Witchy Sunday: Solomon’s Seal Salve

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I’ve been making tons of Solomon’s Seal salve lately since me or someone I know has been complaining about some sort of muscle or joint ache or injury.

Solomon’s Seal (polygonatum biflorum) is a medicinal herb that has diverse health restorative properties. It can be used as a herbal tincture, salve, tea or supplement. As an alternative remedy it may offer relief, healing or mending to sports injuries and other conditions related to tendons, joints, ligaments, bones, bruises, connecting tissues, cartilage, etc. It also soothes and repairs gastrointestinal inflammation and injuries (Source).       More info

Historically, indigenous cultures of North America consumed the starchy rhizomes of solomon’s seal as a potato-like food to make breads and soups. The young shoots are also edible, raw or boiled for an asparagus-like food. The plant gets its name from a scar that develops on the rhizome in the fall that resembles the ancient seal of King Solomon.

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For the Salve, the ratio I use is 1:1 for liquid to beeswax, but it also works great with a more or less depending on how soft and melty you want your salve to be. I also add a tablespoon of coconut oil and 4-5 drops of rosemary essential oil to aid in a smoother consistency and pain relief.

 

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stirring away till the last of the beeswax melts

I start off with my makeshift double boiler (basically a mixing bowl in a pot with water and add the oil (olive oil infused with Solomon’s Seal I buy from a local herb shop), beeswax and coconut oil and stir together till completely melted.

* to make your own infused herbal oils, just cover fresh or dried herb with olive    oil and allow to sit for 4-6 weeks before straining.

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While salve is still warm, add essential oil and pour into desired container

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final consistency!

 

My family and I have experienced pretty fast relief after massaging the salve on our tight and achy knees, shoulders, neck…. ( pretty much anywhere) that needs it. 

I am firm believer in “there’s a plant for that” and Solomon’s Seal is no exception.

Happy Witching!

 

 

 

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The Fall: a True Story

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I woke up in a room filled to the ceiling with colorful balloons and flower arrangements and a beautiful bandaged girl sitting up in the bed across mine. Both of her legs were up in slings and she was surrounded by family and friends. I looked over at my mom and asked “where’s the hundred dollars you promised me?”*  Then the girl told me her story. She broke both arms and legs as a result of pushing her little brother out of the way of a speeding truck. He only suffered a small scratch. She was lucky to be alive. 

“How’d you break your arm?” The hero asked, sincerely interested and attentive. I felt heat rise to my face as everyone’s eyes turned to my cast, reminding me of my clumsiness.

“Oh. I just tripped”.

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The summer of ’92, I tripped over an exposed tree root and broke my elbow. In school, the kids with broken bones got the best of everything: they got to leave class early, got to be first in the hot lunch line, and best of all, they were always surrounded by other students oohing and aaaahing at their story. Then we went on summer vacation.

We had just immigrated to the United States following the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, my birth place, and after a series of serendipitous events, my grandmother, mother, and I landed in the town of Johnston. People assumed I was a native speaker even though I had only been here for a year. When a classmate described a math problem as “a piece of cake”, I took it literally and demanded loudly, “where’s the cake?” 

My mom was incredulous- I had the tendency towards dramatics as a child. Breaking a bone is searing rawness. The pain took my breath away, for that long moment of silence my lungs stretched to catch up with my body, my mom thought I was still playing a game. Once the air was released, my throat squeezed out an animalistic guttural sound reverberating throughout the parking lot. My mom ran over to where I stood and demanded answers.To her, I was disturbing the peace of a quiet suburban park on a sunny afternoon. 

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“I broke it” I stammered.

“You didn’t break anything, let me see”, she demanded, forcing me to let go of what was once my intact limb. After seeing the unnatural fall and bend of my arm, her face turned white. We rushed to the emergency room less than a mile away. My mother, who a year previous confidently kidnapped me from my father during a war, defying her family, was now so panicked, she forgot which direction to drive to the urgent care. The waiting area was a dimly lit room lined with empty chairs, save a few moms shielding sniffly children. The seen-it all-before woman at the window responded to our pleas by flatly asking us to find a seat and wait. After the x-rays confirmed the obvious, I was sent home with a temporary cast and instructions to get myself to a real hospital. Once back at the house we shared with my grandmother, aunt, uncle, and baby cousin, I leapt through the house showcasing my temporary cast, nearly tripping over myself in excitement. I heard a loud thud as my mother fainted, the weight of our fall catching up with her. 

