (named after my grandmother, Myrtle), my parents' cat before I was born. 

I should never have been allowed near animals!

Dogs followed soon after – always dachshunds in my childhood. 

Robin always slept under the covers with me
and rode in the basket of my bicycle

But in the middle of my life, though I always had cats, I was dogless for more than 20 years. I lived in a city, they'd have to be inside, they'd need walks...…

Ellen and Midas

We finally got a dog when we left San Francisco and moved to Santa Rosa. Ellen wanted a dog, so we got a Golden Retriever puppy. She named him King Midas. Several years later, we got a Black Lab puppy named Becca. We lived on an acre at the entrance to Spring Lake Park, a far cry from living in the city. Other than one skunk encounter, it was no big deal and Spring Lake was right out the front door for walks.

Becca and Midas

But living in the “country” resulted in our going a little off the deep end with pets. At one point, we had 2 dogs, 6 cats, 2 horses, 2 cockatiels and a whole bunch of rats! I don't recommend that! I definitely learned that I don't like having pets who are forced to live in cages.

Dinner time when I was growing up

Midas developed bone cancer while Ellen was in graduate school in Chicago. She flew home to say goodbye to him, but it was up to me to have him euthanized. She left me with instructions that I was to sing “Leaving on a Jet Plane” to him while he died. It was beautiful that day and I got Midas out on the front porch (he could barely move), where he lay in the sun and the vet came and administered the shot, while I sang and cried.

Midas and Becca had lived, for the most part, as though the other didn't exist. They were not buddies, but Becca fell into a major depression when Midas died. She just stared out the window all day. We put her on anti-depressants. Ellen pushed me to get another dog and emailed photos from online searches. She sent the photo of a dog named Scully, who was about to be euthanized at a kill shelter in Grass Valley. Julia and I went up to check her out and we took Becca along.

Maggie loves water

The shelter had an outdoor fenced-in area where you could take a dog to get acquainted. We brought out several dogs, one at a time, to meet Becca. She wasn't interested. Then we brought out Scully – beautiful brown and white with a bushy curved tail - and that was the one for Becca! Then Julia knelt down and Scully put her front legs around Julia's neck. That sealed the deal. Scully had been found running down a road with her black and white brother and was presumed to be part Akita (the tail!) and part Border Collie. Brown and white Border Collies are much less common than black and white ones and the resemblance to Scully – renamed Maggie – is obvious.

Julia and Maggie

It turned out that we had saved a severely traumatized dog. We presume she had been beaten, We did not see her pee for almost a year – she always hid. If we called her to go outside, she ran past us as fast as she could. She was terrified of hoses. But she became close to me and she developed separation anxiety. She ate the furniture when no one was home – three couches, the rattan off some chairs, the legs of tables and the corners of bookcases. Most people would have sent her back to the shelter, I guess.

Chilling in the backyard

People suggested chew toys, but Maggie had plenty of those. One day I came home to find she had eaten a hole in my bedspread, the blanket, the sheets, the mattress cover, and the mattress and had stored her toys inside. I learned later that Akitas are nesters.

At the dog park

She loved going to the dog park and was the fastest dog, loving being chased by the others. Back then there was a pond and she adored water. Eventually, the pond was eliminated because it was so difficult to keep clean. Maggie really missed it.

Andrew and Lilly

After Becca died, Ellen and her family came to live with me while she worked on her dissertation and that included Lilly. They had adopted her at the same time they had been encouraging me to get another dog. In the meantime, Maggie had had a traumatic encounter with another dog and was wary of dogs. I had to stop taking her to the dog park and she never really became friends with Lilly.


Sadly, Lilly died too young and Ellen adopted another dog, Nola. But when Ellen finished her dissertation and moved to North Carolina to teach, that left Maggie alone, again. But she had mellowed and really slowed down – age and arthritis – and we returned to the dog park. Though she wasn't very social and couldn't run as before, she always loved going. We became regulars again.

