Saturday, October 25, 2014

Saturday Night Range Cooking

Want an easy  and light breakfast or supper?  Make a frittata.  A frittata is pretty much an omelet, but one that is usually baked in the oven, not on top of the stove. I have made many omelets on top of the stove.  They are known at the Range as "scrambled eggs".

But unlike my omelets, frittatas are easy to make, baked in the oven and full of protein and a good way to use of bits of meat and veggie leftovers.

It's the perfect meal when you've been traveling far away, and are home, with little in the fridge but eggs and a few things and just want a light meal because you're tired.

All you are going to need is:
2 jumbo eggs per person
2 Tablespoons cream per person
a half cup of sautéed meat and/or veggies
salt, pepper and a dash of your favorite herbs
an oven proof one-cup ramekin  or dish per person

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  In a small pan, saute your meat and veggies (I went for onion, green pepper and fresh garlic) in a small splash of olive oil, stirring over medium heat until slightly softened.  Remove from heat.
Lightly coat your oven dish with oil or non stick spray.  Use an individual ramekin, or ovenproof dish such as the $2.99 Crate and Barrel five inch Crème Brule dishes.  You're looking for something 5 inches across or less.  If you don't have anything like that, you can make several mini Frittatis using a muffin tin, just reduce the cook time by a minute or two..

Place the lightly cooked veggies (with meat if using) in your pan.  In a cereal bowl, whisk eggs and cream until fluffy and well combined and sprinkle with salt, pepper, and a dash of herbs or crushed red pepper.  Pour half of the eggs over the veggies and if you like, sprinkle that with a bit of cheese (I used three thin slices of Kerrygold Dubliner cheese, a hard white, slightly sweet cheese) and top with remaining egg mixture.
You can use any diced veggie you like, any herb you like. Rosemary is good, any Italian herb, or spice it up with anchoor red chili. You really can't screw this up with any savory or spicy herb.

Bake the frittata(s) until they are puffy and the edges are golden brown and starting to just slightly pull away from the size of the pan, about 20 to 25 minutes for a single one. If you're adventuresome, take it out of the oven a couple minutes early and brown the top under the broiler with a  little parmesan sprinkled on top.


Friday, October 24, 2014

Posts From the Road - Danger Real and Perceived

While I'm headed home - a little rehash of dangers - real or perceived for my new readers.Over the years, I spent time in, or traveling through, for work or visiting friends and family, places in our country where a law abiding citizen couldn't carry a legally obtained firearm concealed to protect against all the criminals that have their illegal weapons. The criminals had plenty of firearms, just not the law-abiding.

Much effort is wasted on worrying about guns in the hands of millions of law abiding citizens for whom statistics show, make it through years and years of owning a weapon, of carrying concealed, without shooting up a Jiffy Lube. Yet to some, including certain politicians, concealed carry citizens are considered as dangerous to them as a career criminal.

Violent criminals and concealed carry holders. How do we know which one is dangerous to the law abiding? (aside from that whole full FBI background check thing).

How would you know the difference?

Armed robber. Grandma protecting her home and her family. You can hardly tell them apart.

It's a fact.

Why am I uneasy when I travel to or through areas where I can not legally carry a concealed firearm a law abiding citizen? States that do not allow concealed carry have a violent crime rate MUCH higher than those states that do.

And that myth that many politicians tout? "1000 people are killed every year by guns".
They forget to tell you that 25% of those include war deaths, 14% is suicide (and suicide rates do NOT go down in areas that don't allow guns). The majority of the rest are in high crime, lawless areas, that historically don't allow guns except for the criminals who greatly add to the gun deaths there.

A law abiding person has a greater chance of being killed by a cow than of dying by gunfire, either intentionally, or accidentally, from the weapon used by someone who lawfully holds it.

Yes, more people are killed by cows each year than lawful guns intentionally fired by a non criminal. Even more than sharks (though I'd avoid if swimming in the Pacific wearing your wasabi wet suit).

Yes - Cows.

Here's one disemboweling his lastest victim.
Why aren't the politicians doing something about that?

-Cow locks required on all cows and cow pastures.
-All assault cows banned except those with properly attached cow bells.
-The formation of organizations to keep the media informed of the danger, such as BADD (Bovines are Deadly, Dumbass)
-Cow Owner Identification Cards (have it ready to show the law officer).
-N.C.R.A.: National Cow Registration Act requiring the registration and marking of all cows with non-removable serial numbers.

