Dear friends: January 15, 2014
It’s 60º out, and as Willow remarked watching John go out for firewood (in his shorts) “Clearly T shirt weather”. At least we’ve gotten him to put on shoes when he goes out- most of the time. I love my wood stove. I also think I can tell that the sun is “coming back”. We’re getting more light. I’m also making more of an effort to not read all night and then get up after it’s been light for hours. What a waste of daylight that is!
It feels like I’ve spent the last week on the computer, which is not literally true, but close enough. Kathryne has been really intent on doing her chores every day from washing the dishes, to exercising, to working on various projects, and it’s inspiring. I’m trying to do the same, but my “theoretical day” includes such a list that perhaps I shouldn’t expect to get it all in every day. In theory I quickly check whats going on on Facebook and my email, check the real mail, exercise, water the plants or work in the garden, do some sort of housekeeping for maintenance like sweeping, doing laundry, and filling the dragon on the wood-stove, as well as some sort to “catch up cleaning” (the library chaos), make lunch and dinner, work on my art commissions, update the Tchipakkan and CTCW websites, keep up on the taxes, put in proposals for places I hope to speak, do other paperwork, spend time learning Spanish (currently), take my vitamins, and read. Beyond that I expect to write a blog post, put out the ads for New Normal, get the guests, do the show, recruit speakers for CTCW, write this letter, and do whatever I have to for the conference. To be honest, when I started this I thought it was going to be something I could do in a few hours a week in the summer and fall, with an intensive couple of weeks just before the conference. But the more I learn, the more like a job it becomes, and I’m so eager to divvy up the jobs I don’t do well, and let others handle them!
Last night we tried to have a “monthly” planning committee meeting, but everyone I know is as busy as I am, and we weren’t able to get a quorum even on-line. So it’s been pushed off until next week. You probably noticed that my day does NOT have eight ours of work plus commuting- I have no idea how other people do it! I suppose the art, public speaking and by extension the conference are my “job”, but it’s hard to remember that sometimes. Most of the people have got their “job descriptions” for the conference in, and I’m working on mine as con chair. I figure that there are two ways of looking at it. The Con Chair does everything that needs doing and isn’t being done by someone else, or the chair coordinates what everyone’s doing to keep everyone working together and for the same goals. I guess we are shifting from where Jane and I do everything to the second, and this is going to allow us to gradually pull out, but this is the part where we figure out what “everything” means, and document it so that other people can do all the things we’ve been doing as it came up. As someone who generally just “does” things with as little planning as possible, this is something I have to learn. Analyzing and documenting seems to be an added and unnecessary step, but I can see that it is necessary, especially if I’m going to pass this whole project along. Planning ones own obsolescence seems the intelligent thing to do, and I’ve been hoping to shift my focus more to art in 2014.
Thank goodness the weather has warmed up. I guess this is the January thaw. During the cold days we saw birds swarming over the rose bush in the back yard. We put the little tree out there near it so they could eat the cookies, popcorn and cranberries from it. The big tree has been undressed and is gradually becoming fire-starter. We put up a new thermometer out back so that we can get an idea of what the temperature really is, because I don’t believe the one in the door-well.
This Sunday Kat and Willow went down to Salem to Joannie’s Birthday Party. I think she’s completed the outfit she’s been giving Joannie pieces of for years- this year it was a fluffy petticoat covered with lace! (wish I’d taken a picture!) They went to the Peabody Essex Museum there. Apparently it’s the oldest museum in the USA. There is some discussion about whether they should start going to a museum together every month or two, since it’s so much more fun to go with friends who also enjoy museum hopping. I don’t think I’ve ever been to that one, although I have been to the Peabody exhibit at Harvard with the glass flowers. The image that most intrigues me is that apparently there was a picture there of a lady fainting when she sees that another lady is wearing the same skirt that she is. This seems to be the point of the painting (or maybe illustration- the kids said it was a small picture). But none of the labels mentioned the spectral human hand reaching out from under the lady’s skirt. One would THINK that that would occasion comment! I asked if maybe it implied that she’d walked over someone, and they were trying to escape, but the girls think it looked to skeletal. It may be like the Charles Adam cartoon where the mother is cautioning her kid to look out for poison ivy, when she is in process of being carried off by a satyr. Making fun of ladies who worry about duplicated fashion rather than perhaps walking on people, or maybe it’s a reference to ignorance and want under the robes of Christmas Present. Now I must see it myself! (and isn’t that what museums are about?)