Maggie and Bruno enjoying the dog park

And then, two years ago, I rescued another dog, Bruno, who was twelve and a boxer-pitbull mix. He was a sweetie and I'll write a bit more about him another time.

Bruno took over the recliner

Other than the expense of vet bills and medications, it's pretty easy having two old and mellow dogs and I highly recommend senior rescues – if you can afford it! The thought of old, abandoned dogs breaks my heart. I'll leave the hard work of puppies for someone else!

Bruno always rode shotgun

Bruno lived with me for a year and a half. He died, at about fourteen, in April. Then my cat, Polly, died in June at seventeen. Then Maggie died in September, just shy of her fourteenth birthday.

Polly as a kitten

I was busy all day on her last day and we didn't make it to the dog park until about 6:00 – we usually went mid-day. As we walked from the parking lot, I thought about how good she looked for her age. I thought about the vet, who had said, "but they can go downhill quickly." And that night, about 10:00, she started having trouble walking and she couldn't lie down. She was pacing, panting and in pain. I took her to the emergency vet and they diagnosed a ruptured disc and said she was gradually becoming paralyzed. They gave me long, slow and unpleasant treatment options, which made no sense for a dog her age.

Bruno and Maggie hanging out at the foot of the bed

I knew that Julia would want to say goodbye, so I left Maggie at the vet, where they gave her strong painkillers, and told them that if she got markedly worse and really uncomfortable during the night, they should call me any time for permission to euthanize her. When Julia and I arrived in the morning, Maggie was paralyzed and in severe distress and they hadn't called to let me know. She was heavily medicated, but still trying to get up (which was impossible) and I hope that she realized we were there and holding, petting and talking to her as she was put out of her pain.

Maggie and the dragonfly garden tile

Now, more than a month later, I haven't moved her food bowl and there's still some food in her food bin and treats (peanut butter flavored) in the treat container. I have moved her arthritis medication off the kitchen counter. I've started reclaiming the backyard, which was seriously abused and neglected after many years of dogs. And I can't decide whether to get another dog or cat.


I'd only adopt an older rescue and that means vet bills, not out in the future, but soon. I think I'm a good candidate for that because providing them with love and a good home when they've been abandoned, outweighs my sadness when they die. I also want to drive across the country, hopefully by sometime next year – a genealogical pilgrimage. It's difficult to travel with a dog – hot cars, “no dogs allowed,” etc. And leaving an elderly dog behind for a long time doesn't seem kind.

This guy is cute, don't you think?

I've visited some dogs and have been tempted and I'm trying to resist. My house is empty in a way I've never experienced before. I like living alone, but, apparently, that means without people. I wasn't sure until now.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Tomato Cheese Tart

I've been promising to publish the recipe for my Tomato Cheese Tart. So since I promised Kathleen yesterday that she'd find it on my blog, I'd better publish it! Anyway, the correct tomatoes won't be around for long.

When I found this recipe, it called for plum tomatoes. If you find some good ones, they can be used in a pinch. But I make this over and over during the brief time I can find dry-farmed tomatoes (usually Early Girl). These are tomatoes that are grown with little water. The result is that they are less watery and more intensely flavored. The Whole Foods stores in Sonoma County get them from a farm in Sebastopol - so they're local. I have also found them at the farmers market.

Both dry-farmed and plum tomatoes are less watery, which is important because baking releases the water - and you don't want a soggy tart! I actually include some yellow tomatoes (the ones I find are an intense yellow color and are small and I use two) for a prettier tart. Of course, using all red tomatoes is just fine.

Tomato Gruyere Tart
Makes 1 11" tart

3/4 c. whole wheat flour
3/4 c. white flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper
1 Tbs. chopped fresh thyme (or 1 tsp. dried)
4 Tbs. chilled butter
4-1/2 Tbs. shortening
1/4 c. orange juice (or cold water)

Combine flours and seasonings. Cut in butter and shortening. Stir in liquid until the dough starts to come together. Form into a disk with your hands. Roll out to fit an 11" removable bottom tart pan. The dough breaks easily and you will probably have to patch it - which is fine. It may crack on the bottom during baking - fine again. Prick the pastry all over with a fork. Line the pastry with foil and top with pie weights or dried beans. Bake at 375 degrees for 10 minutes. Remove the foil and weights and bake another 12 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool.