And lastly, the establishment of "Cow-Free Zones" for the safety of citizens. For we know, that no one is ever badly injured on a farm in areas where there aren't cows.

So, to keep in line with the hysteria involved with "oh my God, you own a gun" and the Brady campaigns flawed logic of how concealed carry causes more crime, I present a Home on the Range Primer on avoiding violent crime by cow.


Yes, cows, seen in screen and print as a gentle lowly creature, the cow can easily turn into a grumpy mooing menace. I've lived on a farm. I know.

Think about it, you're doing a bit of pheasant hunting, crossing land you got permission to roam, having a wonderful time. The sky is balmy, the birds singing in the trees. Then up ahead, you head the yell of one of your companions. You run up ahead to find him scrambling up the tree as Mr. Bull tries to give him a horn enema. You turn and run, but guess what. He's gaining, and you're next.

You might be surprised to know that few people know how to defend themselves from cow attack. Between 2003 and 2008, 108 people died from cattle-induced injuries across the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The majority of cow-related fatalities were caused by blunt force trauma to the head or chest; with over a third of the victims working in enclosed spaces with cattle. Normally, the perpetual battle between man and bovine is one-sided (and involves steak sauce). But people who work around cattle have associated risks, and have to be aware of both the animal and their surroundings at all time. "Like what they say about dogs, they can smell fear," one local rancher said.

But you're thinking? I'm not a farmer, I don't have a ranch. Why should I worry about cow attack? Well why do people worry that a married Baptist CPA is somehow going to take his concealed carry weapon into the local grocery and shoot up the entire produce section, including them? So for those that worry entirely too much about such things. Some cow safety tips.

How to tell a Gentle Cow from a Really Pissed off Cow.












See the difference?

Now, don’t get mixed up, non pissed off cows are still very dangerous. But it can be difficult to tell them apart. Color, however, is not a reliable identifying characteristic for either sex and the claws, which can rival that of Wolverine of the X-men, are difficult to see at a distance.


Precautions when camping in cow country. Now that you know to watch for a cow that's in a bad MOOd (pun intended). it’s time to learn what you can do to prevent an attack when camping out. Do not cook or store food in or near your tent, unless your tent is equipped with the latest in anti-cow technology. Do not sleep in the clothing you cook in and properly stow garbage, wash dishes and wipe down any tabletops. Hang food and anything with strong odors (toothpaste, bug repellent, hippies, etc.) out of the reach of cows, if possible. If no trees are available, store your food in airtight or specially designed cow-proof containers. Avoid taking odorous foods and keep food smells off your clothing, lest you be molested or mugged and have your wallet stolen by gangs of cows.

Hiking in Cow Country. You must avoid surprising the cow at close range. If the terrain makes it hard for them to see you as your approach, make lots of noise. Talk loudly, wear a bell, sing the Monty Python Lumberjack song. If spotted by a cow, try to get its attention while it is a good distance away. Help the cow to recognize that you are a human by talking to it in a normal voice, waving your arms. Try not and travel alone. In a group, cows will attack the weakest link. Try and hike with people much slower and fatter than yourself and if the cow rushes you, point at that obnoxious guy with short legs that complained the entire hike.

Watch for signs that cows are in the area. That can include rubs and scrapes, cow patties, unusual explosions and booby traps involving spikes. Identifying these clues may help to prevent an encounter.

Leave your dog at home. Dogs and cows don't mix. Unless of course you're looking for a good dog vs.cow knife fight.

If you Encounter a Cow. Remain calm and avoid sudden movements. Give the cow plenty of room, allowing it to continue its activities undisturbed. Every living thing has a zone of danger or personal space -- that is, the distance within which a cow feels threatened. If it changes its natural behavior (feeding, foraging or hay huffing) because of your presence, you are too close. If you push that limit, the cow may react aggressively in the form of a bluff charge, or even an outright attack. Cows are famous for the bluff charge and may run at you and suddenly stop or continue right at you. You never know, which it will be, they have a terrible poker face. If they charge and stop, try and stand still and slowly back away. If they continue, try and get something between you and the cow, trees, outbuildings, a chili cook-off. Then get away from the cow as quickly as you can.