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The summer before, bombs were falling on Kuwait City, and I just happened to be at my mom’s house. My parents divorced when I was too young to remember, the details of domestic unrest and emotional abuse still hidden from me, but I went back and forth to their houses. My dad’s house was fun, but the best part of being at my mom’s house was the nearby toy store and my favorite art supply shop, both of which were damaged when the bombs fell.

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A few months into our new life in Rhode Island, my mom found me in the kitchen feverishly dialing random numbers into the phone.

“What are you doing?”

“Calling baba” I snapped, pounding away numbers while pressing the receiver even harder into my ear.

“What? Why?”

“I am ready to go home now”

  “Going back? Why do you want to go back?”

“I want to see Baba! All the other kids have their Baba but I don’t, I want my Baba!”

This must be some misunderstanding. To me, America was a cold place with mean kids that I was just visiting, the fact that this was my home now went against everything I believed. After all of my struggles with learning a new language; bundling up in the snow, coloring with crayons instead of markers, I was supposed to be rewarded with going home. If I could’ve formed words in that moment, I would’ve said that it wasn’t just about my dad, but about my grandmother, who was particular about how a girl is supposed to act, my grandfather, that would look the other way when I cut off all my barbie’s hair in protest. You know what mama?  I snooped in the cupboard and there was a brand new art set that grandma said she was saving for my birthday…and it had watercolors…I know it’s still waiting for me.

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That night, my aunt and uncle were called down to my bedside. My uncle is so tall he needed to drop down on to his knees to face me. He placed his hand on my shoulder and said “I can be your Baba habibti, please don’t cry.”

When the bombs fell, that was the end of family picnics at the beach at dusk, the end of sharing chocolate bars with friends outside of class that were half melted from the midday heat, the end of playing outside our high rise apartment building with the children of neighbors my mom grew up with. This dank basement of my uncle’s house couldn’t possibly be where we stay. 

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The journey out of Kuwait took place after weeks of driving through desert check points, navigating armed guards, waiting in endless lines at embassies, staying at beat down hotels, the homes of friends or extended family. The only routine being the lack of routine, each night laying in a different bed, beside my mom or other children, surrounded by mosquito netting in compete darkness, hungry buzzing at my ears lulling me to sleep. I remember feeling the distinct sensations of vertigo, falling and floating upside down while my body lay still, spinning while falling, falling, falling. 

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Jasmines were in bloom in Amman during our journey

I needed surgery to set my elbow. The break was millimeters away from being a compound fracture. Compound fractures are terrible, bloody affairs when the bone breaks and also exits the skin….so close. That summer passed slowly with an itchy cast up my left arm, covering everything from knuckle to shoulder. I wasn’t allowed to get it wet, because the fancy water proof cast was for people who could afford it, and I was a recent immigrant whose tourist visa ran out with a mom who worked under the table. My developing swimming skills put on hold as my arm lazily floated around in my uncle’s pool while tightly wrapped in a plastic stop and shop bag. The weeks turned into months of sponge baths and my grandmother tightly braiding my hair. I fell backwards into a more helpless version of myself.

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That summer, I learned that when expectations, families, or bones fall apart, they won’t ever go back together the same way. There are three bones that form the elbow joint: the humerus of the upper arm, the paired radius and ulna bones of the forearm. I needed three thick metal pins to hold my bones together while it set back in place. When I finally got the cast taken off, my skin was pale and wrinkly. My arm, thin and limp. The doctor said the procedure was called a realignment; when extra cells are sent to the site of the break to actually make it a denser area of bone. Stronger.

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Although my cast had been off by the time school started up again, I had a raised scar in the shape of an L marking where my forearm and upper arm meet.There is also a cluster of scars at the base of my elbow where the metal pins once were. Over the years the scar shrank and flattened out, eventually becoming another part of my skin’s landscape.

 

  • According to my mom, I was nervous about going under for surgery so she reassured me by saying “when you wake up, I’ll give you a hundred dollars”. She assumed I would be too drugged up to remember. The first thing I asked for when I came to was “where’s my hundred dollars?” 

