Fairy Houses in Upstate New York

Look at these Fairy Houses!  There’s even a faerie playground!

I usually don’t care for fairy houses; they are often too cute and whimsical. THESE are, if you’ll pardon the expression, out of this world.  They’re in Tinker Nature Park near Rochester, NY.  This one’s my favorite:

Fairy Houses copyright Angie Armstrong

LOOK! It has a clock! (I thought faeries didn’t follow time!) Photo copyright 2016 Angie Armstrong from the web. https://www.newyorkupstate.com/expo/life-and-culture/erry-2018/10/607784170e2177/fairy-houses-tinker-rochester.html

Each one is a beautiful, unique, creative, artistic creation.

For now, the artists/craftsperson is anonymous.

Read the complete article to see all the incredible pictures!

(I’m not quite sure why the photos are copyright 2016 but the article is dated October 8, 2018; I’m guessing it’s a repost/update.)



Source article published at https://www.newyorkupstate.com/  “New York Upstate” by Advance Media, New York.


A Tarnished Adaptation from the Golden Legend

Nicely told picture book legend, with the rhythm of a folktale. Most of the illustrations convey the mood and enhance the text, especially the aged face of the “fierce and bold” Offero, and the dark black and red illustration which accompanies the devil disguised as a knight. The illustration of the king was impressively majestic, but the illustration of a birch forest was an odd choice to pair with Offero’s hut by the river (no hut; and only an abstract river), and I object strongly to the child representing Christ portrayed as a blonde Anglo. I appreciate the source notes. PreK – Grade 3. Text A; illustrations B

Offero, “The Bearer” wanted to serve the most powerful king.

He meets the devil disguised as a knight, and for a brief time serves him.


Hodges, Margaret, adaptation. Based on a tale from The Golden Legend printed by William Caxton (1483). Illustrated by Richard Jesse Watson. The Legend of Saint Christopher. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Books For Young readers, 2002. Print.

“I am Jesus Christ, the King whom you serve. And you will no longer be called Offero — but Christopher, the Christ-bearer.”

Review original published on Good Reads

Additional Information:

Illustration for Golden Legend, 1493 Image from WikipediaA portrait of William Caxton:

National Library of Wales [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons








William Caxton’s monogram; By Henry Curwen (A History of Booksellers) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

A brief biography of William Caxton from the BBC.

Jacobus de Voragine was the original compiler/editor of the legends in the Golden Legend. He was the archbishop of Genoa 1292-1298/1299. He was beatified in 1816.


“Crucifixion” (showing among others the archbishop Jacobus da Varagine with his book, the Golden Legend, in his hand), fresco by Ottaviano Nelli, Chapel of the Trinci Palace, Foligno, Italy. Photo by Georges Jansoone. Nelli, Ottaviano [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D, from Wikimedia Commons

Eleven Hundred Men Went Into The Water – Those Are Pearls That Were His Eyes

The author in Ocean City, MD, 2016-2017.  Photo by author.

I’ve had Peter Benchley’s novel Jaws in my To-Be-Read list for several years. A writer friend recently recommended its dramatic opening chapter, so finally I picked it up and took it with me on my beach vacation last month.

It was that opening scene which stuck with me as I waded ankle-deep in riptide currents on my last day of vacation, unexpectedly recalling with visceral clarity the suspense of a young woman swimming and being snapped in two.

            As might be expected, Benchley’s novel provides a thorough exploration of the characters—of course I pictured them as the actors from the 1975 Spielberg film—including an impossible-to-forget liaison between the police chief’s wife and the expert marine biologist. A different colleague suggested it as a teaching text for a graduate lecture on “How To Write Sex Scenes.” I’d recommend it as a classic example of write-what-you-know, or more precisely, don’t write what you don’t know. One misplaced detail destroys plausibility.  Benchley describes Chief Brody’s wife heading out for her assignation and changing her clothes in a gas station restroom: “She stripped, and standing on the cold floor in her bare feet. . .” I had to put the book down and laugh. No women would ever stand barefoot in a gas station restroom!