If a confrontation is unavoidable. Kick, punch, yell, the welfare of the animal is not important if your life is at risk (and how much damage do you think you are going to do to a 1300 pound side of beef?)

Do not play dead. Unless you want a fresh steaming cow pile on your head.

Don't get cornered. Like politicians you elect, trust them and get used to how they work, but don't trust them so much that you ever turn your back on them. Avoid getting into a confined space with cows. A lot of farmers are killed when cows smashed them against the sides of gates, fences and barns.

Don't forget the little ones. A calf may be cute but don't forget its "protective and charging at you Mama" is not. When a cow gives birth she becomes another animal, one that a bottle of Midol, a backrub, and a slug of scotch will NOT help improve the mood of.

If you live with a cow with a violent temper. Adjust its attitude. Have a nice steak dinner. Invite your friends.
Next Week: The Barn Cat- The beltfed weapon of the hayloft (with a reminder of some of the rules of cats)

Cats are always loaded.

Be sure of your cat and what is behind it.

Never point your cat at anything you don't wish to destroy (especially furniture).
Keep your finger off the cat until you are ready to fire.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Each Day

Each day, there are small blessings all around us, arriving on soft feet.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Killer Wabbits Hit The Beach

It wasn't the big waves and the 40 mph winds last night we had to worry about. . .
Tim: There he is!
King Arthur: Where?
Tim: There!
King Arthur: What? Behind the rabbit?
Tim: It *is* the rabbit!
King Arthur: You silly sod!
Tim: What?
King Arthur: You got us all worked up!
Tim: Well, that's no ordinary rabbit.
King Arthur: Ohh.
Tim: That's the most foul, cruel, and bad-tempered rodent you ever set eyes on!
Sir Robin: You tit! I soiled my armor I was so scared!

Gone West

Shasta rests after a long walk on the beach, homemade olive tapenade and cheese and crackers on the table, chicken with mushrooms and homemade pesto heating while the homemade pasta simmers. Lots of wine and laughter and chocolate chip cookies.

My favorite cousin is here with her Partner, preparing the food with me, the table to be set as everyone comes in from one last walk on the beach.  We needed the walk after the Halibut fish and chips.
We all had many memories in this place and we know Big Bro is watching down on us now, and smiling as bread is broken and hands are joined in prayer.
At the coast with Dad and most of our small  family that remains, two corner adjoining suites, four  bedrooms and some special time together, my gift to them.
video

Back later. (and yes, it's windy)

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

On the Hunt - Rain


The rain hangs like sheets, whipped by wind, the air as sodden as fabric. I can't see 100 yards, but I don't need to. I might be treading water today, but I probably won't be hunting.

Deer camp in a rain storm. The deer aren't moving now. and neither will I. It came up quickly, things in the high country don't meander in slowly. One minute the sky was a pale grey blue, a tuft of cotton building up against the peak. The next, all if that water just emptied out of that gentle hue, sluicing from the sky as I rushed for shelter, too far from the camp to get under real cover.

So I sat and waited. It's easier when you're not alone.

This last year the deer hunt weather was perfect, clear, and cold in the morning. We'd crawl out of our sleeping bags in the dark and didn't get in again until almost dark, putting together the evenings libations. There wasn't a TV in sight, no computer, no cell phones. We played board games and told stories, of a hunt in Africa, of loves and children and just how many bowls of venison chili we could eat without exploding.

Waiting out the wet and the dark is easier when you have friends. You can play cards or always do that shadow puppet thing on the tent wall ("Hey, that looks like a Grizzly head - Holy *&#* grab the rifle!). You can laugh and hoist those small thick glasses of heavy amber that sissies and womenfolk sniff at, but hunters sip with reverent communion.

But when you're alone, it is different. Time drapes across your senses, the water and the wind drowning out more than the hunt, but that heightened state of awareness that is the first kiss of perception. Then comes the rain, and you settle back, knowing nothing was going to happen soon, no matter how much you wished for it. Anticipation is the best part of anything and the rain only wets the desire to see that which waits for you.

Stay put or leave, the decision quivers there as I sit under a poncho trying to look more like a rock and less like a lightning rod. The water washes the landscape bright, trembling with heat, branches laying like gifts on the forest floor, a place both pagan and serene. With a splash of light, the late afternoon sun breaks free, warming me. Sun rays dance on that small piece of skin peeking beneath the camo, such a small space of flesh, evocative of all lost nights and transcended delights, flowing there like honey in sunlight.
 
