I suppose if so many people refer to this as the Almanac section, I may as well call it that too. I have always thought of it as sharing excuses to celebrate. We are always so into deadlines, and worrying about what’s coming up, I like the idea of days to celebrate the little wonderful things in life- like French Toast or Square Dancing. Knowing that it’s a “real” holiday may encourage us to actually get around to having a treat we’d like, but don’t usually exert ourselves to do. When we realize we are dying, I’m sure we will regret all the things we “meant to get to” because we wanted to, because we’d enjoy them, rather than the things we didn’t get to because we thought we should but didn’t want to.
I recently looked up the word “hedonism”. Like so many other “isms” it was actually a religion. The Roman hedonists believed that the pursuit of pleasure was a spiritual aim because pleasure was the mechanism by which we know that something is good. Yes, one needs to be careful about not mistaking quick gratification for something that gives true pleasure. It’s what Joseph Campbell was talking about when he said that the key to life is to “Follow your Bliss.” You have to actually put some effort into learning what true happiness (pleasure, bliss) is. Ælfwine’s aphorism “Pain is your friend, it tells you when you’ve done something stupid.” is similar. Plain and pleasure are both signals that can help us understand our interaction with the world. I actually think it’s very important to focus on the things that give us pleasure. To take time to appreciate them and let them have their effects on us.
Of course, I also mention some less positive “holidays”- mostly the international ones. I think it’s kind of cool to realize that “the whole world” is thinking about how to help victims of AIDS, slavery or disability.
Today is November 28, and it’s also French Toast Day- I think this is the day they light the tree at Rockefeller Center. We have a firm rule in our house that there will be no decorations, music, or overt holiday stuff before December (although some preparatory cooking or shopping may be done discretely). I prefer to have St. Nicholas’ (or as we now celebrate it, the Feast of Brothers and Sisters) as the start of the season. Historically, Yule or Christmas was celebrated on the 12 days of Christmas (you could prepare, but basically, the celebrations didn’t start until Christmas Eve), and the period before it was a fast period. Now it’s reversed. Huge build-up, and the “second day of Christmas” the decorations are down from the stores, the music stops, and sometimes the Valentines decorations go up. Sheesh! Can’t we at least keep it up until New Years if not 12th Night? Nothing shows what Christmas “really means” so much as that so much is dictated about how to sell stuff rather than to celebrate the holiday.
Nov 29, Thursday is Square Dance Day
Nov 30, Friday Ham and Roast Beef Night, National Mousse Day (no idea why you’d have ham and roast beef at the same meal)
Another interesting bit of trivia is that the last night of November is supposed to be one of the most dangerous of the year to be out of doors. It is a night of revelry for the dead, when they can dance and feast on the hill with the fairies. By morning, they must all have returned to their graves, to lie still and alone until the next November release arrives. It’s the most active night of the year for vampires. Garlic should be hung around all doors and windows to repel revenants.
December 1, Saturday, is Theater Day, and National Pie Day, and International AIDS Day which is also a Day without Art- starting back in 1989 when many museums closed their doors to mark the day. Of course, I was hoping it was to foster awareness of what Art contributes to culture.
Sunday, Dec 2, Fritters Day, Int. Abolition of Slavery Day (sadly, it’s not quite gone- celebrate by watching Amazing Grace?), and the first Sunday of Advent
Monday, Dec 3, Jazz Day, Ice Cream Box Day, and Reinvigorate your Brain by Reading Something Day. Int. Day of Disabled Persons
Tuesday, Dec 4 is Wear a Beard of Bees Day, but for most of us it’s easier to celebrate National Cookie Day, or Dice Day and it’s the first night of Chanukah.
The first week of December is Cookie Cutter Week.
The weather this week has been typical of November. The rain has taken down most of the leaves, and we’ve had some lowering clouds, some fairly impressive fog, and some bright cold days. The weather has gotten cold. The 2-3 inches of snow we got last week took days to melt away, and I’m pushing Star to get the wood into the woodshed.
The big event of this week was going down to Darkover. It actually took up most of the week since I last wrote. Thursday was Thanksgiving, and we celebrated quietly. So we could go to sleep early, we ate at noon. (We toyed with the idea of leaving at 3 AM so we could get there for an 11 AM class that I would like to have hit, but by evening threw that idea out.) The turkey (for five- Steve came up) was small enough that I only had to put it in at quarter to eight, and it was still done before noon. I then made the mashed potatoes, squash, yams, rutabaga, green bean casserole, and also small bowls of carrots, peas, and onions. Willow and Kat had baked on Wednesday so we had Apple and Pumpkin pie (made with the new variety of green striped pumpkin. The seeds were plump and green, but the flesh was pale and not very flavorful.) Willow also made fresh cranberry sauce with orange peel- which is nice, but I think we really prefer the cranberry jelly. I also made whole wheat and cinnamon rolls. It’s kind of pathetic to realize that that’s a scaled back Thanksgiving for us. Oh, yes, and Willow made some raspberry tarts with the Kingdom Hearts designs on them. Cute.
