The Case of the Missing Lighthouse

June 11, 2021

This is a picture of the Crown Point Lighthouse I took a few weeks ago. Located on the western shore of Lake Champlain, the tower was erected in 1858. It was one of about a dozen on the shores and islands on the lake helping ships navigate what was once an important commercial route. In 1912 the lighthouse was redesigned as a monument to Samuel de Champlain, an early European explorer of the lake that now bears his name. The lake has traditional names, of course, an Abenaki one being Bitabagw, “the lake between.”

The mystery I’m working on takes place on an island in this lake (entirely fictional, though some of the lake’s real islands are inhabited). Of course I’m going to work a lighthouse into the story. It’s been done many times before, but lighthouses are so romantic and spooky that I can’t resist.

MoonCon is Next Weekend!

May 28, 2021

MoonCon is a FREE! virtual conference featuring your favorite MoonBooks authors. Your chance to listen and ask questions in real time. No pre-registration required. Just tune in via the MoonBooks Facebook page.

I will be giving a talk Sunday June 6th at 10:00 am Eastern Time (3:00 UK) on deer magic.

The talks will be taped and available sometime later, so if that’s too early for you, no worries.

Alix Dobkin 1940-2021

May 19, 2021

Lesbian feminist folksinger Alix Dobkin died this past Wednesday May 19th. Alix was an instrumental leader of the second wave feminist movement. A talented songwriter with a strong clear voice, Alix began her career in Greenwich Village with other influential legends of the sixties but left that road to concentrate on inspiring the new generation of lesbian feminists. Her solo album Lavender Jane Loves Women broke new ground in politics and music.

I have seen Alix in concert probably more than any other musician. Not because I made a point of following her around like a wimmin’s music Deadhead, but because she made herself available to the women’s community, playing in places like Columbus, Ohio, where I grew up. She was actually responsible for my living on wimmin’s land, in a way. I was traveling alone and wound up in Tucson with little money left and no friends in the area. I saw that Alix was appearing that night at a local church and figured I’d meet some like-minded women there. That’s how I ended up at a women’s intentional community in the Sonora Desert.

Alix contributed significantly to feminist politics and music. I attended a slideshow she gave at a local women’s coffeehouse in the early 80s analyzing sexism in music. I still think about that slideshow; it ruined popular music for me forever.

Going to a concert with Alix was in some ways like being in a cocoon. She was so personable that I felt like I knew her, but come to think of it I probably never spoke to her. I saw her in concert in almost every place I’ve lived, and some places I was only visiting. I always met some great women at an Alix concert. We had a loving tight-knit yet accessible women’s community once, and Alix was one of the women who made it happen.

Gearing up for MoonCon

May 7, 2021

I’ve been talking to other presenters about the upcoming FREE virtual Pagan conference MoonCon 21, and it looks fantastic. It’s a 2-day conference online June 5th and 6th 2021. (Click on photo for larger image.)

On the day of the conference you can access the event via the Moon Books Facebook link:

I will be presenting at 10:00 am Eastern Time on Sunday, June 6th. The presentations will be live, enabling viewers to ask question in real time. The presentations will also be taped.

Here is a short description of my talk:

Staring Back at the Deer

The deer is an emissary from the world of fey, a shapeshifter who watches from a distant place and brings messages which touch our spirit. This session will examine deer from a material and cultural point of view, with the aim of understanding deer signs and courting the deer to enhance our magic.

Blessings on Beltane!

April 30, 2021

The veil is thin at this time of year, just as it is on Samhain. This is a good time to meditate and journey. Psychic abilities are heightened. I’ve been having some interesting visions these past few weeks.

The saying goes: What you lose on Samhain always comes back to you; what you lose at Beltane is gone forever. The saying refers to loss of virginity or innocence.

An Adirondack Guide: Orson “Old Mountain” Phelps

April 23, 2021

I did some research for a this famous mountain guide for a local 2022 calendar.

Orson “Old Mountain” Phelps (1817-1905). World renowned mountain guide and longtime resident of Keene Valley. He cut the Bartlett Mountain Trail and the trail to Mount Marcy from Lower Ausable Lake. He had a special affinity for Mount Marcy, which he claimed to have summited more than one hundred times. Phelps Mountain and Phelps Brook were named for him.

Born in Vermont, he was the son of a surveyor and worked at the Adirondack Iron Works in Tahawus in his youth before becoming a professional guide. He was celebrated for his keen observation of wildlife and plants. Like most other guides of the time, he fished, hunted, and trapped. He also collected wildflowers and harvested materials he used to craft durable pack baskets. Alfred Donaldson observed that “One does not think of Old Phelps so much as a lover of nature…as a part of nature itself.”

Unsurprising for a man who spent much time alone in the woods, Phelps was considered unique and even eccentric in his perspective. He was as deeply religious as any man of his century, but his sporadic church attendance never overshadowed the God he met in meadow flower and mountaintop. A storehouse of information about natural lore, combined with a trove of knowledge of scenic hideaways, were his attractions as a guide. While other entrepreneurs mined the early tourist trade for the sport of hunting and fishing, and today’s pilgrims are drawn to test their grit against the mountain, Phelps was in the wilderness to hear the voices of God. As such, he attracted disciples more than clients, bursting into national acclaim through Charles Dudley Warner’s tribute in The Atlantic. “Old Mountain” Phelps became the consummate denizen of the wild, with the disheveled appearance and primitive education requisite in the philosopher sprung from nature.

His dislike of bathing was well attested, but far from being an anchorite, he was in fact a village dweller with a large family. His intellect was cultivated as much by voracious reading as by forest spirits, and the quality of his published field studies led dedicated scholars to lament his loss to the natural sciences. The popular portrayal was true, however, in the sense that Phelps was not a goal-oriented man. Others might scramble for a decent living or strive to conquer mountain upon mountain, but Phelps was in the world to enjoy it. His appreciation shone through his poetry:

Of great boulder rocks and their sweet crystal fountains,
Fresh from their Creator they have all come to me.
And I must soon leave to unborn generations,
Those scenes that so long have been dear to my sight,
Who will hereafter view them with varied emotions,
And volumes about them great Authors will write.
Oh! The old feldspar mountains, with their sweet crystal fountains,
The evergreen mountains we all love so well!

We all love the Adirondacks, but we all differ in our capacity to understand how remarkable our place in the world truly is. Old Mountain Phelps was a guide into this ever uncharted terrain.

Back in the Saddle

April 16, 2021

I was vaccine-sick last week, so no post for the first time in perhaps years. I’m feeling better this week, and so thankful to be part of the waking up world of spring.