Should I stay or should I go?
Despite the tales to the contrary, deer do move in the rain. Not the torrential downpour, but in that quiet trickle that is the end of a violent argument between cloud and sky, the deer will move, sometimes becoming less wary, figuring you are in someplace near the fire instead of creeping on sodden leaves to spring. Like men, deer seek comfort, seeking out cool havens in the hot weather and snug shelter when the cold is brutal. They don't like blustery winds, but in this gentle rain, there on the backside of the storm, they will be out, if only I am patient.

But it won't be an easy hunt, for their reluctance to come out and play in the rain is not about discomfort. The deers most effective defense mechanisms, the ears and the nose, are less than effective in the rain. Your movements are muffled when everything is wet, scent is washed out, not carrying well. They're going to be in the thickest cover they can find, that big buck relying on his eyesight to see you hunting him. But the playing field is more leveled, as you yourself aren't going to hear him unless he is equipped with a Brinks alarm that will go off as he bolts.


There's a reason many hunters just chose to wait it out in camp. You're not going to climb into a blind and wait for him to come out to see what the rain brought, you are going to seek what you want. You're going to stalk, in slow, methodical and deliberate movement, that which you seek. I think about these things as I wait.

I take a peek out, the rain is but a light spray, the branches barely bending. It's close to sunset. This will be the time if there is a time today.

Still I hesitate, waiting for some sign, waiting for a sound from the woods, like music moving, the sound of deer creeping past my camp, the cry of a jay startled by their presence, the sound a cloistered bell in the woods. The others had already gone home as I waited, pacing their fleeing shadows, waited because to not wait was to admit that I had made the wrong choice in being here in the first place.

Just a few more minutes, as the sky clears. I will wait, but not too long, knowing that to wait is often to lose. Time and tide wait for no man, or woman, and sometimes as you sit in quiet comfort of what you think is yours to keep, it slips away from you. One moment you're just sitting, listening to the voice of the woods, the Cicada sound of the earth spinning in space, thinking that although you have no wish to change things, all is right in the world. But someone else is watching you, contemplating that moment when you must act or remain forever silent, and you don't. You don't even notice they're gone, only the fading smell of sweet musk in the air writhing like cold smoke in their wake.

In that hesitation of inattention, you're left with nothing but the breathing of darkness and the cold that surrounds it. Nothing behind or ahead of you but the heavy heartbeat of silence you never conceived of there in the systole of a summer night. A moment in which as, the song by Hinder says, you "shoulda woulda coulda" but it's too late to act.

As a raindrop drips from a tree branch, I touch my tongue to my lips, tasting sweet salt. I've waited long enough and I gather my things, creeping from my sheltered spot, firearm in hand, out into the drawn green shades of approaching sunset. The air has gone cold, wind stroking with a touch that's neither caress or dismissal. Under my gear, a murmur of silk, breath a panting whisper. If I stay here I'll have nothing but cold and empty hands.


I stand slowly, walking out gingerly, looking and stopping. Which way is the wind coming from, which way would they have gone? I move steadily out into the shadows; a slow release of silence like protracted desire. Look. Stop. Take a deep breath. Decide. There's a whole forest in front of me, and no one holding me back. The whitetail are out there, and soon in those woods, the sound of our need will move toward a blackpowder crescendo, released like held breath.

I see a fresh scrape. I light a match and blow it out to test the wind. It blazes like a dying star, drowning in the shadow of my passing as I disappear into the trees.
 - Brigid
 

Monday, October 20, 2014

On Freedom

Government is by the people for the people, not the elected individuals pride and ego, but the service of those that put them in office.  It's a free government of free men, until it fails to remember to let men live free, not beneath it, but beside it.

When it fails to do that, it is not free government, it is sovereignty, and that's something our nation shed it's blood to be rid of.

Remember that when you vote here in the near future, remember that as you pick up your phone, sign that petition, that letter, tools of the law abiding, to let your voice be heard.

They may be small things, but small things wielded by thousands have changed history. We can only hope that is still true.

