Picture of the Day: Saturday's morning view

Picture of the Day: Saturday’s morning view

Checking in from Real Life: I got an instagram account (thalassa_delamar), and I’m addicted.  Feel free to be my instagram friend…  I’ve become an instagram monster overnight.

The new job is…yeah, its going.  It is a lot to learn and I’m nowhere close to feeling even halfway competent.  Not a good feeling.  Add to that, Hubby got word that he is headed out of town at the end of October for 11 months for work.  Also, the kids started school–Chickadee in 1st grade, and Sharkbait moved up to pre-K from the 3’s room.  Scott leaving is going to cause some problems in getting them where they need to go and getting me to work.  I was stressed before all this, and now…super stress!

I miss the idea of homeschooling.  Aside from a year of preschool, we never actually homeschooled, so I’m not sure if I would actually miss it or not…but I miss the idea of it.  I miss our days at the beach, whenever we wanted them, our walks in the woods, whenever we wanted them.  I miss reading and reading and reading, and playdough, and snuggling into a rainy day with lessons in bed.  I miss crazy science experiments to make slime from borax and glue and water or salt from ocean water.  I don’t miss trying to figure out which bill can go late to pay for groceries.

Last year we did the afterschooling thing for awhile, but I felt sort of bad.  I mean, the kid already spend 7 hours in school and got sent home with homework, in kindergarten.  Which I really think is utterly ridiculous.  But both kids like school for the most part, so…its working for now.  I’m thinking our afterschooling this year (except for copywork and recitation) will be “unschooling”–running amok outside and bringing home squiggly things and whatnot, trekking to the library, etc.  Chickadee really wants to “go to ballet school AND learn the violin” though–she’s discovered Lindsey Stirling, and is inspired to be a “dancing violin girl”.

Thal’s List of Stuff to Check out on the Net this week:

Herb of the Week: Prickly Pear Cactus So, I love the prickly pear.  This guy grows pretty much everywhere, I swear!  Ummm, that was purely unintentional rhyming, I promise.

(c) 2006 Steven J. Baskauf

My grandma (in Illinois) had one in her yard, and out here in the Chesapeake watershed you can find them in all sorts of places.  And best of all?  Totally native (at least here, apparently Opuntis sp. are invasive in Australia).  In fact, the Eastern Prickly Pear (Opuntia humifusa) grows from Montana (skipping Wyoming) south to New Mexico and through the midwest all the way to the eastern seaboard from Massachusetts to Florida (heck, its even in Ontario).  Keep in mind, there are other related species, also called the prickly pear (such as Opuntia microrhiza, among over 100 others).

The prickly pear grows in dry, rocky or sandy soils, in full sun–if my grandmother’s yard is any indication, as long as the spot is sunny enough and has enough drainage, the amount of precipitation isn’t a big deal for this guy.  The prickly pear has flat, paddle shaped segments (its stems) which have a number of prickly spines (its leaves).  It produces yellow flowers which bloom here from May to July (and which bees like) before producing a large red cone-shaped fruit (check out these prickly pear pics, or this formal description).  

A number of animals eat these cones, which contain seeds, but the prickly pear can also reproduce asexually when a section breaks off and roots into the ground (if you know someone with a prickly pear, this is an easy way to get your own).  For humans, the prickly pear stems (the paddle-like sections) and fruits are edible, and the plant has a long history of medicinal use, and magical uses (cacti in general are good for banishing and protective magics, particularly protection of the home).

Three of Cups from the Hello Kitty Tarot Coloring Book, digitally colored via paint

Three of Cups from the (black and white) Hello Kitty Tarot by Joe Rosales, digitally colored by yours truly via paint

Tarot Card of the Week: Three of Cups

Before I get started on the card itself, I wanted to take a moment to talk about the deck.  The Hello Kitty Tarot is unofficial (the “official” HK Tarot, which is majors only, sucks in comparison), and it was created in black and white.  It is available online via pdf (if you want to do the work yourself to color and print and laminate), or more expensively, via etsy or ebay.  This is undoubtedly the best version I’ve seen made from the B&W HK illustrations (the rest of her work is beautiful too).

The Three of Cups represents revelry, companionship, and community, growth, joy, fulfillment.  It is a card of accomplishment, complete with the party that comes afterwards.  In a reading, this is usually a welcome card, as it indicates success…either the celebratory success of the individual, or the coming together of a group to achieve success in a common goal.  It is also a card that reminds us to focus on the positive and have an attitude of gratitude for what is going right, even in the face of pressing concerns–celebrating the harvest while preparing for winter.

Reversed, however, the Three of Cups can indicate overindulgence, problems in friendship, or even a love affair, depending on the context of the surrounding cards.

Animal of the Week: Black and Yellow Garden Spider, aka the Writing Spider (Argiope aurantia) (my instagram pic)

The Writing Spider (just because I think its an awesome name) is a large black and yellow (which you might have guessed from its other common name) orb-weaver, whose webs are characterized by a zig-zag pattern, known as a stabilimenta.  The exact purpose of this feature is unknown, but it is thought that perhaps it adds stability to the web, or warns birds so that they don’t fly into it and destroy the web, or that it acts as a sort of camouflage for such a brightly colored spider.  Either way, the web of the writing spider can be up to 2 feet wide, and it is used to catch prey.  They eat small flying insects from grasshoppers to wasps, and are active during the day time (diurnal).  These spiders are harmless to humans.

The females of this species are over an inch long, and the males half that in size.  Males will go in search of a female once a year and court her, if successful she will lay her eggs in an egg case, and he will die (sometimes she will eat him). The eggs hatch in the autumn, but stay in their egg case until the spring.  The female dies around the time of the first frost, and the following spring, the spiderlings will emerge and begin the cycle again.

As a symbol, the spider appears in various ways in myth and culture around the world.  Because of their mating practices (think Black Widow spiders), the spider is often associated with the idea of a femme fatale, or the dangers of sexually aware and powerful women.  In Japanese folklore, samurai should beware, lest a beautiful woman really be a spider in disguise.  Yet in other mythos, the spider is a creator–the Kiribati and the Navaho (among others) consider the spider to have created the world.  Or perhaps the spider is a protector–in both Islamic and Jewish tradition it takes this role…and yet, in Lakota and West African mythology, Iktomi and Anansi are trickster spirits (the latter being more benign than the former).

Parting Thought:

Stand still.  the trees ahead and the bushes beside you
Are not lost.  Wherever you are is called Here,
And you must treat it as a powerful stranger,
Must ask it permission to know it and be known.
The forest breathes.  Listen.  It answers,
I have made this place around you.
If you leave it, you may come back again, saying Here.
No two trees are the same to Raven.
No two branches are the same to Wren.
If what a tree or bush does is long on you,
You are surely lost.  Stand still.  The forest knows
Where you are.  You must let it find you.

~David Wagoner, “Lost”  from Collected Poems 1956-1976 © Indiana University Press.