Meanwhile, I went off to Lyrion’s Monthly Salon. (If my living room were nicely set up like hers, I’d love to have salons here!) This time the topic was about building pagan community. I argued that while I think we should try to build communities, we should attempt to integrate pagans into the various other communities. Communities tend to be people with something in common, yet humans are varied. There may be a lot of overlap between some of the communities we are in, but if we try to strengthen one to the exclusion of the others, one is going to end up with a community that may be too small to be viable.
(So I decided to try to make a Venn diagram of my communities- the circles didn’t work because some should have overlapped but didn’t. I tried using ellipses rather than circles, and that still didn’t work. But I had fun.)
There are so many community variants- just for myself I’ve got the locale, social, various interests, as well as religious. I think that’s where feminists may have gotten into trouble. In attempting to enforce the value of those in their gender group, they pressured the ones in it to ignore parts of them that they should be allowed to value. It would be as if an SCAer decided not just to explore historical life, but to exclude modern activities from his or her life. While people have learned that proximity alone doesn’t necessarily create friendships in (families or neighborhoods), it does mean that you have a lot in common that is meaningful and allows you to understand each other. The homogenization of the modern world attempts to make sure that we have a lot in common wherever we go- we eat at the same restaurants, shop at the same chains of stores, watch the same shows on TV, but I think that is only surface. Some people may watch the Big Bang because they identify with geeks, whereas others watch to laugh at them. I believe that someone is more likely to go to even a McDonalds or Starbucks when you know the staff there and they make you feel special. It’s not the same if you go into a different one where you are just another customer.
I am NOT going to Arisia this year, this is part of my over-all plan to spend more time on art. I’ve accepted a scroll commission for Birka, and Willow did one too, and then a couple more borders. It’s really easy to decide to “do just one more” with art. The doing inspires you to want to do more. Artists understand this. I think it’s the same way with other “communities”, gardeners, sports enthusiasts, students of almost any discipline, whether history or psychology.
The reason I think I spend so much time on the computer is that “just one more” phenomena. I get it as well when playing on the “wii” exercise board. Each individual game only takes a few minutes, so I can squeeze “one more” into the schedule. Well, better that that a round of solitaire or Nethack. As I have admitted before, I’ve probably mis-spent a couple of years of my life playing hack/nhack/nethack. I’m not sure that I wouldn’t also fall into World of Warcraft or Everquest if I gave myself the opportunity. So I avoid them. I have to think I’m an addict and avoid games. I think they’re like chocolate, the pleasure they give provides the reenforcement.
I can’t just go cold turkey on Facebook though, because I use it to stay in contact with my friends. This week, I have to admit I’m checking to see if some of them are still alive. Bob Flick, another of the core folk in the lake crowd is dying. His voice booming out over the water of Henderson’s cove, and his presence at any gathering were a fixture of my summers as a child. Yes, he aged, but I hardly noticed as I aged myself. He was so much “larger than life”. But he was Dad’s age, so I suppose he had a good run. I go to his daughter, Beth’s page, I also am going to Feral von Halstern’s page to see how he was doing.
