There are a few fat flakes drifting down, but while the girls are up in Vermont getting acupuncture, I’m still not worried about them. I will admit to having added the weather site to my toolbar so I can check it easily. No major snow in the near future. They’re calling for snow “showers”. As I said to our mechanic while arranging to drop off the van, “you can deal with six inches, but ignore two.” This is not to say that digging out isn’t a pain in the butt- or for me the shoulder. It’s not “regular” exercise, but winter shoveling is exercise, and since it includes arms, legs, stomach and cardio, I figure I’m OK if I shovel regularly. We got lucky, a fellow going by with a plow scooped aside the berm for us, saving us a good couple of hours of shoveling. I’m really grateful for that!
I noticed last night while taking out my cast iron pans that my strength seems to be coming back. Thank goodness. We forget how a cold saps your energy and takes a while to rebuild unless we’re dealing with it. There was a great line in one of the movies I watched this week: “I’m a cripple, not an invalid, Dammnit! (…and I’m also a genius so leave me alone!” It was emotionally satisfying to see his nurse who’d spent the previous hour babying him get eaten by the monsters.) But I’m back to being able to lift a stack of iron pans one handed. I figure as long as I can still cook with cast iron, not only will my cooking be better, it’s maintaining my strength.
This year I’ve done pretty well with the food calendar. Last year I started jotting down the main dish of supper on the calendar in the kitchen. Mostly it’s to see how often we eat certain things, but also to check how old leftovers are. (“Hmm- we had the ham on the 5th, do I dare put this last piece in the macaroni and cheese?”) Last night we had pulled pork- again, despite having made a huge batch, the leftovers didn’t last long. We still have some chili, I am looking forward to finishing the curried lamb, I think the tuna-noodle casserole is gone. I made this one by starting by making a thick white sauce with mushrooms rather than using a can of mushroom soup. I seriously dislike the idea that I am dependent upon pre-made ingredients. I also experimented by putting barbecue sauce in the meatballs when I made pasta- and that wasn’t as good as we’d hoped. I have to say I really like having the wood-stove going all the time. I’m going through massive amounts of tea, and slow cooked foods like a corned beef dinner, or coq au vin are wonderfully easy.
Since Valentines day is looming on the horizon, it’s time to put away our snowflake patterned glasses, bowls, & mugs and bring out the red plates and heart motif tablecloths. On the other hand, snow is probably the more obvious theme at the moment. Also Kat and I have been staying in the kitchen a lot. Not only is it warmer, and it’s easier to keep the fire from dying from neglect, we’ve been doing handwork and watching videos together. I hate to say it but I fear that the historical dramas are making us feel unreasonably dissatisfied with our housekeeping. The truth of history (and sociology) is that the Upstairs/Downstairs integrated culture led to our modern attitudes as the middle classes emerged trying to show by their dress and manners that they were “as good as” the nobility. In the Middle Ages culture taught that each person was given his or her place by GOD, and the nobles were there to rule, the priests pray, the peasants there to feed everyone, and you shouldn’t argue with what GOD had ordained for you (not significantly different from the premise in Divergent). But whenever conditions, whether the Black Death in the 14th century, or war in the 20th threw people together, they couldn’t escape the reality that many people of different backgrounds could take on the jobs in a different caste. There is security in feeling that you are good at what you do, and you are doing what you are meant to do. Running an household is a complex and strenuous task, however, the role of “Lady” in the late 19th century had become one of proving that one didn’t have to work.
Back in the 60s I tripped over an etiquette book from the 20s. This book said that polite guests were not to make their beds, because that would indicate that they were aware that their hosts had no servants to do it for them. They were supposed to pretend that they thought that there was a domestic staff (I hope, unless the hostess confessed this deplorable “failing”), while the hostess was apparently supposed to excuse herself discretely at some point to go make their beds herself. This is not terribly unlike like a book I read in the 70s (Sex and the Single Girl?) I remember young women who didn’t smoke being advised to keep two packs of open cigarettes in the bathroom for visitors- one filtered, one not. It reminded the non-smoker that once opened the cigarettes would become stale and need to be regularly replaced, but they had to be open so that the guest would feel free to help himself. The very idea that someone would be expected to allow a smoker to smoke in her bathroom repelled me at the time, but the ideas are based on a similar idea- that you should allow your guests to feel comfortable, even if it’s horrible for you. Gods! I hope we are past that.