Brigid

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Tag - You're It! Favorite Meals


Everyone has their favorite meal, one that if calories did not count, or you didn't know if you'd get another one.  For me it would be tough, homemade mac and cheese, bacon and pancakes, steak and a baked potato, Halibut fish and chips, (fresh caught out West, not frozen) Caesar and oriental chicken salad, homemade tacos, sourdough bread, grapes, apples, watermelon, it's hard to have just ONE favorite food.
One of my favorites is also one of the simplest, something Partner made for me one night after the long weekly drive home. Beef Chow Mein.  It's pretty simple, garlic, soy sauce, black pepper, a splash of Worcestershire  a pinch of sugar and a bit of corn starch to help it stick to the meat, pan try in a little oil, reduce heat and add a half a can of beef stock and simmer two minutes, remove meat, simmer a couple handfuls of veggies until tender and serve over crunchy chow mein noodles.

It's the best beef dish I've had that someone else has made since Mr. B's Pepper Steak and something I could eat every week.

Sometimes, a favorite is the most simple of things.  Warm Australian Damper bread with butter and golden syrup, a recipe originally made to bake down in the coals of a campfire.
Partner, however is happy if I just make  him a plate of bacon with biscuits and  country gravy for Sunday breakfast.
Or a pot of coffee with scones with maple/bacon/whiskey glaze
 So, if you had just one, what would be your favorite meal.
Cheers -
Brigid

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Starlight, Starbright - Home and Emergency Supplies - the Right Candles.

For years I used the typical decorative candle that smelled like apple pie or cinnamon or such.  I also attributed the constant sneezing and sniffing when I was burning a decorative candle to seasonal allergies.  But when I started prepping and canning and doing more things from scratch around the home, I looked into a better, cheaper option.  Well, beeswax isn't cheaper, not at first glance, but it is SO much better, an ultimately, a good value.

Hundreds of years ago, candles were made from beeswax.  Over time, those beeswax candles were gradually replaced by tallow (animal fat) candles, and then in the last century by paraffin candles.  If you look at the candles in your home, that's likely what you have. But what exactly IS paraffin?

Well, it's made from the goo found at the bottom of barrels of crude oil, which is then treated and bleached with chemical solvents such as benzene and toulene  to "clean it up".  This is AFTER the stuff to make asphalt is extracted.  There's a reason such candles put out soot and smoke when you burn them, along with some tasty carcinogens.  To get around that natural "diesel fuel" smell the makers add synthetic fragrance oils, many of which can be toxic if burned.
No wonder I was sneezing and sniffing.  The minute particles of that sludge byproduct, over time, can also stain walls, and drapes.

Then I discovered 100% beeswax candles.

Not only do beeswax candles not put out the pollutants, they also help clean the air, for as the candle burns, negative ions are emitted that clean the air.  How?  Negative ions are drawn to positive, and positive ions attract and hold on to airborne things such as mold, dust, bacteria, viruses and odor causing pollutants, and are suspended in the air.  The negative ions latch on to the "contaminated" positive ions and weigh them down where they fall to the ground.  It's similar to a the cleansing of the air you see after a thundershower a negative ionic event if there ever was one.
I have no hard science as to the allergy connection, but several friends for whom I gave beeswax candles as gifts, say they have seen a marked improvement in their allergies, burning a beeswax candle in their bedroom for about 3 hours before sleep.  I burn one for a few hours in my small home prior to a visit from a friend that's sensitive to pet dander and she says it helps immensely.

But Brigid!  You're Scot!  You're a spendthrift!  You refinish and reupholster throw away curb furniture and bake your own bread.  Those candles are rather pricey.
100% Beeswax candles burn 3 times longer than traditional candles.  Considering that, they are quite competitively priced with  most high commercially sold candles. It's dollars well spent.

Home Emergency Supplies - candles are a part of most smart folks ready reserves for natural disaster or electrical outage.  Not only does the beeswax candle burn cleaner, nice in close quarters, but it has a flame that's much brighter than traditional candles, with the same light spectrum as a ray of sun.  I keep one in the glove box of my car, in case of an on road emergency requiring a bit of natural light and heat without polluting the cab of the bat truck.
But (there's always a but).  Not all Beeswax candles sold are 100% pure. Labeling in the US requires only that they be 51% beeswax to be pure (much like some of our food labeling).  Look for the phrase "100% pure beeswax" and note the  unique and fresh, subtle honey fragrance.
I get mine from  Morningsong Gardens.