My favorite scene in the movie wasn’t in the book, but I did find it quoted elsewhere, described as “one of the most famous monologues in film history.” During a drinking-and-male-bonding moment, fishing-boat captain Quint reveals his naval experience during World War II:

            Japanese submarine slammed two torpedoes into our side, Chief. We was comin’ back from the island of Tinian . . . just delivered the bomb, the Hiroshima bomb. Eleven hundred men went into the water. Vessel went down in twelve minutes. . . Very first light, Chief, the sharks come cruisin’. So we formed ourselves into tight groups. . . And the idea was, the shark goes to the nearest man, and then he’d start poundin’ and hollerin’ and screamin’ and sometimes the shark would go away. . . Sometimes he wouldn’t go away. Sometimes that shark, he looks right into you. Right into your eyes. You know the thing about a shark, he’s got lifeless eyes, black eyes, like a doll’s eyes. When he comes at ya, he doesn’t seem to be livin’. Until he bites ya and those black eyes roll over white. And then . . . ah, then you hear that terrible high-pitch screamin’, and the ocean turns red, and in spite of all the poundin’ and the hollerin’ they all come in and . . . rip you to pieces (quoted in Vincent & Vladic, p. 80).


With the movie scene as my introduction to this W.W. II Pacific Ocean disaster, I was delighted to stumble across Lynn Vincent and Sarah Vladic’s  Indianapolis: The True Story of the Worst Sea Disaster in U.S. Naval History and the Fifty-Year Fight To Exonerate an Innocent Man.  In the movie Jaws, Quint explains that “the bomb mission was so secret, no distress signal had been sent. They didn’t even list us overdue for a week.”  Not exactly. In Vincent’s and Vladic’s book, we learn the truth, details too horrible for a summer action film. As the vessel quickly filled with seawater, a distress signal was sent; when the “Abandon Ship” order came, Chief Warrant Officer Leonard Woods dismissed his men and stayed alone at his post, bracing himself against a bulkhead due to the extreme list (tilt), sending and re-sending the SOS as the ship went down to the deep.  He didn’t know the equipment was damaged, and the distress signal never went through. Due to a series of miscommunications, back at Naval HQ in the Philippines, officers assumed the Indianapolis had arrived at her next destination. Despite these and other institutional failures, Indianapolis Captain Charles McVay himself was court-martialed for losing his ship. For fifty years, his crew fought to clear his name.

The true horrors the men of the Indianapolis faced were worse than only sharks. Drifting in the ocean, in too few life rafts, men were covered in ship fuel, oil coating their bodies and dripping into their eyes. Rare, salvaged food supplies were hoarded and fought over. Days of dehydration led to hallucinations. Some hallucinated that rescue was nigh:

Their beloved Indy had not sunk at all! She was anchored just below the surface—and there were treats to be had: Ice cream sundaes! Candy bars! Ice-cold Coca-Cola! The men dove happily down to take their pick. Not far off, a hotel was discovered suspended on the water, and anyone could enjoy an hour of rest in the one available bunk if he just waited his turn in line. So far, the line was only fifteen men deep, because some had found an even better option: an A & W root beer stand with free floats served by beautiful pin-up girls (221).

Men swam to their death, thinking they were grasping salvation.

In others, dehydration brought out violent paranoia. Men turned against each other, seeing their mates as enemies. To some, cannibalism meant survival.  Survivors were forced to kill their comrades in self-defense. One group of friends made a pact to kill one another if a man developed signs of insanity.

In school, we learned the basic elements of plot: Man versus man; man versus nature.  The horrors that humans can do far outstrip Benchley’s and Spielberg’s giant shark.  The tragedy of the Indianapolis is that it is true.

Still, Quint’s speech captures the essence of the horror of the historical event. It resonates in my mind, impossible to forget, not only due to its subject matter.  He concludes: “. . . eleven hundred men went into the water. Three hundred sixteen men come out. The sharks took the rest.” Quint’s speech is the epitome of oration. I find myself repeating and reciting the penultimate words of his monologue. Finally, I realize: it’s poetry.

Ĕ  lév  ĕn / hún  drĕd / mén  wĕnt  /  ín   tð  /  thĕ  wát  ĕr

Thrée / hún  drĕd  /  síx  tĕen  /  mén  /  cóme   ðut.

Thĕ shárks  /  tóok  /  thĕ   rést.

Robert Shaw, the actor playing Quint, re-wrote this speech himself before filming. His words are memorable enough to make me think of Shakespeare and the shipwreck in The Tempest; the presumed drowning of Ferdinand’s father:

Full fathom five thy father lies;

Of his bones are coral made.

Those are pearls that were his eyes:

Nothing of him that doth fade,

Both doth suffer a sea-change

Into something rich and strange.

Sea-nymphs hourly ring his knell:


Hark! I hear them, — ding-dong, bell.