The thing is that in the modern world, we are trying so hard to present a house that looks as if we have a staff when we do not. True, some of the things the staff did included maintaining the fires (heating) and lamps (lighting), but they also maintained a level of cleaning that required daily dusting, maintaining clothing that required help changing, cleaning, and repairing, etcetera. We dont’ have staff, so every so often we look up and discover that there are cobwebs on the ceiling, or that the floor hasn’t been washed recently (my floors are clean enough to walk on). We can’t have everything (where would we put it?). I have seen magazines (and more recently on line stories) recommend that if the Moms select press free clothing, the kids can change into their school clothes for the next day after their daily shower, and thus reduce the “getting dressed” delays before school. If they use sleeping bags, you don’t have to deal with laundering sheets. In most periods in the past people slept naked or in their clothes, and bedding was designed to keep you warm, a blanket (since weaving was invented) on a pile of brush or similar padding was where you slept. Now we are suggesting that not having a room of ones own might cause horrible damage. Yes, I love our modern conveniences (running water, lights, etc.) and furniture, but I recognize that it is culturally created and maintained.
Humans are inherently nervous about what’s different. This is natural, down to the cellular level we recognize “other” and destroy it, that’s how any system from an immune system to a culture defends itself. When there is change, we feel uncomfortable and unless the change is obviously helping us, will probably resist it. The greater the change, the stronger the resistance. If what one had counted on as a “given” is no longer there, we feel like we’re in chaos, and there is no safety. Last night we got our first two political phone polls for the 2016 election. (grrr! way too early!) and I can see that many of the points being discussed are about change. The thing is that politics, like science, like medicine, like just about everything else, is slow to recognize that what worked once in a specific situation doesn’t necessarily mean it’s universally and permanently applicable. It occurs to me that I put up a post on this on my blog: I don’t Understand…. and probably don’t need to rehash it. I sometimes wonder why it is that I don’t appear to react the way many other people do. The idea of punishment and revenge don’t make sense to me, but then, neither do team sports. It would be lovely to think that I was saintly, wise or in some way superior to other people but that seems so unlikely. I certainly seem to have enough normal everyday problems with things like housecleaning, not eating what I shouldn’t eat, and getting cross when things aren’t easy for me. A quick glance at my daily life usually suffices to convince me that I’m not particularly virtuous. Just lucky.
Last Tuesday was Juno- we waited it out in comfort, and dug out on Wednesday, & Kat did the Gold Key washing. . Since Kirk had suggested to Kat that she eat spicy foods to counteract the cold wet (phlegmatic) humors, we went for curry, chili, etc. and I have to say that Kat did NOT get as sick as the rest of us did, and recovered faster. At the same time, I’m not sure that it’s been good for her digestive system. (On the other hand, I can highly recommend Sweet pepper flavor Doritos in the purple bag!) Now, I think we should spend a few days eating really soft bland foods until we’re less queasy. Thursday the girls took the Gold Key back to storage. Friday I went to the Blood Drive alone because we still weren’t sure she was well enough to give blood. Saturday and Sunday I continued to veg out- stoking the fire, doing handwork, watching DVDs. We are getting down to the end of the oldest cordwood- the ones we’d set aside for the living room wood-stove because they’re 15 inches long, and our firebox in the kitchen is 14 inches. We open the top and put them in at an angle rather than just tucking them in through one of the round holes. When it’s gone we’ll start on the newer, less dry stuff, but we’ll also have some clear space to stack the rest of what we bought this year. I really didn’t want to put the new stuff on top of the old. We have finished burning the Christmas tree- that made good tinder for starting up. Monday, Groundhogs Day (or Hedgehog Day, which I prefer because they’re cuter) was another “snow day”, Linus this time. It is a great blessing to not have to work outside the house, but simply hunker down and feed the wood-stove, and digging out the next day. I think it was only a bit more than a foot this time. The drifting was different- there was a good six inches under Willow’s car (when they headed off today). Aside from laying in the supplies, another thing I do when there’s a storm coming is to get ahead on the holidays I post on LiveJournal and Facebook. It is my habit to post both the holidays for whatever day it is, but also for the next day, in case someone who sees it would really like to get the stuff ready to for example, make a carrot cake for Carrot Cake Day, or wear Red on this Friday for Women’s Heart Health Day. The problem is, that when I’ve gotten ahead I have a horrible time trying to remember what day it really is! If I didn’t have the show and the “commitment” to write the letter on Wednesdays, I would have a very hard time keeping track of what day it is!
While getting ready to write this letter I’ve re-read last weeks letter, and last year’s letter from this time. There was a snowstorm that week too, and I did a show on Weather magick then too- that storm was Niki. Frankly, as I remember it, we had no-school snow days often on my birthday; this is just the time of year when it snows in New England. For Ground-hog’s Day I restrained myself from griping about neo-pagans buying hot-house flowers to decorate their altars for “the beginning of spring”. But there, you see? I’ve slipped and griped about it now! Last year I also posted Thoughts about my birthday, all the stuff I could remember Mother telling me about when I was born. I keep forgetting how young she was. It’s easy to remember the parts of your life that are like what you’re doing now, but when it changes (for example, I don’t have kids in school any more) those memories seem to go into deep storage along with the kids old clothes and toys.
