Reader, Writer, Merciless Reviewer and Incurable Romantic
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Sent to me on FB by my cousin (who is not Regina Kelly).
Just to give you some ideas of what things look like.
1. One of the few large slices of petrified wood I have. It's thicker than usual, and the pattern isn't the best, but this is a nice, typical red color. The sun was so bright that I couldn't keep the slabs wet long enough to take photos; as soon as I sprayed them, they immediately started to dry.
This one is about five inches across.
2. Brazilian agate with natural red outer rings, and crystal center. This is fairly small, about 3 1/2 inches, and very thin. Again, the sun was so bright and hot that I couldn't keep the stone wet to bring out the details.
This is a piece of jewelry made from another slice of this same material. It shows the details a little better.
3. Brazilian agate slice, undyed, pale lavender This one is about 2 1/2 inches by the longest dimension.
4. Brazilian agate, undyed, about 4 inches by longest dimension.
5. Brazilian agate, undyed, about 2 1/2 inches by longest dimension.
Pendant made from another slice of the same stone.
6. Green Moss agate, from India. I love this stuff! I have way more than I will ever be able to use, but I still love it. It's plentiful and very inexpensive. A five or six-inch slice can be purchased for $!5 or less.
Again, I couldn't get good photos because the sun evaporated the water as soon as I sprayed it, but you can easily find lots of pics online. The green is much darker in person; the sun just bleached the photo.
And a pendant from similar material.
Murder by Death asked about some before and after pictures of the rocks I collect, cut, and turn into jewelry. As it happened, I had some examples handy because I had them out for the studio tour last week. And I love love love talking about rocks!
First is an example of what they look like in the wild.
Looks like a plain rock-colored rock. But at the right-hand edge, you can sort of see . . . something.
Though it's rough and broken, it's kind of quartzy-looking, but with a somewhat waxy consistency. So you turn it over some more . . .
And what you have is a banded agate. Or at least part of one. The banding isn't clear in this particular piece because the edge is all broken and dirty and rough. This was part of one of my estate lots, so I have no idea where it came from, but agates like this are very common around here and pretty much anywhere there's been volcanic activity. They aren't directly volcanic in origin, but form from water that seeps through volcanic material to dissolve the silica minerals and then deposit them in empty pockets. I know, I know, TMI. ;-)
This is another rock, one I did find, that I cut to make sure a new saw blade was installed properly. I knew the rock was mostly the volcanic ash matrix the agates form in, but with a crust of chalcedony on one side.
You can kind of see the chalcedony -- that waxy-looking quartzy stuff -- on the end, though the other side shows it more clearly.
As with the first example, the inside is what matters, and I was pretty stunned when I cut this one. I wasn't expecting anything very exciting.
In the picture directly above, you can see the matrix on the right hand side of the slice. I usually have to trim this off with either the saw or an old pair of side-cutter pliers. It's fairly porous and somewhat easy to remove most of the time, but it can be very difficult on occasion. And it will not polish.
To give a better idea of the size, since this is larger than the little purple pieces I cut the other day, here it is with my favorite (and only!) Arizona quarter.
I did a little enhancement of these photos to try to bring out the patterns in the agate/chalcedony parts, but the truth is that when they're dry, they don't show up very well.
Upper left above is a slice of lavender sagenitic agate from the Sheep Crossing north of Phoenix. Lower center is from Brenda. The other three are from the Chickenman place. ;-) They've been cut on the saw, tossed in kitty litter to get the oil off, then washed in water and dish detergent.
These next two show how dirty the little cavities can be. Some of this is ordinary mud that gets into them over the years/centuries that they're out in the desert, if they have an opening that mud and water can get through. Some of it is hardened ash that got in when the agates were forming. That stuff has to be dug out with a dental pick, and sometimes it just plain won't come out.
After they go in the tumbler for six or seven weeks, the rough edges get ground off and rounded, and the exterior surface polishes to a nice glassy shine. Much of the time, those little cavities turn out to be filled with tiny, tiny sparkly crystals, and they tend not to be affected by the tumbling process. But I'm not good at capturing them with the camera!
In the shot above, the stone on the far right has a little depression filled with those tiny crystals, but they wouldn't sparkle for the camera.
Because the stones are unique, it's actually not hard to match up a before and an after picture of the same stone. Later today or tomorrow, I'll get some more shots of a few individuals so we can have a reference for particular befores and afters. But the middle stone above came from a piece of rough that is actually still sitting by the saw. I'm not sure what I'm going to do with it.
I hope this helps, MbD! More to come anyway. . . .
The desert ironwood tree (Olneya tesota) is a legume, like peas and beans. It's an extremely hardy tree, able to withstand blistering heat and long periods of severe drought as well as the occasional sub-freezing temperatures of the Sonoran desert. Individual trees may live 800 to 1,200 years, though precise dating can be difficult because growth and growth rings may essentially stop when there is insufficient water.