Sadly, Willow’s wisdom tooth was bothering her and she couldn’t really enjoy it as much as she would have without pain. The dentist is closed on Thanksgiving of course, but she put his number in his cell phone so she could call while we were on the road, and she made an appointment for first thing Tuesday morning. By 9:30 her tooth was extracted, she picked up some pain pills and spent the rest of the day zoned out.
Also on the way home (while going through Worcester) the muffler gave up the ghost, so I went out in the afternoon and got that fixed (and the oil changed, and new wipers). That totally used up everything we’d made at Darkover. Sigh. And I got her pudding, ice-cream, Jell-o, and soups, and when I got home made her apple sauce. For a while after the extraction she should only eat soft food, and I wanted to baby her. Sadly, it turns out that she doesn’t care for apple sauce, but she liked the pudding, and the Campbell’s chowder. I mentioned to the cashier that the food was for a post-wisdom tooth extraction, and the fellow recommended the Campbell’s chowder- the pieces are tiny (and soft). He was right. Willow liked it better than Snows.
Mapquest (which I find usually reliable on that score) said that it should only take 7.5 hours to get to Timonium, but it always seems to take us 9 (whether we go over the Tappanzee or the George Washington Bridge). The Tappanzee is farther, but traffic slows down so much through NYC that it takes about the same amount of time- if not more. But the frustration is higher. On the other hand, with gas being $3 a gallon, I’m more willing to put up with frustration to reduce milage. Tolls irritate me though. We dropped nearly $10 in Delaware, which we cross in less than an hour.
We got to Darkover about 5 minutes of six, which was close because I had a six o’clock class. Luckily, no one showed up for it. That allowed me to take our stuff to our room and shower while the girls set up the tables in the dealers room. We then put in our offerings in the Art Show. Having noticed that it was the cheap stuff that sold last year, we had several small matted pieces- and they didn’t sell anyway. Oh, well. It didn’t hurt as much because the Children’s hospital auction only raised $5K, as opposed to the ($10K last year, rubbing our faces in the amount of money they had to throw around).
This is a shot from behind our booth rather than of the front, which I never actually got around to getting- I expect it would look much like many other pictures of our wares at an indoor event.
DarkoverCon, like ConVocation, closes the dealers rooms during the evening so the vendors can party. I don’t mind as at Darkover there’s a Clam Chowder concert I want to attend. They sang old favorites, and had some new songs (I especially liked the new Zombie song). I had not brought knitting, so I took my sketchbook and did a sketch of them performing and offered it for the fundraiser. They decided to hold it for next year so they could get more for it.Kat seems to have gotten a picture of me working on it- I didn’t notice at the time.
It’s kind of weird though- there IS a lot of knitting going on- even spinning and knitting supplies vendors. And there are lots of canes, walkers, larks, even a segway, and lots of gray hair. Where are the young people I wondered? I think these are the same people who were at cons when I was young- getting older as I did? Where are the kids? (Willow says “Anime cons”.) The workshops were on things like “Knit one, purl one- what writers do to relax” and on the tea, music and other things writers need to write. There were several names I recognized, but I didn’t get to any except in the Esoteric Track (ya’think?) which is, I think, rather specific to Darkover. I suppose I may be identifying the young people who are there as “kids of…” even though they are possibly much older than we were at cons when I’m remembering. People did like Kat’s cute “goth lolita” outfits. We didn’t take advantage of the “costuming” possibilities although there was a costume contest and a regency ball, and jedis and all sorts walking around.
Another Darkover tradition is the Hallelujah Chorus sing around the swimming pool in the atrium. (The acoustics are amazing.) This year someone made up a zombie filk to the tune of Rose, Rose, Rose, Rose:
Brains, brains, brains, brains
will i ever see me fed?
you’ll be buried at my grill sire,
at my grill….
as well as the usual Dona Nobis Pacem as warm ups. This is going to be the last pool-sing because the hotel is rebuilding the atrium without a pool next year. This is followed by singing with Filthy Pierre, but I went to bed.
There’s a group of folk who meet at various cons with Arwen to game and while I didn’t go every night (which they did) I went Sunday night (although, I’ll admit I did nod off a couple of times during the slow parts). It was fun. I am not a huge gamer, but I enjoy it. It’s nice to be reminded that there are things I do just for fun. Saturday evening before the concert we we went out to Steak and Ale with Bambi and Brynna (old friends from Pennsic). There were lots of old friends- and I kind of wish that “old” weren’t just describing how long we’ve known each other.