2 c. grated Gruyere cheese
5 medium red dry-farmed tomatoes - 5 thin slices each, don't use ends
2 medium yellow tomatoes - 5 thin slices each, don't use ends
2 Tbs. olive oil
1 Tbs. chopped fresh thyme
1 Tbs. chopped fresh parsley

Lay the slices of tomato on a triple thickness of paper towels. Sprinkle all over with salt. Allow to stand at least 1/2 hr., preferably 1 hr. This removes some of the moisture. Blot dry with some additional paper towels. Paper towels can be composted.

Spread the cheese in the cooled tart shell. Reserve the three smallest slices of red tomato. Overlap the remaining red slices around the outer edge of the tart. Overlap the yellow slices inside the red ring, overlapping in the opposite direction. Place the three small slices in the middle of the tart. The tart should be covered. Brush on the olive oil. Sprinkle with the fresh herbs. Bake at 375 degrees for 40 minutes. Let cool 10 minutes before removing from pan and slicing. Can also be eaten at room temperature.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Women's Equality Day

Me, as Dick Cheney

Activism is in my blood. Really. And along the female line on my mother's side – the Campbell/Schindlers. It began for me with feminism, but I was steeped in that so early that I didn't even know to call it “activism.” It was simply what I learned at my mother's knee. 

My mother, Claire Schindler Collier, a born feminist

When the Feminist Movement came along in the early 70's, I wondered what all the fuss was about. Didn't everyone know that stuff? Of course, I had more to learn, but youth often thinks it knows everything.

Julia and Ellen, more activists in the family

Last weekend The Sonoma County Commission on the Status of Women held a public event for Women's Equality Day. It was all about getting women to not only vote, but to run for office. It was not very well-attended (what's new?) and there were few men. Susan Chunco and I were tabling for the Green Party and our female presidential candidate, Jill Stein. The Green Party has run a woman for president in the last three elections!

Jill Stein for President, Green Party

The gathering gave me an opportunity to share the activist/feminist history of my family. At some point during the 1870's, my great-great-grandmother, Rachel Hutchinson Campbell (born in Scotland) took two of her daughters to hear Henry Ward Beecher. He was an abolitionist, who also supported women's suffrage and temperance, as well as being the brother of Harriet Beecher Stowe. Rachel was there because she was a supporter of the temperance movement. It was primarily a women-led movement because drunk men make very poor husbands!

Rachel Hutchinson Campbell

Her daughter, my great-grandmother Isabelle, was so taken with Beecher's talk that she, along with her sister, followed him back to his hotel and engaged him in conversation for a couple of hours in the lobby. And thus, a suffragist was born!

Saturday's event was the perfect opportunity to pull out my blow-up of Isabelle Campbell Schindler marching with other suffragists in Connecticut (photo undated). She was the hit of the day. Many women had their pictures taken posing with the suffragists – after all, Women's Equality Day was made possible by their struggle. The Press Democrat sent a reporter and he took our picture and that's what made it into the Sunday paper to illustrate the event.

Here's the link to the article and photo:

You can tell from my blog and from my Facebook page that I love to take photographs and have an immense collection of my work. I come by it honestly because my family has a huge collection of family photographs – more on my mother's side, but plenty on both. The earliest portrait of my great-grandmother Isabelle was taken during the Civil War. Her older (immigrant!) brothers fought in the war. One of them earned the Medal of Honor for action at the Battle of Vicksburg. (I have ancestors on both sides in this war.)

Isabelle during the Civil War

Before marrying, Isabelle was a teacher. She went on to become a speaker for the Suffrage Movement – in addition to raising seven children (two others died in infancy) all across the country because her Unitarian minister husband, John, moved them a lot. She was a much loved mother judging by the writings by her children that I have. They called her “Mumpsie.”