Having missed getting reservations into Kingdom 12th Night in time, we missed seeing him there on the 4th. Then on the 6th we heard he was in the hospital with a brain aneurysm. With Feral, while the danger is quite real, we are hoping for one of the modern medical miracles with which we may have become accustomed. It’s about a year since Tearloch’s house burned down, and frankly, this year people seem to have their loved ones dropping like flies. I know that anything random occurs in clumps, and that these things can not be related and still not be random, but often the sense is that the universe is out to get you! Anyway, so far so good. I love it when friends tell me that they have follow up visits and they are cancer free, or otherwise recovering. I know everyone has chaos and frustration in life. Poor Liz went over to check Dad’s old house for something, and the key, hidden so it could be retrieved by anyone who had business getting in, had gotten encased in a thick block of ice! And I think she also slipped on ice- it was just one of those days. But she’s also got a gorgeous jeweled “gold” mask and sparkly jewelry and a velvet gown for the fancy dress charity ball she works on every winter. I love that we can video chat. Little by little I’m learning to use the new technology, and am liking it!
Then once I’ve looked for the stuff I feel I should be able to find easily on Facebook, I get caught looking at just one more. On my page I also share from my collection of holidays I started years ago when I was writing Divine Cookies. Not quite “any excuse for a celebration”, but it does fit rather well with my attitude that we should remember to be grateful for things we often take for granted. Today is Hat Day, and the Jewish New Year for Trees, and Strawberry Ice Cream Day, and Fresh Squeezed Juice Day. Holidays used to be holy days. These days they are more likely to be days that have been declared commemorative by some political action group or promoter- tomorrow is Fig Newton Day, Book Publisher’s Day, and Psychiatric Technicians Day. Apparently Arby’s has something to do with Hat day- trying to get their 10 gallon symbol made the National Hat.
Some holidays are spontaneous, like “Talk Like a Pirate Day” or “Towel Day” (for Douglas Adam’s Birthday). Others commemorate anniversaries, like Prohibition Remembrance Day. I also include foreign holidays like Haru-No-Yabuiri, a Japanese holiday where people who’ve had to work through the recent holidays get a day off. That’s a great idea. Many holidays are figured out using lunar cycles, like Easter, so they aren’t the same day every year. Neither are the ones linked to a day of the week, for example the Friday before Martin Luther King Day is Lee-Jackson Day in Virginia, while National MLK day is the closest Monday to his birthday. His actual birthday has been designated Humanitarian Day. Similarly, people just don’t get some of the old names. The day people went back to work after the 12 days of Christmas was called Distaff or Plough Monday. Another word for distaff is Roc, or Rock, so it was also called Rock Day, which some sites suggest are good days for celebrating rocks, or even rock and roll. Anyone can make a holiday up just for fun (like Festivus) or to promote something (like California Strawberries Day). But especially because so many sites simply borrow from each other, without realizing that they are putting the holiday on the wrong day because they don’t realize how it’s supposed to be worked out. Chinese New Years will be coming up and be celebrated from the New Moon to the Full Moon. It totally makes sense that in the old days you’d say “show up on the full moon” or some other phase because everyone not locked indoors could use that to hit the right day. But since I used to fall into that same error, I’m a bit pricklish about it, and tend to google each one just to check and make sure it REALLY is a holiday and really is that day. There are some fun sounding holidays like “Appreciate a Dragon Day” (tomorrow), and International Fetish Day seems to be real, but there’s a site called Wellcat that has made up some really odd ones many of which sound fun like Inane Answering Message Day (Jan. 30), but then they copyrighted them, asking people to always acknowledge their ownership (and send people back to their business website). Well stuff that! There are enough holidays out there without supporting ones that are sheer brass.
Sadly, as much as I enjoy looking up the holidays, finding the strange customs associated with the traditional ones (and the foods that go with them), it does take me nearly an hour to check them every morning. I’d be disingenuous to say that this doesn’t bother me. I keep thinking it should be just a five minute copy and paste job. But I don’t want to be one of the people I criticize for passing on bad information. The internet is a wondrous thing, but there is nothing about it that makes bad information less easy to circulate than good, and indeed, quite often the emotional impact of bad information often makes it more likely to go farther.