Arwen had reserved the room for us while she was getting hers (I’d rather thought she was going to share in with us), and arranged so we had a refrigerator- which facilitates making sandwiches and having cold drinks. If we’d brought a microwave we’d have been able to avoid the expense of eating out entirely. I’m supposed to be doing the illustrations for her next book on Scandinavian folk magick, and she’s been meaning to send me source pictures, and finally just passed me some while we were there.
Although no one came to the rune class, I had lots of people at the RunValdr class and the Palmistry class, and I may have a nibble for doing another weekend RunValdr. I’m also trying to work out a RunValdr class up here with Jason, a local massage therapist at his place. If people are willing to do Reiki classes, why not RunValdr?
Since we were gone from first thing Friday until Monday night (since the con closed at 4, and we couldn’t have gotten off until after dark- so Willow would have had to do all the driving and we couldn’t have gotten home before 2 am at the earliest, we stayed an extra night, which allowed us to relax and split the driving.) Wally and the guys were working while we weren’t here. The shower has been finished (yay!) and the barn roof repaired. Bella came up and swept the chimneys for us on the weekend. I’m sorry to have missed her. We still hope for a few warm days to get the new trim painted, although it’s getting less likely.
We still have to insulate the second hall attic area. When that’s done I’ll be able to move the bins from the studio in there. Meanwhile I’ve been hearing “the pitter patter of tiny feet” overhead, and put out poison and mouse traps. I really resent having cats and still having mice. Lazy cats.
While we were gone the doohickey that makes extra memory for the computer arrived, and Kat installed it, so most of our problems are resolved. (We’d gotten down to less than a gigabyte of space, which would have been amazing back in the days of the Osborne, but is less than the mac mini needs.) I still want to get a scanner so I’m not so dependent upon Willow’s. Her computer is 8 years (?) old and we’d probably be thinking of replacing it if she hadn’t adopted the business laptop for “her” computer.
Also, after unloading the food basket and cooler, and getting the laundry into the machine, I checked my e-mail, and even looked into my Live Journal friends page (which I rarely actually get to- but I was so tired sitting and being in contact with people was something that seemed reasonable). My goodness there’s nothing like reading about other people’s adventures to make me feel healthy and lucky! Even with my twinge of arthritis, or Willow’s tooth problems or the car repairs, our lives are going pretty well! The girls remind me that it’s not appropriate to talk about other people’s problems. Apparently lots of people don’t think you should share information about what’s going on in friends and families life. I always want to know, and I get the impression that people feel that if they’ve posted on their Live Journal or MySpace that the world knows. Sorry, that’s like assuming you put an ad in your local paper and assuming everyone has caught it. If you want me to be aware of something you have to tell me directly. Possibly several times.
What I’ve been reading and watching this week:
We knew we wouldn’t be there, Star chose all the stuff that came in from Net-flix, watched a whole lot of UFO Ultramaiden Valkyrie episodes, and the Apple Dumpling Gang. I ended up watching that one yesterday because it was still here. I really can’t remember whether I saw it when I was a kid- it was one of those nice little Disney live-action movies. Pleasant but not memorable. I re-watched 12 Angry Men which is one of the great movies are all time. I also took Star to the library and he took out anime and manga (as usual). We took out part of two seasons of the TV show Supernatural. I’d liked it when I caught it, but only got around to watching it a couple of times. I took out Blood and Chocolate, (about the comic artist who falls in love with a female were-wolf). It has cute male leads, but not much plot. Sadly, it’s so forgettable that I’d forgotten I’d seen it already. On the other hand, I took out The Holiday, which the ads had made look pretty stupid, but turned out to be very sweet. I cried. I do recommend it. Of course we’d re-watched the Shrek movies while cooking before Thanksgiving, and it seemed odd to me to have Cameron Diaz not be green. I liked Jack Black in that one- he wasn’t being stupid. His over the top stuff is annoying (filed in the same folder as Will Farrel, Adam Sandler, and much of Jim Carrey’s earlier stuff). I’ve also been watching Music and Lyrics and other romantic comedies. I guess I’m just in that sort of mood.
I’ve also been reading fluff- re-reading a couple of Gordie Dickson dragon knight books (I still get depressed because he died before he gave Angie a baby in the series), Hero and the Crown, which I didn’t like as much as some of McKinley’s books that are straight adaptations of fairy tales, Ain’t Myth-behaving which is NOT another Bob Asprin, but one I found at the con about Herne needing a new lady before Beltane- definitely “fluff”. I’m still working through Pagan Spirituality, which I like so little that’s probably why I’m going back to fiction (which is not a bad thing). I think I might just read a few straight fairy tales. That seems to be what I’m craving just now.