Free Palestine: Resilience and Connection

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The words below were spoken at the Rhode Island Poor People’s campaign event: Linking Racism and Poverty on the state house lawn May 21, 2018.

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The way I see it, everyone and everything is connected.

That is why it comes as no surprise to me that Lemon trees, which can grow in nearly any soil used to grow on my grandmother’s family orchard in Yaffa Palestine. Nearly 70 years after the Nakba, or catastrophe- that forced my people to flee their land, Palestinian refugees and their descendants have spread their roots in nearly all corners of the globe and like the lemon tree, have remained resilient and persisted in their fight for freedom and their right to return. 

 

As a Palestinian, I was taught at an early age about colonization and state oppression not through the news or textbooks but through my families personal history.

My grandparents fled Yaffa, a thriving port city on the coastal strip of the miedditerrean during the Nakba during the spring of 1948. My maternal grandmother was 18 and remembers it well. I grew up hearing her vivid description of the events leading to our families departure. The leaflets dropped from planes warning inhabitants of the coming violence, the thunderous bombings sending families scampering to safety, the gruesome and bloody street scenes in the immediate aftermath, and of course the mass exodus of hundreds of thousands of newly created Palestinian refugees.

My grandmother’s family was one of the lucky ones. Even though their homes and orchards were stolen, they were able to safely travel to Syria, but many families were not that fortunate. Thousands were made to endure the razing of their villages, their farmlands and their livelihoods. Survivors were forced into rickety refugee camps both within the newly created nation of Israel and in neighboring middle eastern countries. Decedents of this violence still fight on today in Gaza, steadfastly insisting on their humanity.

 My grandparents ended up settling in Kuwait, where they never let go of the stubborn hope of one day returning home to Palestine. 

Once we immigrated to the United States, I was influenced by my families connection to other people who experienced state sponsored oppression. For example, when I was only 9 years old,  she made me to watch the TV series inspired by Alex Haley’s Roots about the capture and enslavement of African’s  at a young age to emphasize the Black struggle. Also, my grandmother,  often pointed out stereotypical representations of native Americas to me on TV saying “of course they are fighting back, this is all their land.”

Like the fibrous roots that sprout and spread from the lemon tree, our histories, struggle, and  fight for freedom is connected and relies on each connective tissue for support. Across generations Palestinians continue to resist and imagine and we will not wait for permission to narrate our own stories in our own words, we resist by existing in full bloom.

We must continue to work for the freedom of all people. No matter how bleak, no matter how thorny, because another’s deferred justice becomes our deferred joy. As Martin Luther King said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

Free Palestine.

Once upon a Time…

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“Media are major industries, generating profits and employment, they provide us with most of our information about the political process, and they offer us ideas, images and representations (both factual and fiction) that inevitably shape our view of reality.” (David Buckingham, Media Education)

I immigrated to the United States in the fall of 1990.  Iraq invaded our adopted country of Kuwait (my family was originally from Palestine) in August of that summer and after weeks of fleeing and general bureaucratic drama we finally landed in little Rhode Island, making us refugees twice in three generations.

The most memorable part (even though there were many) of leaving the only home I ever knew in Kuwait was the fact that I was only allowed to bring one toy and one book along on that journey.  This was a tall order, an only child and grandchild who (until then), but been lavished with every toy, craft, and Barbie dream house set available in the 80’s.  I spurned the cabbage patch kids and Barbie bedroom set for the soft and cuddly panda bear I aptly named Dabdoob. (Doob is Arabic for bear).

The infamous Dabdoob posing with a photo of my youngest child

The infamous Dabdoob posing with a photo of my youngest child

I provided emotional support to poor little Dabdoob (he was a bit guileless in his young years) on the journey out of Kuwait; military checkpoints, arid desert heat, custody battles, embassy lines, patriarchy, you know the usual…and the main way I did that was by reading to him.

The book I chose was my favorite at the time, Hans Christian Andersen’s Little Mermaid.  Now, before we get any farther, I need to clarify this was NOT the Disney version.  Happily ever after was ambiguous for the Little Mermaid, who ended up essentially sacrificing her life for that of her love, the prince.  You can read this version Here. It was clear that even at that young age, I already had deeply entrenched ideas about gender, female power (or lack of it), and societal expectations.