They are a family owned, Midwest basedCompany and their bee balms (from unscented to my favorites lavender/vanilla or almond/vanilla) have saved my hands for years from the constant scrubbing that is sometimes part of my day. The bee balm, especially the Calendula Pomegranate is wonderful for the skin of folks going through radiation with cancer treatment and I try and send a jar out to bloggers I know are going through that or have a family member who is. It's also a natural SPF 15 with no chemicals that I will use on my face on a daily basis for light sun protection (though being redhead, if  I'm out in the strong sun for any long period of time,  I need a hat, SPF50 and a few of those tiles they use on the space shuttle).
So, when I saw they also made 100% pure beeswax candles, made in the USA with pure cotton wicks (no lead). I ordered some and have been so happy with the speed of shipping and the quality.

 Plus I have the little animal ones around my tub now instead of those Ikea tubs o'tealights for ten bucks, which just sooted up my shower curtain. These candles produce NO smoke and last SO long, while your drapes, walls and air stay fresh and clean.
 Whether you are a candle lover, a prepper, someone who loves their "Calgon Take Me Away" candle accompanied baths, or live in an area with power outages, add some pure beeswax candles to your supplies. You might just like them because your house is full of dog hair and you're sneezing all the time.  For whatever the reason you, will find the slight amount more you pay has benefit beyond compare.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Range Menu - Mock Armadillo ?


This is the Gerber Mark 1, a smaller version of the Mark 2 combat knife. It's not really good for field dressing, it was designed to stab in and right back out, a design that's a thousand years or so old, and it's not been bested for that particular design use. But for day to day use, pretty much limited to "See I have a knife ! " displays, mall Ninjas..

Not to be confused with the Carnival Ninja. . .
or spearing a tasty roast tenderloin out of the pan.

Like this one, a favorite.  Known in the Range household as "Mock Armadillo" I posted a version of recipe a long time back, but several people have asked for it again.

click to enlarge photo
You take a mixture of half low sodium soy sauce and half real maple syrup. Fillet a pork tenderloin (one that length wise would fill a bread pan) or two and marinate for a day in the mixture, enough to cover. About 3 hours before dinner, slice some green onions and a carrot into tiny matchstick sized slivers and saute in a little olive oil with a clove of garlic. Add a twist of ground pepper but do not add salt as the soy sauce has enough already. Veggies should be limp but not overcooked. Remove meat from marinade, unfold the meat, stuff with veggies (amount up to you, I use about 1/2 cup per tenderloin, "seasoning" as opposed to "filling"). Wrap in raw bacon and secure with toothpicks. Pour some of the leftover marinade over the meat and bake, loosely covered with foil, in bread pans in a 200 degree oven for 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 hours. Serve over bread stuffing, or rice after pouring off remaining marinade.
Worth getting out the fancy boot knives for. But you won't need them, you can cut this with a spoon.

 

Thursday, October 16, 2014

One Voice - One Vote

The elections are a few weeks off and the TV is off, where it is likely to stay until late tomorrow night. There have been many words on the TV, words on the Web, some that make you wonder, some that just make you wonder if someone was hypoxic. Here at the Range, it is just Thursday morning.  I've a cup of coffee and a hour to write,  and just relax before my work day starts. There is no lamp light, only the glow of a keyboard and a candle lit, the match then snuffed like a dying planet in miniature, extinguished with just the rush of breath.

I can not tell you who to vote for, where or how. But think about it.  What seems to be monumental at this moment to the world is, for my world, for yours, just one vote, just one action. Actions, that when taken, can not be undone.

I've never had a tattoo. One of my  closest girlfriends has several, but they aren't really tattoos, they are works of art, incredibly detailed and delicate history etched into flesh. They are hidden by clothing so it was some time before I was even aware she had them, until changing clothes together for a formal occasion, they were revealed as her clothing fell to the floor like flower petals and I was struck by the beauty against alabaster flesh.
 But I always hesitated to get one. For starters I have a pretty low threshold of pain, which apparently is not uncommon among redheads. Then there is the whole "what would I get?" I have enough freckles that if someone were to connect the dots on my arms with an ink pen as a prank while I'm asleep, it might resemble a tattoo (don't ask how I know). But still, it's a big choice and a permanent one.