Isabelle and John with all of their children
My grandfather, John, is the young boy in the middle

The only picture I have of her in her role as suffragist is the one I blew up and take with me to events. I also have the frayed remnants of a “Votes for Women” sash! Written on the back of the photo is:

Miss Fanny Lawson – a little NYC girl, who is dubbed “The Little Mouse” but who does good canvassing
Miss Hare – leader of the county and principal of one of the Troy (NY) schools
Mrs. Elsie Benedict of Colorado, leader of the squad she brought here
Mrs. Hovine, whose place I am to take in this county
(Isabelle Schindler) It is “I”. Be not afraid.
Miss Freeman, local worker
Mrs. May Belle Morgan, southern beauty
Miss Freeman, local worker

Two of her daughters, my great-aunts Jessie and Helen never married and lived their lives outside the norm. Both worked – Jessie taught English and I have her editions of Shakespeare's plays (with margin notes) and Helen did a number of things, including working as a “spy” for her father and brothers' detective agency.

After my great-grandmother died in 1929, my great-grandfather, John Franklin Schindler, went on to fight to abolish the death penalty; just one of the causes he worked on. He traveled extensively speaking and writing.

In the early 1930's, a letter of his was published in The New York Times predicting that, if allowed to carry guns, sheriff's deputies would end up killing innocent people. Little did he know! As part of that work, he and his sons developed a lie detector. 

John F. Schindler on the right, sons Raymond in middle and Walter on left

One of his sons, my great-uncle Raymond Schindler, was one of the founders and a member of the Court of Last Resort, which helped in the administration of justice in cases of persons who have exhausted the ordinary legal remedies in efforts to prove themselves innocent of crimes. He also appeared in a 1950's television show of the same name. It had a short run, but we always watched it.

Great-uncle Raymond C. Schindler, standing, white hair

Okay, I guess I'm going to have to acknowledge that there's some activism on the male side, as well!

In a future post I'll elaborate on my mother. For now, no poem, no recipe, instead excerpts from Isabelle Campbell Schindler's obituary and eulogy. You'll see why I'm proud to claim her as family.


Isabelle Campbell Schindler was born in New Philadelphia, Ohio, on January 31st, 1858; she was 71 years of age. Her parents, James Campbell and Rachel Hutchinson, came to the United States from Ayr, Scotland about 1850 [1848], and located in Ohio.

Belle Campbell, as she was affectionately known to her schoolmates and friends, graduated from the New Philadelphia High School, then took a two year's course in Worthington College, Worthington, Ohio, preparing herself to teach school. She taught school for nearly four years.

On February 21st, 1880, Mr. and Mrs. Schindler were married in New Comerstown [I have the wedding announcement that appeared in the local paper], Ohio, where Mrs. Schindler was then a teacher in the village schools. Mr. Schindler was at the time a freshman in St.Lawrence University, Canton, New York. Mrs. Schindler joined her husband when he began his junior year, and took post-graduate work in the second oldest co-educational college in the United States, admitting women to all the privileges accorded to men.

Mr. and Mrs. Schindler have reared a family of seven children, six of whom survive the mother. She was from the days of their birth to the day of her passing, their most beloved and precious possession. Her understanding mind and devoted companionship won their continuing affection. Mother was always first in the Schindler household, and in the mind of every member of the family.

From early girlhood to the day she was last taken ill, Mrs. Schindler was always interested in some dort of work for the relief, or assistance, of others outside of her own family. Her mother was a leader in the Militant temperance crusade in Ohio over fifty years ago; and the daughter became a worthy successor as a leader in the work of the Woman's Christian Temperance Union.

In 1884, at a meeting in Marshalltown, Iowa, called to consider the claims of Cremation as a method of disposing of the dead, Mrs. Schindler and two liberal ministers spoke in favor of the startling and altogether unpopular proposal. She was advanced in her thinking, conservative in statement, considerate of differing opinion, and had the full courage of her convictions [she was cremated].