Native only to the Sonoran desert of the southwest United States and parts of northern Mexico, the ironwood is a mainstay of desert life. The trees often provide shade and protection for saguaro and other cactus seedlings, as well as nesting for various birds and mammals.
The ironwood is an impressive feature of the open desert, with dark, slightly bluish foliage. Large individuals may reach 45 feet in height, with thick, gnarled trunks and multiple branches.
Ironwood is so named because the wood is dense and extremely hard. It is too heavy to float in water, and must be moved by strong current in storm-flooded washes.
This is the normally dry-as-a-bone Hassayampa River in Wickenburg, AZ, taken February 2005. We saw plenty of old ironwood trees in this flood, along with several cars and two houses.
Like all trees, ironwood trees contain heartwood and sapwood. As the tree matures, the older, inner heartwood turns dark, almost black; the outer sapwood is lighter, like oak or maple. When the tree dies or a limb is cut, the sapwood is eaten away by borer worms, but the heartwood remains long after.
This is the remains of a long-dead ironwood out in the desert near Hummingbird Springs, west of Phoenix, AZ.
Though traditionally used for firewood and making charcoal, the dead heartwood is now used almost exclusively for carving. The craft was originated by the Seri Indians in Mexico; the tree is now a protected species in Mexico.
But it is still plentiful in our Arizona desert.
In the late 1990s, when the huge Sundance development was being constructed in the desert north of Buckeye, Arizona, my husband and I got permission from the contractors to reclaim a tiny portion of the ironwood timber that was being bulldozed to make way for tacky little houses, golf courses, and shopping centers. Almost all of this was live ironwood, with both the heartwood and lighter sapwood. The contrast is dramatic, and it can be made even more so with the inclusion of fillers.
Ironwood tends to be full of cracks and fissures, which can be left as is when using the wood for crafts, or filled with either a decorative material such as Inlace (c) or with a simple mixture of epoxy and . . . something else. We used laboriously hand-crushed natural chrysocolla -- a turquoise-colored quartz-like material -- mixed with epoxy to fill the gaps in the wood before making various things with it.
The living heartwood is very high in silica -- the same silicon dioxide as common quartz -- which gives the dark wood a golden shimmer very much like tiger's eye stone.
When the heartwood is dead, it turns darker and loses some of this shimmer.
These ^^ are old pictures, taken 2003-2005. In the one immediately above, you can see the contrasts between light sapwood and dark heartwood, the golden shimmer of mature heartwood, and the darkening when the heartwood is dead.
When I moved from Buckeye to Apache Junction in 2006, I was delighted to have several trees on the property. But I didn't have an ironwood tree. So I bought a small one at the Boyce Thompson Arboretum's plant sale. It wasn't very big.
A certain someone didn't like it, thought it was ugly, and probably secretly hoped it would die. Since I'm not very good with plants, there was a pretty good chance it wouldn't survive.
But it did. And it grew.
And finally, this year for the first time it had some flowers. Not very many, but it had a few.
I was deliriously excited that my ironwood tree had some flowers! A mature tree out in the desert will be a veritable cloud of lavender, though the tiny individual flowers are a combination of very pale pink and maroon.
My tree had grown from its modest beginning.
But it had grown kind of unruly. Ironwoods have horrible, horrible thorns, which makes trimming them just plain dangerous.
That certain someone flat out refused to touch it, and I never seemed to have time. So last week, when I was laid up with my bad back and the yard needed to be taken care of ahead of the studio tour, we simply had to have the landscape guys come in and do the job properly. And they trimmed my tree.
This is the view basically from my front porch across the yard to the neighbor's house. The low stone wall in the background edges my driveway. The driveway actually follows the course of a small tributary wash that comes down off the mountain, so when we get a heavy rain, the driveway can flood dramatically. This morning, though, everything is dry and sunny. And I'm so proud of my tree!
When I came in from taking the photos of the tree, I noticed that my little photo "studio" in the family room was in full sun, so I grabbed the ironwood box pictured above and took another photo of it that better shows the chrysocolla inlay. One of these days I'm going to get back to the woodworking. I still have a whole pile of that ironwood we salvaged from the construction crew. . . . .
Just a reminder and to any of the new folks --
Reviews are for readers. Therefore I scrupulously avoid reading any and all reviews of my books. Feel free to discuss and comment as if I'm not here. Long-timers will, I hope, back me up on this.
I'm more than happy to answer questions or enter a discussion ***if I'm invited*** but I want you all to know I'm not one of THOSE authors.
Happy reading, everyone!!
I am terrible at self promotion. I feel queasy even doing this much.
But I'm screwing up my courage, because yes, this is my book and it fits a whole bunch of Halloween Bingo squares. (And if I do say so myself, it's a fun read, with no graphic violence or sex.) (And I never read the reviews!)
When Thomasina Ryder inherits her grandmother's house, she expects to quickly arrange for the sale of the estate. She soon learns the disposal of her legacy will be a more complicated process than she expected. And nothing could complicate matters more than the return into Thomasina's life of a forbidden love from the past.
