Green Frog Cafe

"Living in nature, listening to the rain, Green Frog Cafe, that's where I want to be. The hemlocks are green, the creek is tricklin, there's geese on the pond, the forest sighs. Green Frog Cafe that's where I want to be, home of my soul, spirit of the mountains." Ruminations of Rhona McMahan

Saturday, November 10, 2007


Badu is the mommy cat. She mothered 12 to 15 kittens while living at Transy House, including "Streaky" who was given the Mtribe, and Cleo the Palsied One, who was given to Jamie. The last of the kittens to be with Badu is Zona, who has been living with her in the Catskills at Central House for the past year. Badu loves Central House. She lives outside much of the time, but has been sleeping inside with Jamie in recent weeks. Badu is very fearless even though she is such a delicate small cat. When she first arrived at Transy House there were two active dogs there, Sophie and Kiva, who liked to chase cats. They had driven out several other cats who had been brought in to hunt the mice. The dogs pounced on Badu, who was then practically still a Kitten, and she was fearless in confronting them and setting them back on their heels. Eventually they worked out a modus vivendi. Today Badu and Kiva treat each other like old friends. At Central House Badu has become a hunter, leaving dead mice around on the doorstep so often that it is bothersome. It is beautiful to watch her moving stealthily through the grass and weeds as she stalks prey. Some people think that she is abandoned because she is outside so much, but it is actually just that she is so sociable. Whenever something is going on on the Central House grounds she sticks her nose in and participates. The people living at Central House want her to stay there, and take good care of her, even though I am considering taking her back to Brooklyn as I write this. They have know Badu for a long time, and love her. She is the best cat I have ever known.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Zona at Central House, Summer 2007

Zona lives in and out of Central House in Palenville. She was born in Brooklyn about six years ago. She is a sister of other cats which have been at Central House, including "Streaky." Zona likes to be free to room outside the house, and sometimes eats at the neighbor houses as well. She is taken care of by all the people living at Central House, who knew her when she was a kitten in Brooklyn.

Kiva, October 2007

Here is a picture of Kiva at 15, peacefully back home at Transy House after eight difficult months of semi-homelessness in the Catskills. He actually ran away one Sunday due to dissatisfaction with being left out of the house, and was found by the dog catcher about 4 miles away in another county. We were lucky to get him back. He now has an Ulster County dog license.

He is much happier to be back in the center of things with people around.

Crone Witch of the Blackthorne

The Crone Witch can be very stern, but she loves a good joke..

Dagobert II

The wizard, Dagobert II reading cards at Massacre Mansion

The Crone Witch of the Blackthorne

For the past 5 weeks I have been assuming an identity as the “Crone Witch of the Blackthorne” at the Massacre Mansion in East Durham New York for about 16 hours per week. This has been an extraordinary experience. Massacre Mansion is a haunted house on the grounds of the Black Thorn Resort in the Catskills near Windham.

My role was to be the “guide” for the second floor of the old Victorian house which had belonged to the Fear brothers. These gentlemen had been eccentric gentlemen scientists who experimented with genetics and psychic phenomena. One of the brothers had disappeared under mysterious circumstances back in the 20’s, and the other (Angus) had been buried in the vicinity.

My partner Chelsea was the star of the second floor, reading tarot cards in her persona as “Dagobert II.” I would inroduce her to the tourists as a great black wizard from Europe who had been brought to the Black Thorn as the visiting psychic in the Séance Room of the House of Fear. My other friend Gina started out as a “come from the dead” screamer, and evolved into providing four singlehanded “scares” in the middle of the second floor tour. She reminded me of the Wizard of Oz as she worked the mist machine, buzzed the buzzer, shot off the air pistol, and grabbed people through the hidden window in the hallway in rapid sequence. Then she would scare me as I walked back through the house after sending a group on to the next attraction. Those scares worked every time, and made me laugh.

The people would go through the downstairs of the House of Fear, then climb some stairs on the outside of the house, stopping at a closed door at the top. They were told to knock three times to gain admittance. I opened the door after hearing three knocks and introduced myself as the Crone Witch. In the beginning I was stern and bossy, but over the weeks I evolved into a crone witch who was a happy and friendly good witch. I was not really surprised at how easily I could scare people. Some people touched me to see if I was real.

I took the people into the Séance Room and introduced Dagobert as a black magician, psychic, wizard, and/or card reader saying the she would “do some real magic for them.” Dagobert would read the cards of at least one person, and then I would take the people on through the rest of the second floor. (Sometimes I would say “Dagobert the second, from Metz, France.”)