Some tattoos are crafted with months, even years, of thoughts and stories behind them. Others are done on the spur of the moment at the urging of friends who say "everyone has one, you need to have one too!" Both end in that moment when you unclench your hands from the pain, fingers filling again with blood and you realize that the rose, maple leaf, or big battleship with the words "Wanda Forever", or whatever it is that your heart clasped firmly on to, will be marked on your body for the rest of your life.

Such are those moments in early adulthood, when one is proving points as much as themselves. Two members of my family had died and the rest of us scattered in our grief, myself wandering the skies of a big world far from anything familiar. What I yearned for was the smell of fresh baked bread, sewing machine oil, fresh cut grass, the long ago sound of Mom laughing as Dad sang "Barnacle Bill the Sailor", chasing the little ones down the hall. I wanted family dinners around an old table, the sound of happy voices, the tender touch of hands that uphold and forgive. What I had what was life handed me, and no amount of wishing can bring back dreams that weren't yours to craft.

But I can remember those days as if it were today, the sounds, the throated roar of an engine, the whisper of wheels on the pavement, the oily smell of jet fuel and asphalt that lay heavy on my skin as I wandered. I had the tools to take care of myself, yet I unknowingly was looking for someone to anchor what had somehow been set adrift. Looking back now, I think "how naive !" But unfortunately, the future of individuals, indeed, a very nation, can lie in the actions of those so unaware of the true costs of things.

It's not long after, that I awoke one morning with a slight headache from jet lag, wondering, for a moment, where I am. I've awakened next to a stranger. Not really a stranger though, we had known each other a little less than a year and agreed on this venture, much to the delight of his family anyway. But now I just see a stranger, mouth shut in a firm line, no tenderness in it, a head tilted away from me, no longer listening. The cheap hotel a.c. blows over my legs like sweatshop silk, dust laden light glinting on a ring on my left hand, put there at some little "church" in a desert town where nothing seems permanent except loss.

I was not the girl he had wanted to marry but I did not know that at the time. That girl was not suitable, according to his parents. I was the girl they wanted him to marry, to come into the fold with, a big farm to inherit someday, a big future. Myself, I wanted that absolute of family, mine torn asunder. I was at that age of my 20's where every parent, every magazine, it seems, was urging one to marry.

I spent the next 10 years paying for the mistake of not being that girl, the hopes of laughter giving way to sounds no louder than a sigh but filled with such fury.
Actions. At the time we do things for reasons known only to us, and then looking back on those choices, years later, at the scars that only show when the cover of fabric falls away, do you wonder -What WAS I thinking?

So I don't make choices quickly any more. The people that share my life, my table now, are ones I've known for years. They know my strong choices and uphold them, they know my poor choices and forgive them.  As well, I accept them for what they are, not attempting to change them to fit something I need.
They are around me when it comes time to celebrate something. They are dinners, bad puns and zombie targets, tools and discovery, songs and music, too long dormant. They are there when the rain falls like knives, simply warming me, their flame drying me from the inside out.

There are some that might rightly say, that when all is said and done, just one action, just like one vote, will not change the course of the future. But it will let me sleep, knowing that for this moment, I made a choice. It's not the choice of a naive child in an adult's body, looking for someone to provide for me what I was capable of providing myself. It's the choice of one who has worked and lost and cried and fought, and will continue to do so as long as God gives me strength.
Yes, it's just a voting booth, just the motion of a hand, a moment in time. As the hand moves, so does that time, so much longing and loss, hopes dashed and restored, lies told out of the depth of our hearing and whispered softly in our ears, the clang of coins filling a pocket or scattering on the ground like tears. It's just a vote, it's just a simple action.
 
Or is it?

I curl up with my coffee and my notepad, looking at the photos on my desk of those people in my life that taught me to love and trust again, smiles of shared moments, a touch that is like gold in the hand, firm and secure. I look at the shelves against the walls, so many books, some patches, some awards, merits of years given and service paid to something I still feel is more important than just being popular. There's a flag and a small cross, ceremonial shapes of mortality, reminders that some choices are everlasting. There's a tail from a whitetail, taken in a hunt, some spent brass that guarded a life, a piece of old uniform fabric, the scents of verbena and gunpowder and freedom that soak into my skin and bones like ink, to stay with me til the end of days.

It is just one small voice - but it is mine.
 - Brigi