Early in her life Mrs. Schindler became a believer in and advocate of Woman's Suffrage. Before she was 20 years of age she, with one of her sisters, heard Henry Ward Beecher advocate of what was then called Women's Rights. The two girls called on Mr. Beecher at his hotel and asked him questions regarding the then new and strange doctrine.

Later on, when a resident of New York City, Mrs. Schindler became a leader and public speaker, under the direction of Carrie Chapman Catt, in the strenuous and finally successful Woman's Suffrage Campaign. One of her notable achievements was a tour she made as speaker to open air meetings in the final suffrage campaign in Ohio. In that campaign she spoke from the same platform with Richmond Pearson Hobson, and acquitted herself with credit to her cause and to herself.

(This eulogy from Dr. Frederick W. Roman, lecturer and writer.)

My friends, we are met to do homage and pay our last respects to our departed friend. Her life as a record of exalted devotion and consecration to the great duties of home and citizenship. Her example will be to all of us a lasting memory, a challenge and call t the highest potentialities of our lives. We will miss her in our intimate circles. She leaves vacant a position in our minds and hearts that cannot be filled. There will be left, however, the rich and cherished memory of one who knew the art of being loyal; who took joy in the service of things worthwhile; who was solicitous for the welfare of all who had the privilege of crossing her life's pathway.

It was my good fortune to pass many delightful hours with Mrs. Schindler. For the last several years we have been in the closest cooperation in talking of the needs of our immediate society and the world at large. During these contacts I was made to realize what a busy life she had always led. She was deeply interested in the homes of our country. She was a sympathetic and understanding friend to ambitious boys and girls. She was ever solicitous of discovering new modes of thought and action that would lead to enriched forms of behavior and more responsible attitudes.

She had an alert mind. Its capacities and potentialities passed the circle of her immediate environment. It led to her entrance into various reform movements, and finally it accounts for the progressive role she was already playing here in the city of Los Angeles; and we who are members of the “Parliament of Man” will always be cognizant of the loss of one who was to us an ever ready challenge to the highest that in nature we could be.

Mrs. Schindler was a woman who read widely. She had clear conceptions of the capacity of men who hold responsible positions. She had a comprehensive grasp of the great political and economic questions of our time. She was always actuated by wise and firm decisions, moderated by tolerance, and ever ready to change a point of view in the light of new findings. She was a woman who never grew old.......

The sum total of her sympathies makes us feel our loss at this hour all the more. She has left us a life that will be regarded as a rich heritage. In this age of social disorder her life will be looked upon as one of those rare human values that become the stabilizer of the best forms of human conduct. She was a model to all mothers. Her resplendent attitudes toward life, and her continues striving toward the larger responsibility of both the home and the State make her forever an outstanding example to all women.

Our friend shared the common thought of the large majority of thoughtful men and women in the belief of some sort of immortality. She was not disposed to talk much on these matters because her life was spent at all times in a rich measure of service to others. She was winning immortality, not by remembering herself, but by a constant forgetting in a devotion to something that was larger than mere existence. She was engaged in evolving conceptions of truth that can never die. She was absorbed in the formulation of newer and richer life processes that would be calculated to reduce social waste, and that in the end would result in newer and better conceptions of living. This is itself would accelerate the growth and extension of a permanent civilization.....

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Gravenstein Apples

I just plucked the last apple off the Gravenstein apple tree I planted about a dozen years ago. I have been inundated! And this was the first year I got big apples – bigger than I expect Gravensteins to be.

Gravenstein apple on my tree

I'm not sure my freezer can hold any more apple products. I've got 7 apple pie fillings, a couple of apple crisps, the lemon/apple combination for a couple of Lemon-Pecan-Apple cakes, and 5 pints of applesauce.

Just a few of the many

I've shared quite a few pies at potlucks, a couple of the apple cakes and given pints of applesauce to several friends. And I still have a couple of refrigerator drawers filled with apples. My nephew, Simon, said that if you have that apple cake, there's no need to make any other kind of cake. I think I got the recipe from my Aunt Mary and don't remember her being much of a cook, but this is a winner.