I’ve come up with a new scheme- I plan to write on the book 9 to noon in the morning, and do art 1 to 4, which should leave me plenty of time for cooking, cleaning and other things I do. I started blocking out King Willy’s Lady yesterday since I was sitting at Midas waiting for a new muffler so I’d still be doing art. I’ve been wanting to illustrate it as a children’s book ever since I heard the song, and this week I found out it’s from the collection of traditional Childe ballads, so I can stop my cursory attempts to find out who has the rights to the song. A nice children’s book may be more sale-able than the non-fiction that Subtle Pagans will be.
I also want to do Sleeping Beauty, and The Librarian and the Unicorn Riders, and other illustrations. I’ve been hesitant to try it, because the impression I’ve gotten is that it’s even harder to sell an illustrated children’s book that hasn’t been commissioned by the publisher than it is to sell a non-fiction book when you don’t have an agent. But under the theory of “following my bliss”, it’s something I really want to do, and I can really see myself sitting down and doing beautiful illustrated children’s books every day. I’ve mostly been doing portraits until now. My skills at art really aren’t that great, but I am good at catching a likeness. I realize that one of my problems is that the art I’ve been offering is really more of a service rather than a product, and I am still left not having a clue about marketing it. There’s a huge difference between making art and making art to sell. I have been struggling with trying to figure out how to turn art into products, and I still have no clue.
Here’s my “opinion piece for the week”.
I tripped over this news story about a bill being proposed in Massachusetts to criminalize spanking. They’ve also suggested it in California. I just keep thinking that once they’ve decided what discipline we’re allowed, and how soon before they get to what we’re allowed to read? If they tell us what immunizations we MUST have, how soon before they tell us what meds we must take? (which, it occurs to me, they already do) Don’t they remember Prohibition? Yes, alcohol can easily be abused, but criminalizing it makes people who use it reasonably into criminals and gives those who abuse the system more power.
As with many people my age, I was spanked when I was a kid, didn’t like it, but I never felt it was horrible or terribly unfair. Well, some instances were unfair, but the fact that the parents could spank wasn’t. Yes, I had friends who I thought their parents were too free with the “spanking”, but I’m sure there’s always a range of how it’s administered. I don’t think most of the spankings I had or heard of would cause damage. Maybe a reddened butt cheek for a minute, but that’s not the level of “harm” that I’d worry about if the kid hurts themselves.
Sometimes you can explain things to a kid, but sometimes they are so wrapped up in their own emotions that a swat will bring them back into contact with the rest of the world, and THEN you can explain things to them and they’ll listen.
I think it’s worse when a kid doesn’t have limits- they feel insecure and act out. I’ve seen far more kids who I’m sure would be better off with a swat than having their parents say “don’t”, “please don’t do that” and not having any way of enforcing it. Even when the limits are what seem severe, most humans feel more secure when they know what’s allowed and what’s not. When I see a mother trying to convince a child to behave in a public place, I like to look at the kid firmly and say “everyone in the store is on your mother’s side” which generally gets the kid to stop screaming and put the candy or toy back or whatever else they were trying to get away with. It’s really awful that kids have learned that parents are afraid to discipline in public. They act out and know that even if their parents would yell at them or swat them, or give them a time-out at home, that in public they will give the kids anything to keep them from screaming and won’t stop them from misbehaving. I’ve actually overheard grammar school kids discussing this, and how all you have to do is threaten to tell someone that they’ve been abused and you can get your parents to buy you stuff they claim that they can’t afford. Obviously the kids don’t realize that just because you’ve bought something, it doesn’t mean that you can afford it, and have no clue the full repercussions of getting the DCYS involved. So the parents do whatever it takes to shut the kids up, and I think the kids are suffering from that.
Quite aside from all the issues of the state should butt out of our lives, the level that’s here now is harming the kids.
Now that we’re back, I hope I can get back to a normal schedule- I’d drifted into going to bed late and sleeping late, and given how little light there is at this end of the year it seems a pity to waste any of it sleeping. Still, knowing we’d be up past midnight at the con, it didn’t seem worth working at getting back to normal until we were back. Now I hope I can.
Toying with the idea of a Solstice feast this year- I’d love to see people, but I really hate that I invite and nobody comes. That’s what happens when your friends are a) scattered across the country, and b) have interesting lives and thus, full schedules.
To get profit without risk, experience without danger, and reward without work, is as impossible as it is to live without being born. P. Gouthev