St. John’s River

There’s just something about Florida rivers. The lazy meandering of hidden currents, the tranquil relief the waters offer at the end of an extraordinarily hot day.

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The spirits of the rivers of Florida aren’t ordinarily sought out, but they’re no less potent than Ocean, Great Lake, or Sea; the soft drifting melody of the river’s voice is enough to cleanse and renew just as a wild tempest sea roaring ashore in crashing waves.

This I came to love about Florida’s rivers: that calm surface hiding worlds of knowledge just beneath, a surface smooth as glass, reflecting the earth and sky above it.

Response to the Daily Post Daily Prompt–Glass

 

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the Sea Goddess

She felt the rise in her belly, the swell of excitement that could only be found within crashing waves.

She let herself be pulled, a calling with more depth and more intensity than mere curiosity.

He took her hand in his and led her to where the sea meets the earth, asking her to dive down deep under those dark waves. He looked back to her face, fearing to see trepidation in her eyes.

But he gazed into the grey of her eyes, grey that matched the rising surf, and he saw wonder.

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She let him lead her down to the shore, down to let the rolling foam greet their toes.

She smiled to him, a shy crook of the mouth that set his heart to racing.

He knew then, in that moment, that he would make her his queen. He would let her choose, though, and let her roam freely between sea and stone.

He moved her onward into the rising tide, never letting go of her slender hand. And every time he turned to look after her, she pushed him ever onward with the shine in her eyes and the curve of her lips.

Together they entered the sea, down down down into the murky depths of his watery domain. Down to the realm of selkies and sirens, down to the gates of his hall in the heart of the ocean.

She breathed the deep blue of salt water into her lungs, and was transformed.

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Seals and rays greeted her in welcome, dolphins swam playfully around in large pods, their smiling faces belying their pleasure at her coming.

She rejoiced in her newfound freedom, her newly acquired underwater flight.

She had come home.

 

 

 

~Líadan Rán

Endangered: a Sunday Short

I was inspired some time ago by all the recently published YA novels in the fantasy fiction genre. My last student that I worked with got me into the teen fantasy-romance, particularly following sagas of adapted folklore surrounding shifters, werewolves, and other lycanthropes. I normally wouldn’t have chosen to explore this genre at all, except I’ve been noticing the rise in its popularity among tweens, teens, and young adults. There’s not much in this world that could please me more than watching teen students willingly pick out fiction literature and actually enjoy it.

So with my newfound inspiration, I decided to explore the shifter/werewolf fantasy element, albeit with a twist. So without further adieu, here’s a recent flash piece I’ve been playing with, taking place in my beautiful Florida. This short definitely feels like the beginning of something bigger, so I’ll be brainstorming where to go with Mia’s story in the future.

In the meantime, enjoy, and be sure to click the links at the bottom of this post to explore the ever mystifying Florida panther, as well as the rich culture and history of the Seminole tribes of Florida.

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This was her favorite part. If there was something in the world Mia Thompson could love more than David Bowie’s music, she had yet to find it. Cranking up the volume on Moonage Daydream Mia sped her Jeep onto SR 29 North, toward home. She had just finished a particularly straining shift at the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge where she’d managed to land her part-time dream job, and she was anxious to get home. Mia had been floored when she was told she’d been granted her employment shortly after summer vacation had started. But today was a daunting day, and the thought of a warm shower and pajamas had its appeal.

Belting out the last of the lyrics, Mia began her routine of formulating her thesis of what would eventually become her entrance essay into the Biology department at the University of Miami. She hoped to present the research she’d been participating in at the Refuge: the growing pockets of small populations of endangered species native and unique to Florida. Using her data, she hoped to persuade a halt on agricultural and commercial development throughout the unprotected northern reaches of the Everglades she knew and loved so much. The land of her family. Her people, her mother would correct her.

Smiling to herself at the thought of her mother and what she’d surely be cooking up for dinner, Mia let herself relax and enjoy her familiar surroundings. State Road 29 was a country road and mostly straight traveling, leading south toward Ave Maria, Alligator Alley, and her lovely Refuge and the Fakahatchee Strand, with occasional bends along the way. Travel about an hour southwest, and she’d hit Naples and Marco Island. North brought her to LaBelle, and Miami was only a two hour drive southeast.