I am also VERY easy to distract! So far today I’ve read stories about the discovery of a submerged pyramid off the Azores, 3-d printers for medical purposes, nanoparticles, oil spills, some political shenanigans, reincarnation, recipes for Borsch and Taiyaki, 20s slang, an app that’s supposed to help with social networking, lots of holiday sites, of course, nutrients proven to enhance your mood, and one on gender psychology. As you could tell in my Venn diagram, I’m interested it just about everything, and even if I skip the pictures of cute kittens, people keep sharing interesting stuff. I could, and have, spent hours watching Sci Show and TED talks. (Did you know that quick freezing wet ground makes it expand 9% ? No wonder we get frost heaves!) It is SO hard NOT to click on another episode when they are short and fascinating!
But since I want so much to get to other things, I’m trying. Another thing I’ve been doing is clearing out my email in-box (and the physical mail pile in the secretary by the front door). Both are so full of junk mail it reduces my urge to actually bother to look through the dozens of items I get every day to find the one or two that I really should be taking care of! I’ve been unsubscribing just about everything. Sadly, it seems that every time you sign a petition, the group sponsoring it then starts sending you more stuff. I’ve probably cleared out 2000+ items, and unsubscribed from fifty or more groups in the last couple of weeks, but I still get more! It’s very frustrating.
I also get ones I want (and may not have time for), I get Dr. Goodword’s word of the day, and a Poem of the Day. Mostly these are short and I think enhance my life, although obviously I don’t like all of them. A few years ago I was involved in many yahoo groups. Most of those have fallen away- I’m not entirely sure it isn’t because of the “improvements” Yahoo threw at them. I know all these groups, Google and Yahoo, and all the others want to create a platform where you come to them for all your needs, and you never have to go anywhere else, but that’s not happening. Once they think they have you locked in, then they’ll make things more easy for them, which generally means not as easy for us. Not to mention that we don’t all think the same way.
I wonder sometimes if my expectations are off, or if I’m slowing down. I’ve gotten used to the fact that it takes an hour to go through the store even when I’m just getting “one or two things”, but recently I’ve noticed that it also takes about an hour to get everything put away when I get home! Laundry should take no time in the modern world- you just sort things by color, toss them in the machine and it does all the work. But while we probably average about a load a day, we also tend to do them about four loads at a time- and sorting the loads seems to take far too long too! In every other period of time, keeping a house was considered a full time occupation. Now it is supposed to be done in “spare moments” that are tucked around a full time job or two. I have no idea how other people manage!
This week I wrote the Vermont Country Stores to ask about the Indian Earth I’d gotten as a stocking present. I was pretty excited to find it again, but while the bottle looked very much the same, there was only about a half teaspoon of powder in the bottle. The volume it could have held was about a third of a cup or more, so this looked pretty pathetic. I wrote to make sure that it was meant to be that amount and I hadn’t gotten shorted. The short form is yes. The customer service lady went back to them to ask how much was supposed to be in it. They told her 0.07 oz. THAT is in the description. But that doesn’t tell the average consumer how much seven hundreths of an ounce is. She called them back and they told her that it should be about .43 teaspoon. I can work that out- it’s UNDER a half teaspoon. I was disappointed, and suggested that they put how small an amount is going to be in the bottle since it’s so disparate, but if I’m getting what everyone else is, I won’t complain. She was so relieved that I didn’t get mad at her, she refunded the shipping costs to make it up. Life is good.
What else? This week I made a “portal” cake.- it’s a chocolate cake with cherries around the top in blobs of white icing. It’s from a game the girls know. They explained to me that “the cake is a lie”. I am offended. Cake should always be real. I used the Coke cake recipe from the Coke website. Lie or not, it was very rich, and I think I may make it again. Last week (I think) I made a gingerbread cake, now that the chocolate cake is gone, I’m trying to decide whether to make a carrot cake or a pineapple upside down cake. Or maybe a Cardamon Orange Pound Cake. There are times it’s good to have a bit of cake around the house. Unless you are trying to avoid carbohydrates. I think I’m getting most of my carbs from the honey in my tea. I feel like I’m drinking gallons of it.