A mermaid has not an immortal soul, nor can she obtain one unless she wins the love of a human being. On the power of another hangs her eternal destiny.

I mean you may as well take out “mermaid” and replace it with female here and take it from there.

Unseen she kissed the forehead of her bride, and fanned the prince, and then mounted with the other children of the air to a rosy cloud that floated through the aether

Yup, here she is, giving it all up so that the prince can have this other lady while she floated through the aether until she can earn an immortal soul…

anyone wanna tell her they are other fish in the sea...?!

anyone wanna tell her they are other fish in the sea…?!

 

Well, needless to say, Dabdoob was totally taken by it, but I wasn’t buying any of it. I liked my princesses strong and loud with big badass hair but it would be another twenty years before Hollywood and the general media caught up.  At least it kept us occupied while my mom replenished our water supply in the intense August heat, or when we ran out of gas on the outskirts of Bagdad.  The familiar story lulled us to sleep in the back of my mom’s read Honda at the desert sky darkened and filled with stars.

Flash forward a couple months in America, I found myself repeating first grade since I had zero English. I have vivid memories of my teacher being really nice and patient. For one of our projects that year she had us write stories.  My oral English was fine, but I hadn’t mastered reading or writing yet.  She let me tell her my story while she transcribed my words for me to copy down later and this was the result:

The Poor Princess

The Poor Princess.  Wait? Is she levatating?

 

 

And here is the story page by page:

 

dat penminship tho

dat penmanship tho

 

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What's better than a cookie eating monster vanqushing princess?

What’s better than a cookie eating monster vanquishing princess?

 

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happily-ever-after

Big hair dont care

 

last

The end.

The princess didn’t need anyone’s help, just her own ability to eat a magic cookie. BAM!

In 2nd grade I created a princess that was also able to enlist the help of forest creatures and the natural environment to kick invading colonial forces (okay, an evil witch) out of her land- er, castle.

I wrote this one is 2nd grade!

There was ALWAYS a princess...

The princess was made a refugee, wonder where I got that idea from?! Ha!

 

My stories have gotten more complex over the years (probably not by much!) But the ideas of going against the general or popular grain of social expectations, especially ones reflected in the media remains at the heart of my writing. Dabdoob is not impressed though, he doesn’t like making waves.

Before the war, surrounded by my bday loot!

Before the war, surrounded by my bday loot!

 

 

 

 

The Flood

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The Flood ( Summer 2016)

 

Wellfleet

 

It is there.

There I must go before returning. Before tending to responsibilites.

There I must go.

There I must see.

It becomes clear as I round the bend that there is simply no more road.

Cars that traveled before me have submitted to their fate, their unfinished plan and pulled over to park.

I decide I must do the same.

It’s gleeful to change course.

To be forced to stop.

To surrender.

To be gently reminded of my smallness

What insignificant monarchs we are. inconsolable children who must have their way.

Nothing and everything, divinity in the smallest, but humble acts.

Magic in washing dishes, tending to children, cooking meals.

No longer will we seek out what can be found within

pilgrimage not to a holy site, but to the corner store for milk and eggs.

Basic duties are holy.

Magic everywhere. ruin everywhere. despair everywhere.

Hope bleeds out of our eyes like open wounds.

How beautiful destruction can be.

The road, now two feet under water is still hot from the sun under my submerged bare feet, but the water passing over it is cold.

Bay water that spilled its banks like an over full tub.

The sea birds seem to not have noticed.
I feel relived that the earth, the storms, the flooding, mirrored what I felt, what we have been going through.

so much pushing and pulling, plotting and planning-arguing and counter-arguing- when I should be surrendering instead.

Kids These Days

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Kids These Days (2015)

magic

Light as a feather, stiff as a board

Anything could happen child, anything could be.

My child today: my brown boy one day brown man-child

Days after news of school shootings. Weeks after and before another Black person slain

Talked about emergencies, running to his aunt’s house that is close to his school, knowing how to get there

I respond in jest: yeah in case something happens, like what? like alien invasion, bad robots, things like that?

He says that is not real

it will be a man with a gun that causes me to run he says.

These days,  is there still room for magic?

How do I let her in?
like a nervous alley cat?