Lemon-Pecan-Apple Cake

Lemon-Pecan-Apple Cake

3 medium apples
1 large lemon
1 cup butter, melted
½ cup vegetable oil
3 large eggs
2 cups sugar
1-1/2 tsp. vanilla
3 cups flour
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1 cup chopped pecans

Peel, core and chop the apples and toss in a bowl with grated rind and juice from the lemon. Pour the melted butter into a large bowl and add the oil. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, and add the vanilla. Beat in the sugar. Stir in the flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder. Stir in the chopped apples and pecans. Pour into a greased and floured 10” tube pan. Bake at 350° for about one hour, until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool in the pan for 15 minutes, then remove the outside part of the pan. When the cake has cooled, remove it from the rest of the pan. Make the glaze and spread on the cake.

1 cup confectioners' sugar
2 Tbs. butter, softened
1 large lemon
1 Tbs. honey

Grate and squeeze the lemon. Combine all the ingredients, using 3 Tbs. lemon juice. Spread on the cake.

I planted the tree because my parents had one when they lived out in Bennett Valley. It produced the same bounty and my mother made and froze pie fillings and applesauce. But there were so many apples that for a few years I made cider – without a cider press. I'd quarter the apples – just to make sure there would be no worms in the cider – and then throw them in my food processor (I had the heavy duty one) and chop them up, skins and all. Then I'd squeeze them in cheesecloth – with my own two hands! - and it took forever. But the cider was worth it. I can't make it anymore. My arthritic hands aren't strong enough.

Julia helping in my mother's kitchen

It took me right back to my childhood in the Northeast – to the thick, rich cider we'd get in the Fall. My 4th grade teacher, Mrs. Buckley, lived on a farm that was a couple hundred years old and in the barn there was an old-fashioned cider press. We took a field trip to her farm and made cider. I remember singing “100 Bottles of Beer on the Wall” on the bus to the farm – I'm sure the driver was happy it was a short trip.

But the memory of cider, sugared cake doughnuts and the smell of burning leaves is an indelible part of childhood and is one of the reasons I still feel I'm more a part of the Northeast than California, though I've lived here more than two-thirds of my life. And it's ironic that an apple tree, of a variety that grows in California, never fails to take me back.

Apple Pie

Apple Pie

2-1/2 cup flour
1 tsp. salt
½ cup cold butter
½ cup organic shortening
½ cup orange juice

Combine the flour and salt. Cut in the butter and shortening (I use a pastry cutter with flat blades – the wire ones aren't very strong.) Add the orange juice (I start with 6 T. and add more if the dough doesn't come together) and mix with a fork until it starts to come together. Divide the dough in two balls, working it until the dough comes together enough to roll.

8 apples, preferably Gravensteins (6, if they're really big)
1 cup brown sugar
¼ cup flour
½ tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. cinnamon
¼ tsp. allspice (more if you like allspice)

Mix all the ingredients except the apples in a large bowl. Peel, quarter and core the apples and thinly slice them. Mix them with the dry ingredients.

Roll out half the dough and line a pie plate (the little foil ones are not big enough!). Fill with the apple filling. Roll out the other ball of dough and place on top of the filling. Crimp. Cut several slits in the top pie crust.

Bake at 400° for 20 minutes, reduce to 375° for about 40 more minutes.

Note: I actually don't measure any of the filling, so it's an approximation. Also, sometimes I add the grated peel of a lemon, or ½ a pint of blackberries, or some chopped dried apricots and chopped candied ginger. It's fun to play around with additions.

Friday, August 19, 2016

From Sacred Landscapes to Warrior Society

From Sacred Landscapes to Warrior Society - 081916

The room where a had my dream

I had a dream while staying in Paris during the summer of 2013. There were no visuals, purely physical and emotional sensations. I was facing a great danger. Though I couldn't see it, I knew it was in front of me and manifest by a massive and strong enemy. It was a powerful and oppressive presence. I also knew that there were people behind me – people who were with me in the struggle – whatever it might be. I had no sense of whether we would win or lose. What I did know is that we had to have courage in the face of the enemy, no matter how afraid we might be. The unknown “battle” was not engaged in the dream. It was a premonition.