Soon the wetlands started giving way to drier land, offering up sand pines, saw palmettos, sawgrass, scrub oak and the occasional live oak draped in Spanish moss. The road started the last of its bends here, where the air was growing still and humid. Mia breathed it in; she loved this place. And she was going to save it.

Halfway through Changes, Mia turned her headlights on, cursing the longer than usual shift. Should’ve called in, she thought. She hated driving this last stretch of road into Immokalee in the dark. She sped up, shifting to fifth, hoping a little more speed would get her home sooner.

As she rounded another curve, she spotted a creamy blur dart across the road and into the brush, heading east. Into the gathering shadows. Slowing down enough to see the spot where the thing ran, Mia looked for a place to turn around. Using an old gravel trail as a drive, she reversed and headed back to where she remembered seeing what she could have sworn was a panther. She’d been waiting and watching these areas her whole life practically, and she wasn’t going to let the opportunity slip by. Especially since the elusive cats tended to stay within the bounds of the refuge. She had never heard of panther sightings this far north, but this area was virtually uninhabited by humans, so the possibility that it truly was a panther was quite high.

Pulling off to the shoulder, Mia parked the Jeep and cranked up the emergency brake. Flashlight and cell phone in hand, she headed toward the edge of the pine and oak and alligator grass. The flashlight’s beam only illuminated a small portion of what looked like a deer trail, though Mia wasn’t sure. She’d be late for dinner, but she very much wanted to see if she could spot the big cat. So she took a steadying breath and stepped onto the scrubby trail.

[Featured image, Florida panther, courtesy of FloridaPanther.comRead about this endangered species here.]

[Read about the Seminole Reservation in Immokalee,the history, and culture.]

Lyreleafs & Cloud Readings

Spring has sprung here in Florida, and with temperatures ranging from the 70’s to the 80’s, it’s been perfect weather for cloud watching and wildcrafting with some of the beauties right here in my yard and garden.

With spring fever behind us and hot days ahead, I’ve grown more and more interested in weather lore and other folk lore isolated to Florida and the Southeast. I have checked out some books on Florida’s climate and general weather patterns, but I want the old folk’s lore of weather and cloud divination.

 

 

I want to learn about the clouds moving overhead, about what those movements mean for my home and garden, my place in the local Land, and about how to perceive outcomes of various garden-related happenings when divined.

I want the magical and mystical workings of rain and clouds and fog. I want to gain and use my knowledge and experience of the weather patterns and learn how to read them with the purpose of divining future energies of all things home and garden.

So what does one do when one is looking for some divine guidance in seeking out the appropriate information about a spiritual topic of interest?

Invite the Ancestors to tea, of course. And a little bit of Lyreleaf Sage goes a long way.

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This sage (Salvia lyrata; other common names include wild sage and cancerweed/cancer root) grows wild in yards, meadows, roadsides ditches, culverts…you pick a spot, and these babies will root there. They’re hardy little herbaceous perennials and readily self-seed and spread like crazy in ideal conditions.

Which is good for me, because hey, if I can use it as an edible and a healer, I sure as hell will! And this little plant is wonderful as a calming tea at 10 o’clock at night, curled up with a good book. The fresh young leaves and blossoms can be used in salads, and have a very light and pleasant minty flavor.

While the Lyreleaf’s medicinal properties don’t pack as much of a punch as other species of salvias, Lyreleaf can be used as a carminative/laxative (a mild tea made for kiddo’s gassy tummy or constipation…hey, it happens), and for relief during cold and flu season. Lyreleaf sage also makes a relieving salve for cuts, sores (warts and zits and boils, oh my!) and minor wounds.

On the spiritual and magical side, sage is also a plant linked with divination, purification, protection, and psychic learning. I’ve come to connect sage’s otherworldly attributes to, well, the other-world. Ancestors can be invited when sage is burned.

Now, traditionally White sage, or Sacred sage (Salvia apiana), is the sage of choice for burning and smudging, but I’ve found that the edible sages work well for these purposes, too. So I decided to harvest and dry my Florida Lyreleaf for tea, as well as a bundle for smudging/incense.

Then we’ll see what we see.

I haven’t used this particular sage in an infusion or for spiritual purposes yet, but am anxious to have it dry so I can get down to business.

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Until then, I’ll keep reading my library books on weather and atmospheric phenomenon, and offer these lovely tidbits on my new friend, Lyreleaf sage:

 

 

 

 

 

[Close-up of Lyreleaf blossom photo: ©Mark Hutchinson for http://www.fnps.org]