–The Tempest, Act I, Scene 2

Playbill from Drury Lane Theatre,1757 production

For landlubbers interested in history or those who have served, I recommend this recounting of the Indianapolis saga. Now that summer has ended and the lifeguards have gone home, it’s a perfect time to read or re-read, or watch again the movie version of Jaws. For classic drama, magic, and romance, check out Shakespeare’s The Tempest.

To those in the path of Hurricane Florence, I wish you the safety of solid ground – no shipwrecks, no sharks, no dehydration – and to evacuees I hope you encounter no dirty gas station restroom floors.


Further Reading:

“50 Years of US Pin-ups.” The Week. December 12, 2008. Web.

“Connecting with the USS Indianapolis”. Schmidt Ocean Institute. Website.

Hughes, Neil. “The Indianapolis Speech by Robert Shaw in Jaws (1975).”  Blog. March 10, 2013.  Web.

Phillips, Karen. “ ‘We Knew the Ship Was Doomed’: USS Indianapolis Survivor Recalls Four Days In Shark-Filled Sea.” The Washington Post. August 20, 2017. Web.

Rein, Lisa. “Researchers Find Wreckage Of Lost WWII Warship USS Indianapolis.” The Washington Post. August 19, 2017. Web.


Benchley, Peter. Jaws. Garden City, N.Y. : Doubleday, 1974. Print.

Jaws. Directed by Steven Spielberg, screenplay by Peter Benchley and Carl Gottleib, performance by Robert Shaw, Universal Pictures, 1975. Motion Picture.

Vincent, Lynn and Sara Vladic. Indianapolis: The True Story of the Worst Sea Disaster in U.S. Naval History and the Fifty-Year Fight To Exonerate an Innocent Man.  NY: Simon & Schuster, 2018. Print.

Sustained By Prayers

Tsar Nicholas and his family. Public domain.

About a month ago, on July 17, Orthodox Christians in Russia and throughout the world observed the one-hundred year anniversary of the assassination of Tsar Nicholas and his family. A procession was held, starting from the Church on the Blood in the Russian city of Yekaterinburg, a church constructed at the site where the Romanovs were murdered in 1918. Over 100,000 pilgrims walked 21 kilometers to the Monastery of the Holy Imperial Passion-Bearers at Ganina Yama, the site of the ignoble graves which had held the imperial family for more than three-quarters of a century.

In the early morning hours of July 17, 1918, Tsar Nicholas, his wife Alexandra, his four daughters Olga, Tatiana, Maria, and Anastasia, and the thirteen year old heir Alexei, in confinement at the Ipatiev House, were led to the basement and shot.  The Tsar and Tsarina died instantly. There was a lot of confusion; some of the revolutionaries may have been queasy to kill young maidens. Jewels sewn in the Grand-Duchesses’ corsets deflected the bullets, and bayonets were employed.  It was a brutal, ugly execution.

The Ipatiev House basement, where the executions occurred. Photo from Wikimedia Commons; public domain.

            Before being sent to the Ipatiev House in Yekaterinburg, the family was under house arrest in Tobolsk, Siberia, and there the Grand-Duchess Olga relayed the words of her father the Tsar:

“… Father asks to have it passed on to all who have remained loyal
to him and to those on whom they might have influence, that they
not avenge him; he has forgiven and prays for everyone; and not
to avenge themselves, but to remember that the evil which is now in
the world will become yet more powerful, and that it is not evil
which conquers evil, but love…”

Facing their death in a Christ-like manner is what makes the Romanovs passion-bearers and saints.

From her birth, Maria had a naturally good temperament, and her great-uncle Grand-Duke Vladimir Alexandrovich nicknamed her “The Amiable Baby.”  When the Bolsheviks decided to move the family from Tobolsk to Yekaterinburg, Alexei was too sick to travel.  Because she was nurturing and cheerful, third-daughter Maria was chosen to accompany her parents on the long journey. She helped tend her ill mother, who often used a wheelchair.  Because she was naturally cheerful, I chose the Grand-Duchess Maria as my patron saint. Complaining comes too easily to me, and I long to be one who shares joy rather than dismay.  I hope to learn from her example.

The Grand Duchess Maria in 1914. Wikimedia Commons; Public Domain.

There’s an expression in certain faith communities: “Be careful what you pray for.” It’s a variation of the common aphorism “Be careful what you hope for.” Because you may get it. Because it may not be what you thought.