Yarrow in the glen

After I left Paris, I went to Scotland. Some of my ancestors are from Scotland – Campbells and Hutchinsons who came to the United States not long before the U.S. Civil War. I had planned the trip carefully because I wanted to see as much as I could in a short time without a car. I researched where I might find standing stones and cairns to which I could walk. I found Kilmartin in Kilmartin Glen.

An explanation of the sites in Kilmartin Glen - with my reflection

The glen – valley – carved by a glacier and its runoff contains relics of human use going back almost 5,000 years. It began as a ritual burying ground before being used later for human habitation and agriculture.

An old spelling of Campbell in the cemetery by the church in Kilmartin

Kilmartin Glen's designation is “very remote rural” with a population under 900. But it is on a local bus line! I did a lot of my traveling on bus lines which are not used by tourists, sometimes on one lane roads. Because they don't run often, linking my modes of travel was limiting, but well worth it.

My window at the Kilmartin Inn

I stayed at the Kilmartin Inn – an inn upstairs and a pub downstairs – with a commanding view of the glen. I could only stay two nights – not nearly enough to see 350 monuments in a 6-mile radius. One of my goals is to get back there for at least four more nights!

The view of the glen from my room

On my one full day there, I walked on the path that runs through the valley along a linear cemetery of cairns (burial sites under piles of stone) and standing stones. It was a beautiful, warm day. I was lucky to have only a couple of days of misty weather during my time in Scotland. I had the path to myself the entire day.

The path by the thistles

As I approached one of the cairns, I stopped by a stand of thistles. I don't know what attracted me, since they were small, pale and dusty – not the impressive ones, large and bright - I'd seen elsewhere. I realized that I hadn't yet taken a photo of thistles, so I took one of this scraggly bunch. 

The pale dusty thistles

As I turned to head back to the cairn, I had such a strong sense of deja vu, that I was completely disoriented and almost fell over. I was thinking, “But I've never been here, I've never been here!” As I reoriented myself, it dawned on me that my dream in Paris had taken place in this spot in the glen. The feeling was so strong that I have never doubted it. It had been a precognitive dream, but I would eventually find it to be so much more.

The cairn

The rest of the day was uneventful, though deeply satisfying, spent among the cairns and standing stones and small “castles.” The standing stones I saw were in a sheep field. In Scotland, you can walk into such privately-owned fields, as long as you close the gate behind you. It was the only place where I encountered people.

One of the standing stones

Much of the area is privately owned by corporations. Because of deposits from glaciers and their runoff, the area exists on gravel terraces – the town itself sits on a terrace above the floor of the glen – and there is a large gravel quarry nearby. The hills are owned by timber companies and much of Scotland (whose hills have been denuded many times) is covered with non-native trees (mostly Sitka Spruce) planted in neat rows next to clear cut areas. That is all clearly visible in Kilmartin Glen. Many of the historic sites in the area are on corporate property, though still accessible to the public.

Cup and ring markings - I bought a locally made necklace with these markings and wear it often

That night at the pub, the owner gave me tastes of different single-malt whiskies – so I could compare one without peat and ones with different levels of peat (some of Kilmartin Glen is a peat bog). People told stories around the fire. A young couple was hiking the length of Scotland. They had pitched their tent across the street on a patch of lawn next to the church cemetery. No one ever told them they couldn't. Imagine! We all sat around with our whisky and listened to their adventures.

View of the cairn from a hillside

I had to leave early the next day on the local bus to catch a ferry for the next leg of my trip and I thought, only occasionally, of my deja vu/dream experience in the glen. It wasn't until I got home a few weeks later and began researching the area further that I began to understand its significance. I ordered a couple of Scottish books not available here – one from the museum in Kilmartin. A quote on the flyleaf says, “Visiting the Kilmartin valley without this book in your rucksack would be very silly indeed.” Well, my visit hadn't been “silly,” but it would have been greatly enhanced by the information in the book. There were few signs in the area and I had, apparently, walked right past some fabulous sites. Possibly setting me up for having to go back? The glen was described as having begun as sacred space and having evolved as a symbol of power.