What else has happened this week? I don’t think Kat’s quite done with her quilted skirt yet. Like me, she’s working on several projects at once, and also coming up with new ones every day. Rest assured that I’ll be sending a picture of it when she’s finished. I have mostly been working on adding the border to my banner. I think it looks better now. I guess another indication that my energy is coming back is that I actually feel like getting to the painting projects I’ve decided to concentrate on this year. I really have to stop reading so late, and spend less time on the computer. (another would be my being able to get into non-fiction again).
I finished The Heathen School, although I skimmed some of it when it got too painful to read. It tells the story of a social experiment going bad. I’ve always been fascinated by the whole idea of “religious conversion”. Why the hell would someone think it’s a good idea to tell someone else who and how to worship? People worry about modern neo-pagans proselytizing, and certainly Christians and Muslims have worked hard to convert “infidels” to their faiths. When I was young I read Michner’s Hawaii, then watched the movie. Clearly these people felt it important to convert the “heathen”. What more classic cartoon image is there of African natives with Missionaries in their stew pots. The Taylors were in a missionary program to go out to the Pacific somewhere when Ælfwine was a kid, and I’m still hearing about missionaries these days. The best I could figure was that it was a way of getting funding- like sports figures putting logos of sponsors on their uniforms and gear. If you wanted to help fight disease and spread literacy, you got a church to foot the bill, and you’d push their “product” in exchange. Except that that’s not quite it. Some Christians apparently really do believe that all souls will be punished for eternity if they don’t have the correct understanding of GOD, as they understand Him. I assume that they think that Christians from other faiths are also going to be punished, but the people who’ve never had a chance to try it on and get it at least a little right are the most to be pitied, or maybe the easiest to help. After all, you don’t have to talk them out of their errors, just explain the deal “accept Him as your Lord, or burn for ever” (along with “Everything you’ve ever believed is wrong”). This has always been a mystery for me, and yet, while it’s a really solid part of the history of the colonial period, it’s really hard to find descriptions of what motivated these people.
Apparently in the early federalist period, some self confident New Englanders decided it would be the right thing to do to educate the poor indigenous people they were discovering in Hawaii, India, China, and other distant lands (not to mention several Native Americans who appear to have been seen as just as “alien”.). Occasional non-Christian travelers showed up having taken jobs on the great ships, and were impressed by the rich civilization they found in New England. There was a very affecting story of one “Owhyhean” (Hawaiian) named Obookiah, weeping at the doors of Yale when he discovered that wanting to learn wasn’t enough to go to classes, you actually had to pay for someone to teach you. He was taken in by some rich white folks who loved that he wanted to learn, and came up with the clever idea that if they civilized the occasional heathen that came their way, they could send them back to their own people to proselytize and convert their people. They already knew the language, who was important in the culture, and apparently thought that the white ways were pretty terrific already. All they’d have to do is make sure they understood and could teach the right things! They pooled some money, got some land, put up some buildings, collected heathen boys from all over and started teaching them. Sadly, in the years between 1816, when it opened, and 1825 when it closed, they discovered that if you dress these guys up, school them, trot them around to show off how clever and civilized they are,… guess what? Your daughters will notice that they’re real people and want to marry them. Oops. The good citizens of Connecticut burned effigies of the young people, (white girls and Cherokee men) and basically changed their position on trying to bring the two worlds together. This was at a time when the federal government was still handling “removal” by treaties- pretending to respect their claims on the land, but only until some white guy thought he could make some money from it. Several of these young, educated, men spearheaded the movement to try to protect their people from the later attempts of the whites to erase their culture.
There is no Fault in the huge loss of life in the Columbian Exchange. The Europeans could not have prevented it, and while they/we benefitted by it, and even took advantage of the wiping out of the indigenous folk, we did not arrange it, or intend it. The simple fact that with first contact we passed microorganisms that being new to the population were even more deadly than they were in Europe (although perhaps not when they were first introduced there), means that when they arrived their effects were going to be catastrophic.