Do I open a can of tuna, leave the door cracked and hope it will want my food enough to

wander in?

Please, I pray

For his sake and mine.

Won’t you wander in?

 

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Not Since 1948

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Super moon

Beavermoon

Tonight we meet again.

Not since 1948.

Is it mere coincidence?

68 years ago we gazed at the moonrise from verandas overloooking the sea

We sipped sweet mint tea and spoke in hushed tones as the sky darkened

perhaps even gasped at she climbed the horizon, illumating her glorious fullness.

What A marvel! I could hear my great grandfather say. How bright it must have appeared to them then in the cloudless Levant evening.

Was the moon whispering messages then, as she is today?

Or it enough to just shine her glow on all our dark spaces.

“I see you” she exclaims dryly.  Like a sibling’s weary game. “You can come out now.”

Be prepared

Come together

Build your dreams

There is no where left to hide.

 

 

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The Shore/ Submit

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The Shore

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My relationship with the shore has always been this.

Nothing but sea and sky.

Nothing else in my head.

How far ive drifted from even this, my most basic of anchors.

It’s enough even just to feel the edges now,

the edges of myself seem satisfying now.

Ill take it.

I recognize it’s not just me, but Earth that is also trembling.

She is heaving, insides upturning. like so many times before,

Millenia folded upon millenia, reaching, streatching.

We become like the dry river bed spreading like tentacles that quickly dry in the sun’s encompassing snare.

Unsure when our banks will taste the water but still we reach.

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Submit

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Submit I said.

He knows this is his challenge, says he can not, will not submit.

The word vibrates like rain striking the ground

Soon this, I can so plainly see, will be under the sea

To submit, I know is not a surrender but an act of active listening

like turning to face the wind so she knows you have aknowledged her

I describe it as an instinct, knowledge we were born with; to submit is to activate the divine deep in the marrow

We were taught how to submit, to place forehead on ground in supplication

There is peace to be found in greeting the earth

But what is prayer to us now?

Oceans removed from where we were meant to be

He will not bow down

Submission requires pliancy, the ability to bend as to avoid breaking

I ask the earth to remind me and here I am doing the reminding.

Sometimes its easy to forget, among the sameness and drudgery- that we are in love

That we are saving each other

that we are catching each other when we fall

that our souls are in communion

we were drawn together for this unraveling-of this I am certain.

 

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Story Research: What’s in a Name?

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There is much to be said about the origin of words and especially, names.

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Whenever I hit a snag in getting a writing idea off the ground, I brainstorm some concepts and look up the etymology of the words.  Almost always that sparks inspiration and a clearer sense of direction for my writing.

For example, take a look at the etymology of name:

one’s reputation”             “well-known,”             “the essential thing or quality”

When you know someone or something’s name, you know the main, or essential quality of the thing… or I could take this to mean that one’s name could also describe qualities they are well-known for… this would hopefully help me with naming characters.

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As a mom, I’ve had the opportunity to name these little people who are my children. I was taught this was the single most important task as a parent as the name has the potential to describe a child’s personality and place in the world. I probably feel this way because of stories my grandmother told me as a child.  A little bit of family folklore:  my grandmother used to say that parents think they name their children, but the name actually already exists out in the world and parents only hear it when the creator wanted them to hear it.  Apparently, the name was their destiny anyway as it reveals information about how they would be in the world. She told me that it was no coincidence that my name is Nada, meaning hope. Yes, very nice, thank you Grandma!  I could get into an interesting debate regarding fate versus free will and all the opposing views that often exist side by side, but that’s for another day!

So what’s in a name? For my creative writing, I am inspired by looking at whether names run with or opposite of what is expected. I think it would be fun to create imagery, settings, and characters based on this concept. There is lots of space here to create multilayered meaning, or irony.

Also, I can’t talk about naming without seeing it from a post-colonial lens: that which you name, you own and control. luckily, many of the original names of places in and around Rhode Island survived all these years.

Roger Williams and the Narragansetts

                               Roger Williams and the Narragansetts

In 1636 Roger Williams, founder of Rhode Island, settled on the east bank of the river and was told its name by the local Narragansett Indians. The name “Moshassuck” means “river where moose watered”.