The second book is a collection of essays on Argyll – seat of Clan Campbell – of which Kilmartin is a part. One of the essays by Trevor Cowie is titled “The Bronze Age: from Sacred Landscapes to Warrior Society.” Now I felt that I was on to something linking my dream to the glen. Kilmartin Glen is one of those places where we can trace the change from matriarchal societies rooted in reverence of the natural world to patriarchal societies rooted in exploitation of the gifts of nature. It was an easy leap for me to imagine myself in that dream as being among the women who must have fought (in many ways on many fronts) bravely to inhibit that march to patriarchy. I do not make an easy leap to past lives (and haven't), but I did and do feel a special thrill to imagine the possibility that my female ancestors (predecessors of the Campbells) were active in that struggle and that the struggle is somewhere in my genes.

Description of a cairn with the woman in the center

I had been satisfied with those imaginings until recently (and here I go political on you). Now we may be at the culmination of that struggle our foremothers began so many thousands of years ago. Now is the time (or, possibly, past the time) for everyone to understand that the culture of war an exploitation could have brought humankind to an evolutionary dead end. Thus, the current presidential election has brought my dream and the struggle it represents directly back to me. I find myself constantly in conversations about Hillary Clinton's candidacy – both as the first woman candidate from one of two “major” parties and as the “only choice” to defeat Donald Trump. It is not my intent to have that full conversation here, but her candidacy is very relevant to the dream. I now find myself standing up for the values for which I imagine my very ancient “mothers” fought. And that struggle is being waged against a woman who represents the strongest and most inhumane patriarchy that has ever existed. My “mothers” did not win and, interestingly, the evidence of their lives was obliterated for millennia by climate change that brought the bogs which covered the cairns and stones. And that loss is still seen in their glen in the form of gravel quarries and clear cuts.

I do not think we will win this time either. And, sadly, it is a woman, finding her power in modeling her actions on those of men, who will continue to lead us pell mell to what could be the end of humankind, who will rape the earth, will build more and better nuclear weapons, and who will wage war on people the world over. I am grateful to those who struggle against this with me. I feel them around me as I did in the dream. And, as in the dream, the enemy is huge, powerful and oppressive. And we may not win, but we must try.

I have begun a series of poems (primarily unfinished, so far) about my time in the glen. Here is one of them.

Scottish Glen, Kilmartin
by Susan Lamont

Like mummers moving through our dreams,
souls incant ancient songs, long stolen
from the mouths of silenced bards. Where poems

of praise once wove through hazel, oak and elm, now
sentineled shadows of foreign spruce stand guard.
No bones remain, but memory of footsteps, flesh to earth,

haunts the spirit path, links cairns and
standing stones, dark permanence the peat held fast
through time 'til man reclaimed this earth for fire.

A constellation of stones announces
the rising moon. Archaic script of ciphers,
the alchemy of stone and simple tools,

speak ceremony. Bearing the gift of ritual,
shades of women move unshod
between heather and stream, delicate

and deliberate as water birds, frail
against the tide of newly-minted bronze,
wielded by men wedded to conquest and keen blade.

Today, under warming sky, a stream meanders
where once a torrent roared, a glen
swept wide and bare by rage of ice melt.

Dull blue thistles sway from press
of bees, slow and full in their work.
Dusty umbels of yarrow lace the path

through this trace of glacial scour.
Earth holds her secrets, faint as shadows
of ancient ferns pressed in stone, elusive

as the sheen of raven's blue-black wing.
Cleared by weapon and axe, the hills look down,
denuded. Along their scars, the sea lochs furthest reach

begins to stretch, flexing muscles as strong
as glaciers. Midst this calamity of grief,
who will bury our parched bones against a rising tide?