There is, however, Grievous Fault in the intentional theft of indigenous lands, intentional genocide of the survivors, and reduction of them to peonage which was done by individuals, and empowered by the culture. The natives were on their own land, reduced and massively depopulated by disease, trying to rebuild their societies, and the European folk seemed to think that because the natives didn’t appear to be using their land, this gave them the right to take it (and exploit it). The “You lost the Indian Wars, get over it” Mentality ignores (or even embraces) wholesale murder and theft, and therefore accepts responsibility and thus fault. The self righteous imposition of Western-euro culture on the children (and adults) of another people is equivalent to the modern attempted imposition of Islamic Law by modern terrorists, or the imposition of Christian values on state law codes. I acknowledge that in all cases I mention, those invoking their values tend to not represent the mainstream but rather a specific version of Islam or Christianity. We use previous acts of violence against us to justify our acts of violence. It occurs to me that the creation of the state of Israel after the end of WWII is the equivalent of relocating the Native Americans onto reservations. We may talk about female genital mutilation, and destruction of the Kwan Yin statues, to prevent ourselves from recognizing that the driving force of our going into other peoples villages is economic gain and religious/cultural/racial intolerance. The modern Christian missionary movement justifies itself with claims of help with medicine, education, food and water systems, but continues to have as a main concept a replacement of the original culture with a version of our own. Claims of “saving souls” ring as hollow now as then. The “Romantic Movement” that inspired the Heathen School failed in it’s hope for an integrated multi-racial society (probably inasmuch as it consisted of making the two one by one absorbing the other), the current women’s movement may fail in some of it’s goals as well. (When I say fail I mean how we started by hoping that women could have equal respect and rights with men, but what we got was women being allowed to do the same asinine things we objected to men doing in the first place.) Opposition always stiffens when it feels threatened, and can be armed and financed by those who can gain economically to do the horrible things we all wish would never happen.
Quite frankly, this story of the Heathen School has been blending in my mind with the other things I’m reading and listening to recently. In the dragon knight (Dragon at War) book, the time displaced hero, James, has more problems integrating the acceptance of class structure than he does using magick. In the audio course the Integrated history of Greece and Rome I keep running into the distrust of the Romans for the Greeks (“well, we DID conquer them after all!”), even though they incorporated most of the Mediterranean world into Rome. And by the time Rome took over Egypt, they were taking over a Greek state. Sure it had pyramids and other monuments all over it (and the Nile running through the middle), but it’s like people who talk about the people whose ancestors were European as the “real” Americans, and forgetting that this is only a “fact” for a few centuries. Could the people two thousand years ago tell at a glance whether someone was a Roman or a Greek? In Downton Abby and Upstairs Downstairs sexism, racism, and class consciousness are beyond common, they are the environment in which the people live. The pressures both of plot twists and of what was going on culturally at the time force the characters to deal with the issues- although they do a pretty good job of showing that most of them don’t question their world as given to them. Even when they run across one cultural norm with which they disagree, they accept the others. And of course, in the Dr. Who movies I’ve been watching, The Two Doctors, Resurrection of the Daleks, and The Curse of Fenric, xenophobia- in the sense of the assumption that you can judge a person by what alien race he’s from, is another given. The current excecutions/murders by the Islamic State underscore that these prejudices are still around.
I did watch some other movies this week that didn’t remind me of intolerance. I watched a very weird film called Medea by Lars von Trier; I put it on my queue when I was watching the Jason movies- this one was odd because it was the Euripedies story staged in Norway- viking clothing and armor and ships. It did translate well into the other culture. I watched Horns with Daniel Radcliffe, in which a young man who’s been accused of his girlfriends murder starts growing horns, thus justifying the towns assumption of his guilt. The thing is that the trailer was just all about the horns (which would be disturbing), but it doesn’t mention that suddenly everyone starts confessing their deepest, nastiest secret thoughts to him, which is really much more disturbing, and harder to deal with. I now notice that the subtitle is “Confessions to the Devil”. There are things we just don’t want to hear. And after a facebook discussion about what were the greatest fantasy films, and several people mentioning Excalibur, which I remembered as a piece of excrement that was painful to watch, only slightly less horrendous than Sword of the Valiant (who’d have thought they could make a truly awful movie about Arthurian legends and with Sean Connery that was really awful‽ The best part was the food in the feast.), so I went back and watched it again. Yup, it really was awful. The armor that was “dragging the knight down” under the river really did float up when taken off, Helen Merin really did writhe on the ground in a steel bra spouting green smoke, Ygrain did belly dance for Uther, Nigel Terry did really forget how to act. Avoid this one like the plague.
Tonight I’m talked about Dream Interpretation on the New Normal. I really need to get the CTCW website up and running for next year, or rather, November, so I can start interviewing guests instead of talking for an hour straight by myself.
Well, that’s it- I must to bed. Tomorrow we’re dropping the van off at Winkles, and there may be another snow day coming. (Gee, it must be February.)
Two quotes from Groundhog Day:
Phil: This is one time where television really fails to capture the true excitement of a large squirrel predicting the weather.
Phil: When Chekhov saw the long winter, he saw a winter bleak and dark and bereft of hope. Yet we know that winter is just another step in the cycle of life. But standing here among the people of Punxsutawney and basking in the warmth of their hearths and hearts, I couldn’t imagine a better fate than a long and lustrous winter.