Chelsea was amazing. She read the cards of hundreds of people coming through, and had an extremely high percentage of “right on” readings based on the somewhat awed reactions of the people in the groups. She really was doing “real magic”. By the end of our run up to Halloween people were coming to Massacre Mansion just to get the reading from Dagobert. Chelsea read the cards of a lot of children, but also mothers and fathers, girlfriends and boyfriends, grandparents and everyone else. Beligerent drunks would come into the room laughing, and would leave silenced and a bit apprehensive after seeing a reading.

Gina kept the mist in the house at a high level. It was so thick that sound transmission and perception was affected. It was a great assist to opening the mind to the possibility of Halloween magic.

The first day we went to the Black Thorn for Chelsea to audition Gina made the comment that “they never saw anyone really scary until they saw us.” The rest of the actors were friends of the family running the haunted house, or junior and senior high school kids for whom working in the haunted house was a traditional rite of passage in East Durham and environs. The three of us each have a sense of having tapped into some sort of psychic energy. I would consider Chelsea and Gina to be witches as I understand it in my limited experience in the pagan community. They joke that I am a witch, but I do not take this too seriously as I have no discipline in my sense of spirituality. If anything I am oriented in the way of Yeshua.

I was repelled by the lack of a sense of the deeper content of the haunted house on the part of the others involved in the project. They saw it as good fun, and enjoyed the experience of scaring people and playing roles such as “Little Dead Riding Hood”, “Werewolf,” and “Gorlag the Alien.” They told Chelsea that she could work the Séance Room by pretending to read palms and telling people that they were going to die.
No one dreamed that Chelsea would actually be able to read the Tarot cards and reveal thought provoking readings to the people filing past night after night.

I invented my name as the Crone Witch of the Blackthorne, and resolved to raise real spiritual issues in the course of the tour. I blush to admit that at times I really got into feeling myself as the Crone Witch of the Blackthourne, especially in the intense times from make-up at home in Ulster County, driving 38 miles to East Durham across the Schoharie Creek valley and down the face of East Windham. We would stroll into the
Entrance to the mansion just a few minutes after groups started through the lower floor. The grassy orchard before the house would be full of people. A ripple would run through the crowd as the three of us walked in.

Some children noticed the Pentacle dangling from my neck. It is beautiful, made by Gina. I asked the children if they knew what the Pentacle stood for, and one said “the devil.” I informed him that it represents the path Venus takes around the sun from the perspective of the earth on an eight year cycle. Venus represents many things, but I did not go into them.

Before the first night the director’s assistant had called me up to say that they had purchased a wig and witch costume for me to use. But when I got there that night they took one look at my own dress, hair, make-up, Royal Stewart plaid cape, black witches hat, with a little plaid Mexican bag and wearing black combat boots, and said “forget the costume, you look better in your street clothes”.

Dagobert wore leather trousers, a leather vest over a black turtleneck, a long black leather duster, and combat boots. Gina wore tight jeans, combat boots, and a black velvet top, with a choker made of bones.

The main effect of this experience as an actor playing a witch was to make me think about the magical traditions which have affected me in my life trip. Today I read a long article on Wikipedia about the Covenanters. These people were the community from which my oldest direct family knowledge comes. The Covenanters were a group in 16th and 17th Century Scotland which struggled to establish the Church of Scotland in a “Presbyterian” form, and at one point included the majority of Scots. By the 17th Century the seat of the Covenanters was in Ayrshire in the western Scottish lowlands. Many of these people emigrated to Ulster in Northern Ireland, and later to the US, where they are know as the Ulster-Scots or the Scotch-Irish. I am sure that some of my ancestors were still Covenanters after coming to the US because many McGeorges are buried in the “Reformed Presbyterian Cemetery” outside of New Galilee, Pennsylvania. My immediate relatives, however, had relaxed their discipline to a degree, and were simply United Presbyterians or simply Presbyterians by the time I came along.

My own life is not exactly one which would be acceptable to conservative Presbyterians. I feel often that I have betrayed my heritage in many ways, one of which is to forsake the Christian churches (although not Yeshua), and to embrace the view of Hermeticism. Lately I am even being vilified on at least one pagan website as a pagan “heretic”, which may seem like an oxymoron.