Here’s some more name info I’ve gathered:

  • Woonasquatucket River (pronounced /wuːnˈɑːskwəˌtʌkᵻt/, Algonquian for “where the salt water ends”
  • Quinnipiac River: (Quinnipiac) “where we change our route”
  • Conanicut Island: (Narragansett) named for a 17th-century chief Canonicus
  • Conimicut: (Narragansett) thought to be named for granddaughter of Canonicus
  • Hockomock Swamp: (Natick-Abnaki) “evil spirit” or “hellish place”
  • Siasconset: (Narragansett) “at the place of many/great bones” (whales?)
Providence

Providence

  • Pawtuxet: Little falls confluence of north and south branches of the river at river point village in Warwick. empties into Providence River at Pawtucket River.
  • The place we call Federal hill,  was known as Nocabulabet: place between the ancient waters
  • Moshassuck : river where moose watered source: pond in lincoln’s lime rock preserve.
  • Woonasquatucket: where the salt water ends, Where I wrote about Here!   

This post wouldn’t be complete without a break down of the name I choose for the blog itself several years ago: Now Approaching Providence.

Providence means God’s grace-and grace could mean- among other things- favor, esteem, regard, pardon, mercy.

Turks Head in downtown Providence; looking graceful.

Turks Head in downtown     Providence; looking graceful.

The name fit as I often feel like I might be approaching, but not quite arriving at… Providence.

 

Happy Writing!

Short Story Research: Taxidermy

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“… And here at last, was a real naturalist — the man who had been the first to explore Lake Okeechobee, who had been bitten by centipedes, who had written a book, who had collected turtle eggs for Agassiz [Louis Agassiz was the director of the Harvard University Museum of Comparative Zoology at the time], and who had been so nearly paralyzed by arsenic, absorbed in his mounting of skins, that he walked with a sort of quick scuff and shuffle!” ~Dallas Lore Sharp

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The early 20th century was marked by an obsession with the act of preserving- whether plant, animal or human.

Folks have always been obsessed with living forever, but taxidermy took it to another level! Early on, arsenic was even used as a preserving agent, hence Jenks resulting paralysis.

Could this obsession with living forever be connected with fears related to expanding urbanism, the failings of European colonies, and increasing industrialization? I see it as all connected and all waiting for a juicy horror story featuring some gory taxidermy details! Yum!

                “Had Bicocur lived in ages past, hc would havc heen accused of witchcraft and enchantment. What wonders has this excellent naturalist been able to unite in his cabinet. These are truly immortal.”  

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Ahh taxidermy!

In 1894, the curator of the Jenks Museum of Natural History at Brown University was returning to the museum from lunch when he dropped dead on the very granite steps that led to the institution he loved and tended for 23 years.

Annie Johnson, a Brown alumna, chronicles in the spring of 1962 how an attic filled with spears, pottery and other artifacts was discovered as a wrecking ball was set to demolish Van Wickle Hall on campus. The items ended up at Brown’s Haffenreffer Museum of Anthropology, says Dwight B. Heath, emeritus professor of anthropology at Brown.

How could I not be inspired to create some sort of short story on this Jenks dude and the resulting “artifacts” that were dumped?!

Here are some notes I’ve gathered to help me with the writing process:

taxidermy (from the Greek for arrangement of skin[1]) is the art of preparing, stuffing, and mounting the skins of animals (especially vertebrates) for display (e.g., as hunting trophies or museum display) or for other sources of study (like species identification) or simply the preservation of a beloved pet.

– In the 19th century, hunters began bringing their trophies to upholstery shops, where the upholsterer would actually sew up the animal skins and stuff them with rags and cotton.

-In France, Louis Dufresne, taxidermist at the Muséum national d’Histoire naturelle from 1793, popularized arsenical soap in an article in “Nouveau dictionnaire d’histoire naturelle'” (1803–1804). This technique enabled the museum to build the greatest collection of birds in the world.

Additional resources:

http://www.ravishingbeasts.com

 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taxidermy#Tanning_and_early_stuffing_techniques

The ornithological cabinet of Jean-Baptiste Becoeur and the secret of the arsenical soap: http://www.rhinoresourcecenter.com/pdf_files/119/1193254263.pdf

 

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This is just the tip of the taxidermy iceberg folks!  Ima keep digging!