The further she delves into the secrets of that past, the more she is made aware of something sinister and hidden, never to be spoken of even in whispers. She begins to suspect this secret is connected to the silent forms she has seen moving in the old house, from the corner of her eye or in the distorted reflection of a mirror. Then, as her investigations bear fruit, the shadows in the mirrors become more threatening.
Moonlight Reader's post prompted me to start to think about my own personal collection of influential books.
The first question that came to mind was, Should I set a numerical limit? Top 20? Top 100? The answer came just as quickly: No. My physical library contains something over 5,000 volumes. I certainly haven't read all of them, and some I'm quite sure I will never read. My Kindle collection is another 5,000 titles. Before there was Kindle, there was Project Gutenberg, and I downloaded an enormous amount of Victorian fiction. How could I then limit my "canon" of the essential influences? So, my canon is open-ended.
The second question was almost as easily answered. Would I limit the canon to a specific category? As a romance novelist, as a feminist, as political thinker, I draw inspiration and information from a variety of sources. I would not be the person or the writer that I am without all of those influences.
The third question was, How do I want to chronicle this? I haven't answered that one yet.
But I did determine what would be the first book on the list.
If you are a writer -- successful or not; good, bad, terrible, or worse; frustrated or confused -- you need this.
If you are a reader still SYDH over the latest horrible excuse for a book you spent time and/or money on, you need this.
If you are a reviewer still screaming over the latest rant from a precious snowflake whose book got a negative review, YOU NEED THIS.
The current edition:
Set in New England - The Amethyst Box, by Anna Katharine Green
Anna Katharine Green (1846-1935) is considered one of the mothers of the mystery novel. Her 1878 detective story The Leavenworth Case predated Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes by more than a decade, and she went on to establish series characters who were police detectives, elderly lady mystery solvers, and even young women sleuths well ahead of the creation Poirot, Marple, and the indomitable Nancy Drew. (Is it possible that Elizabeth Peters's Amelia Peabody is a nod to Green's Amelia Butterworth, who would have been Peabody's contemporary?)
And of course we are lucky enough now to have virtually all of her works available for free from Project Gutenberg and digitized for Kindle (and probably the other platforms as well).
I had read The Forsaken Inn a couple of years ago, and while It was interesting and entertaining, it didn't quite grab me. But it had sparked my interest in Green's work as one of those prolific and once-popular but now almost forgotten women writers. Reading about her again in Deathly Women (reviewed here) encouraged me to try more of her works, and the Halloween Bingo provided a perfect nudge in that direction.
The Amethyst Box is a novelette published in 1905. My free Kindle edition included The House in the Mist, but I haven't read it yet. As you might guess by my avatar, the former held a special attraction.
The action all takes place from the late evening before to the early morning of the day Miss Gilbertine Murray is to wed young Mr. Sinclair at the ocean-front home of Mr. and Mrs. Armstrong in Newport, Rhode Island. The narrator, Mr. Walter Worthington, is Sinclair's best man; Worthington is also secretly in love with Gilbertine's cousin, Dorothy Camerden. The two young women -- orphaned we know not how -- have been raised by their wealthy but cruelly tyrannical aunt, Mrs. Lansing.
During the pre-wedding festivities, Sinclair displays a tiny box made from an amethyst to some of the young ladies. The box contains a deadly secret, and when the box comes up missing and someone later comes up dead, the two young men must identify the killer, even though each of them suspects the solution will destroy his future happiness.
All told through Worthington's first-person narration, there isn't much discovery of clues, but instead a persuading of the principals to reveal what they know. And of course they know more than they are willing at first to tell. Though the style is dated -- those page-long paragraphs are a bit much -- the puzzle was intriguing enough that I read until my eyes just plain wouldn't focus any longer last night and I reached for the Kindle first thing this morning to finish before I got out of bed.
For the Halloween Bingo I've already re-read some old favorites, which almost feels like cheating, so I was delighted that this short gem took place in Newport and would fit snugly on the "Set in New England" square. leaving the "Genre Mystery" spot open for another new discovery!
Same page, same topic:
When I was on a plane from St. Louis, long the airport nearest home for Phyllis Schlafly -- a creation of the Fairness Doctrine because she was the rare woman the media could find who opposed the Equal Rights Amendment -- a flight attendant whispered to me, "I had Phyllis Schlafly on my flight, and I put her in a middle seat!"
On stewardesses, aka flight attendants:
The more I listened to all of this, the more I admired the degree to which this group of women maintained their humanity, despite being regulated right down to getting demerits if they didn't smile constantly. As one said to me, "Even my face is not my own."
P. 91 -- In a taxi with a loud mouthed, racist driver:
On the other hand, if I really get angry, I'll cry, and that's embarrassing.
Seriously, don't read this unless you've finished the book, or are at least halfway finished. It's only a tiny joke (?), but it could ruin your enjoyment, and I don't want to get blamed for that.