For 78 days, the Romanov family kept vigil in the Ipatiev House, suspecting or knowing that their end drew closer.  This past April, my mother fell and never recovered, a broken bone turning into a gradual decline.  Eventually she stopped eating and the end became predictable. For 113 days, my sisters and I visited and attended her.  Her strength failed, and she degenerated from walker to wheelchair to bed.  At times the morphine couldn’t touch her pain, and she would desperately cry out, “Help me.”   For her last four nights, I stayed at Mom’s bedside, recalling my patron Maria, asking for her grace and strength and joy in the midst of my somber watch.

I don’t know how the Grand-Duchess kept her optimism while enduring cruel imprisonment and the knowledge of surely inevitable death. At night I chanted Psalms to Mom and prayed with her, hoping to be an encouragement. I was at Mom’s side when the weak breathing of her death rattle took over. I was there when she breathed her last. I held her hand. I sang to her. I prayed with her. I don’t know how I endured the unendurable.

But I do know.  Through the prayers of my patron, and through the prayers of my friends and spiritual father, I was able to be present with Mom at the end.  The Grand-Duchess and Saint Maria Nikolaevna Romanova kept vigil beside me.

I still haven’t attained cheerfulness.

“Wheelchair.” CCO Creative Commons from Pixabay.


In honor of Martha Long, who entered the next life on July 25, 2018.

A variation of this article was posted at “The Sounding” blog on August 11, 2018.


Further Reading

Azar, Helen, ed. Madru, Amanda. “Maria Romanov: Grand Duchess Maria Nikolaevna of Russia.” The Romanov Family. August 16, 2015.

Rappaport, Helen. “The Legacy of the Romanovs: How is the Last Russian Royal Family Remembered in Russia?” HistoryExtra. Intermediate Media Co./BBC History Magazine and BBC World Histories Magazine. July 2018.

“Tsar-Struck Russians Mark 100th Anniversary Of Romanov Killings.” Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.  July 17, 2018.

Walsh, Edmund. “The Last Days of the Romanovs.” The Atlantic. March 1928.

Yurovsky, Yakov. [journal]. “Between Method and Execution: Disposing of the Romanovs.” Lapham’s Quarterly. Vol. VI No. 4. Fall 2013

Seas, Storms, and Thankfulness

So many of our great epics are quests and journeys. Joseph Campbell’s classic book The Hero With a Thousand Faces is famous for elucidating what has come to be known as The Hero’s Journey. The lure of unseen marvels draws us, or danger compels us. It’s almost as if Homer’s The Odyssey is written in our blood. Never forget: Odysseus longed for his home. If our seeking is fleeing from instead of moving toward, we will likewise have a strenuous journey beset with trials and labors.

Today is the Feast of St. Brendan the Navigator, a good day to remember his journeys, and all our journeys.

Mural of St. Brendan in Tralee, Ireland. This mural was formerly on the Benners Hotel in Tralee, but was lost when the building was redeveloped. courtesy of http://www.geograph.ie/photo/4369180


Lady Gregory of Ireland relates The Voyage of Brendan in this way:

“It is a monk going through hardship Blessed Brendan was, that was born in Ciarraige Luachra of a good father and mother. It was on Slieve Daidche beside the sea he was one time, and he saw in a vision a beautiful island with angels serving upon it. And an angel of God came to him in his sleep and said ‘I will be with you from this out through the length of your lifetime, and it is I will teach you to find that island you have seen and have a mind to come to.’ When Brendan heard those words from the angel he cried with the dint of joy, and gave great thanks to God, and he went back to the thousand brothers that were his people.”

Brendan saw many sights: sea monsters and fish, ghosts and the borders of hell, and possibly, I’d like to think, North America—long before the Vikings settled in Vinland, or Newfoundland, Canada. In 1976, Irish explorer Tim Severin built an ox-leather curragh, an early Irish boat, and sailed from Ireland to Canada to demonstrate that St. Brendan’s voyage was possible. The lack of archaeological evidence does not disprove St. Brendan’s voyage. The proof of the Vikings in L’Anse aux Meadows was not discovered until 1960, after all.


Tarring a Curragh, Inisheer, Aran Islands, photo by Harold Strong, 1962.  copyright Harold Strong for use under Creative Commons License.