I’ve continued to read children’s books this week. I think I mentioned that I had found the Perkins Twins of many lands series I loved as a child in a Kindle edition? They have become the first thing I’ve read on a kindle and I am getting used to it- although I miss being able to glance at the book and see how far I’ve gotten. It’s like a digital vs. analogue clock. You can tell how much is left, of the book or of the hour, at a glance. I can’t do that with a digital clock.
They are surely books for first or second graders, but reading them is like drinking cocoa or chicken noodle soup (or maybe a balogna sandwitch with american cheese and yellow mustard on white bread), VERY comforting; it takes me right back to my childhood. And so far, no “gee, this isn’t as good as I remembered it”. I’ve read more American girl stories too. I was VERY pleased that the Hawaiian girl was no good at surfing, even though she tried, although she was good at other things like hula. I’m still a bit bemused about the 70s being portrayed as an historical period. God help me when they do an American girl from the 50s or 60s! I don’t know if I can take it. Maybe I’ll be dead first. But they remind me of the Little Colonel books- the characters are good, but not too good. The stories are interesting, but not unrealistic. I also read Dragonwyck by Anna Seton. I don’t know who recommended it, but at first I wasn’t very impressed, but then I got into the story- I’ve put the movie on my Netflix queue- the lead is played by Vincent Price (1946), definitely not the way I’d have pictured the patroon. I was thinking more of a Jude Law type.
I discovered that the Library had a copy of the Tales of the Golden Monkey! It is as much fun as I remembered! Pure fun and adventure with unrepentant yet not totally bad villians, and wonderful good guys. I am sure I missed lots of the jokes Bon Chance Louise drops. It only lasted one season, but we loved it, and I hope at some point to get a copy to rewatch when the mood strikes. Sadly, our adventures of Zorro, as good as I remembered, is a bootleg and not good quality, so I keep missing bits, which is very frustrating. They didn’t have much by way of re-runs when we were kids, so I’m sure I missed a lot of them, and I must have been only five or six when it was on. Maybe they showed some on the Mickey Mouse Club or Wonderful World of Disney. I’ve also discovered that a few episodes of Shirley Temple’s Storybook survived, and plan to get them from the library or Netflix. I’m sure that was formative for me too- I would have been six to eight while it was on.
Having had my “dessert first” (or as a main course recently) I’m feeling eager to attack non-fiction again. I’ve started Goddesses in Older Women: archetypes in Women over 50, which so far is not depressing. People use ancient Goddesses as archetypes so much that I’m not sure how to tell if anyone is pagan. The Green Boat: Reviving Ourselves in our Capsized Culture (about the ecological problems we have brought and are bringing on ourselves) looks like it could get that way- but will probably offer solutions. I’m also plunging back into the Claude LeCouteaux folklore books. One of the upcoming blogposts on the CTCW site is on the Wild Hunt, written by Jane. I finished his book on the Wild Hunt (Phantom Armies of the Night) just before Darkover, and figured she’d love it. I also requested the dvd The Wild Hunt from Netflix, and it finally arrived, so that reminded me how great his books are- I’m midway through the one on House Spirits, and also pulling out some of my rune and tarot books, as well as books on knotwork and calligraphy. I AM hoping to get back into Art. Jane tells me her book is nearly done, so I’d better finish the cover.
As I said, nothing of much interest happened, but at least life is interesting, and not dangerous around here. And while it does take time, I would love to hear what you’re up to- if not being in contact with friends, what is life for?
Life is a song – sing it. Life is a game – play it. Life is a challenge – meet it. Life is a dream – realize it. Life is a sacrifice – offer it. Life is love – enjoy it.
Life is a song-sing it.
Life is a game- play it.
Life is a challenge- meet it.
Life is a dream- realize it.
Life is a sacrifice- offer it.
Life is love- enjoy it. Sai Baba
Life is a canvas of many strokes where shades from different palettes meet into a picture so concrete that some forget it is their own, so become framed themselves.
Life is a song – sing it. Life is a game – play it. Life is a challenge – meet it. Life is a dream – realize it. Life is a sacrifice – offer it. Life is love – enjoy it.