My quest now is to learn more about my spiritual roots from the time before Christianity. I suppose that this means learning more about Celtic and Norse spirituality. I have had dreams of my spirit in those earlier time.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Driving Up To The Catskills From Park Slope

Chelsea and I have been basically living in the Catskills for the past 15 months. I have been commuting back and forth to Brooklyn almost every week, while Chelsea has probably averaged every third weekend in Brooklyn. Right now I am thoroughly sick of the weekly commute. It’s not that the drive is so bad. It takes approximately three and a half hours to make the trip, which is mostly on the New York State Thruway. I you travel on the off hours, say after 10:00 PM both ways, it is a breeze as long as there is no car trouble and E-Z-Pass is working. The hard part is packing at each end so that you do not forget essential items related to household management and academic work. I am sick of this.

Today we left our house at about 3:45 PM (rush hour), drove across from Park Slope to Clinton Hill, and got on the BQE to the Grand Central Parkway and the Triboro Bridge by about 4:00. We were waylaid along the way by a call of desperation from our lawyer in Hudson New York who is handling a divorce case for one of the members of our family nest. She is preparing to go to trial, and wanted to set up a phone conference with us.

Traffic was slow on the BQE over the Kosciusko Bridge, a fast bumper to bumper, but the Triboro was moving well, and the Deegan North was a fast heavy steady. Traffic was still heavy but moving well after we passed the exit to the George Washington Bridge off the Deegan, and we moved right along. Chelsea and I had been bickering all day, and the time just flew by. I was suddenly on the Tappan Zee Bridge across the Hudson before I knew it. The Thruway up to about Sloatsburg is clogged and relatively slow at the evening rush hour, but we made it to the Sloatsburg Rest Stop by about 6:00 PM. It had taken about two hours to make the first 50 miles out of Brooklyn. We did not eat, but just went to the rest room, put in 5 gallons of gas, and pulled back out on the highway with Chelsea at the wheel now. I was tired after the two hour stint through the New York and Westchester and Yonkers rush hour, and glad to let my mind drift.

We were able to pick up Radio Woodstock almost as soon as we left Sloatsburg. My heart lifted after the days of focusing on managing three courses, and the issues of making a new home in the renovated Transy House. I could feel the transition happening between my New York frame of mind and my Catskill frame of mind. I was feeling happier as I mentally planned my weekend. I did not feel like bickering any more, and I reached over to rest my hand on Chelsea’s leg as she drove. I can be a real bitch.

I have gone up and down the Thruway to the Catskills about 75 times in the past year and a half. The road is very familiar to me. It is always nice to look at the scenery flowing by. The Thruway up the Hudson Valley from the Bronx to the Canadian border just south of Montreal is an absolutely beautiful drive. This slice of New York State has a special beauty, with green mountain vistas, and glimpses of the Hudson at the core of the valley.

Certain places are markers of progress to me: the intriguing stone silos just before Sloatsburg, the well groomed apple orchards on either side before Newburgh, and the sign that says “Catskills Exits 18-19-20-21” before New Paltz.

At Kingston, exit 19, we turn West on state route 28 in the direction of Pine Hill and, eventually, Oneonta. As we go down this road we are fully back into our Catskill mode, thinking about what to buy for dinner, what to cook for Gina when she gets home from work at 12:30 AM, and whether Kat was able to straighten out a problem with her card. I am planning a weekend of grading papers and paying bills.

We pass the turn off to Woodstock on Route 315, roll by Kate’s Lazy Meadow Motel in Mt. Tremper, and pull into the 24 hour farm stand. There are a lot of people from the City up here every weekend, and they all need to stock up on local food as they arrive. We bought local organic apples, local pear cider, local red potatoes, asparagus, yellow squash, loaves of artesanal zucchini and banana bread, brussel sprouts on the stalk, local milk and cheese, and picked up a Phoenicia Times. We drove on past the Catskill Railway where we go with Caleb, and the giant eagle statue at the entrance to Phoenicia, and knew that we were almost home. Soon enough we turned up the road in the Village, and felt joy that we had just five more miles to go.

The weather was at least ten degrees colder than in the city, and I had forgotten my down vest and coat. Chelsea commented as we drove the last miles “this is a really long way to ride a bicycle” (meaning the five miles from the Village to our little place), and I commented “it sure is a long way, but I was younger then.” Chelsea said “that was just last week.” I said “that’s what I mean.”

It was good to see the Grand Wagoneer parked outside the driveway, and to be home. Chelsea said “don’t you have just a little bit of a feeling of being home?” I grudgingly said “yes.”