A reconstruction of a 1st Century AD British Curragh, made of wicker work and covered with 3 cow hides; capable of carrying 10 people. It was on display at the “Heritage Village” area of the Bedford River Festival. Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons


A sea voyage is fraught with danger worse than any cross-country travel. Every moment on a fragile Irish canoe is one wind gust away from drowning. St. Brendan prayed, “O Christ, wilt Thou help me on the wild waves?” The Children’s Defense Fund promotes a poem-prayer I’ve taken to my own heart (and slightly edited): “Dear Lord, be good to me. The sea is so wide and I am so small.”

Lady Wilde continues her narration:

“And then he [St. Brendan] led them to the great fish and it was upon his back they said their Matins and their Mass. And when the Mass was ended the fish began to move and he swam out very far into the sea and there was great terror on the brothers when he did that and they being on his back, for it was a great wonder to see a beast that was the size of a whole country going so fast through the seas.”

Woodcut, 15th Century? A scene from Navigatio Sancti Brendani Abbatis where the saint celebrates a mass on the body of a sea monster. Public domain. via Wikimedia Commons

I crave routine; I’m flustered by disruption. I downright despise change. Like those monks, the upheavals in my life fill me with terror. I find security—false security—in stability of place. St. Brendan reminds me that God is with us everywhere, even in the unmapped, unknown ocean; even on a shifting island that is revealed to be the back of a sea monster. Even in our wild untrammeled lives. Unlike St. Brendan, I generally forget to give thanks for my sea monsters and obstacles.

Finally, like Odysseus, like Campbell’s Hero, St. Brendan returns:

“And they sailed home in their ship to Ireland and it is glad the brothers they had left after them were to see them come home out of such great dangers. And as to Brendan he was from that time as if he did not belong to this world at all, but his mind and his joy were in the delight of heaven. And it is in Ireland he died and was buried; and that God may bring us to the same joy his blessed soul returned to!”

Life is our journey; may God be our goal. If we remember God in all things, and in all places, we will never be homeless. May we face our upheavals with thanksgiving. May we be heroes and heroines helping the people we meet along our voyages.



Lady Gregory Augusta. “The Voyage of Brendan.” A Book of Saints and Wonders According to the Old Writings and the Memory of the People of Ireland. Web. Scanned by Phillip Brown, April 2004. Additional proofing and HTML formatting by John Bruno Hare at sacred-texts.com. This text is in the public domain. These files may be used for any non-commercial purpose provided this notice of attribution is left intact. Web.

Korz, Fr. Geoffrey. “St. Brendan’s Journey and Immigration.” Orthodox Canada: A Journal of Orthodox Christianity. V. 2 n. 3. Dormition [August] 2007. Web.

Severin, Tim. The Brendan Voyage: Sailing to America in a Leather Boat to Prove the Legend of the Irish Sailer Saint. Random House, 2010.

The Song of Finn in Praise of May

When Finn Mac Cumhal was a young man, he studied with the bard Finegas, ate the Salmon of Wisdom, and learned the ancient art of poetry. Before he left Finegas, he composed this poem to prove his skill:

May Day! delightful day!
Bright colours play the vales along.  Now wakes at morning’s slender ray,
Wild and gay, the blackbird’s song.

Now comes the bird of dusty hue,
The loud cuckoo, the summer-lover;  Branching trees are thick with leaves;
The bitter, evil time is over.Swift horses gather nigh
Where half dry the river goes; Tufted heather crowns the height;
Weak and white the bogdown blows.

Corncrake sings from eve till morn,
Deep in corn, a strenuous bard! Sings the virgin waterfall,
White and tall, her one sweet word.Loaded bees of little power
Goodly flower-harvest win; Cattle roam with muddy flanks;
Busy ants go out and in.

Through, the wild harp of the wood
Making music roars the gale—Now it slumbers without motion,
On the ocean sleeps the sail.Men grow mighty in the May,
Proud and gay the maidens grow;  Fair is every wooded height;
Fair and bright the plain below.A bright shaft has smit the streams,
With gold gleams the water-flag;  Leaps the fish, and on the hills
Ardour thrills the flying stag.

Carols loud the lark on high,
Small and shy, his tireless lay, Singing in wildest, merriest mood
Of delicate-hued, delightful May.



9th Century Poem.

“The Boyhood of Finn Mac Cumhal” [chapter 9]. Rollston, T.W. The High Deeds of Finn and other Bardic Romances of Ancient Ireland. 1910WEB. Public Domain through Project Gutenberg.

See also Dr Kuno Meyer’s prose translation in Ériu (the Journal of the School of Irish Learning), Vol. I. Part II.