5/16/2012 new friends, old friends week

Hey, Family!
The kids got me a pair of lilac bushes for Mother’s Day- one white, one sort of pinkish. We’ve started the annual fool’s errand of trying to pull all the knotweed out of the herb garden. (How did it get there? I don’t think it travels by seed, so it must have crept under the road or a long way from where the nearest clump was growing. Poot!) I also have to find gloves and pull out the raspberry suckers. (for that matter, how’d they get there?) Some of the existing lilacs are fading, but some are still looking good. The “undergrowth” we should be trimming back from around the mailbox is mostly lilac suckers, but they never bloom; perhaps in a few years they will.
This week appears to be the Time of the Ice Saints, something like the spring equivalent of Indian Summer where tradition has it that there’s five days of cold, wet (winter) weather in May. Willow doesn’t mind since she’s working with Polar Fleece, and the rest of us don’t mind it being in the 50s and 60s rather than the 70s and 80s anyway.
The quince blossoms have passed, but the apple orchards are in blossom. I continue to be impressed at how long flowers from bulbs last- the tulip by the bleeding hearts lasted almost a month, and the bleeding hearts are fading now too. We’re seeing wild strawberry flowers, and I am getting VERY full of gardening urges that I am trying to restrain to realistic levels. I have a book out from the library called the New Low-maintenance Garden which does have at least one chapter on gardens with food and herbs. In Europe a garden that combines all sorts of plants is called a potager. It’s a kitchen garden that’s arranged like a flower garden, for enjoyment, not just utility. I’d LIKE to get a real vegetable garden out in the back, I am going to try to put a few tomato, kale and beans into the perhaps 15×15 herb garden. (I think my biggest problem is weeds.) I have got some new herbs to put into the multi-herb pot by the front door, and am hoping to get some borage and nasturtium for the front strip.
I still haven’t gotten rid of the goats, but am hoping to get to it soon. Meanwhile, I’m enjoying the crow who lives in back of the house.
Eliminating sugar and white flour from my diet actually does seem to be working. I checked the scale yesterday and it was 268, down from 275 a week or so ago. I’d rather expected some more dramatic form of “withdrawals”, (such as described in a book I read back in the eighties about sugar addiction), but so far what I’m feeling is frustration about not being able to bake. I’ve picked up some whole wheat pastry flour and wheat germ and dug out a copy of the book of healthy cookies I used when Ælfwine was trying to live. OK, I do kind of have some craving for sweets, but I don’t know if it’s me feeling deprived for something I’m not allowing myself, or a physical craving. Doesn’t feel physical.
Last week Morgan wrote me that he’d heard an NPR story about exercise.  “Turns out, if you walk 30 minutes a day for an average of 4 days a week, it increases your lifespan by 20%.  On the other hand, if you really push yourself and run 90 minutes a day 4 days a week, it only increases your lifespan by another 4%.  So most of the benefit comes in the first little bit of walking that you do.  Since its basically what our skeletons are designed for above and beyond all else, there are very few injuries associated with walking, while 75% of runners suffer an injury per year.”
Given that, I’m working harder to get out and walk at least four times a week. I got myself some gold star stickers, but I think I’m going to have to put them on the calendar on the back of the front door or I’ll forget to use them.
Another project I’m working on is learning to drive a standard. When I head up to the American Society of Dowsers in Vermont, Kat and Willow are headed down to Anime Next in New Jersey, with two of their friends to split costs. This means they need the big car, so I get the “small” one, but Willow’s car is a standard. Back when Ælfwine had one, we tried to get me comfortable with it, but the few times we went out, I’d get to one of those “uphill stops”, stall, and since I was a beginner, I’d roll back while trying to get started again. Every time, someone would come up behind me, and then start yelling as I rolled backwards, threatening their bumper. They’d yell, then pull past me cursing, and I’d start crying, and Ælfwine would take over, and the lesson would be done. So I never got the hang of it. Since we KNOW I’ve got to be able to handle it in just a few weeks, we are practicing. I don’t think it’s good for Willow’s nerves either, but she gets exasperated rather than sorry for me, so we are dealing, and I’m gradually getting better.
When they told Willow that she had been moved from the waiting list to Artist’s Alley, Willow inventoried her accumulated polar fleece and made a list of the blankets she needed to do to have a good selection at the con, and a shopping list of what she had to buy. Mostly she keeps her costs down by buying off the discount rack, but  while she often makes the blankets with ‘what she’s got’, she often has to buy the backing to make it look good. As with the jewelry, the masks, and everything else she makes, she’s really fussy about quality, both in materials and workmanship. Luckily, Joanne’s was having a sale this week, so she was able to get the more-than-twenty yards of polar fleece for about an hundred dollars. She’s also figured out that she can get all the ones she wants done in time IF she completes one and a half blankets each day. When I remarked that it’s good to have a plan, she responded “I like my plans to have less whimpering.”
I was thinking that I should probably do something similar to try to get everything in that I’m trying to accomplish. I’m back to working on the quilt I’d started for the dowsers (same deadline as Willow’s). But I also have another book cover to do, and several projects to get done before Pennsic to create a display that will justify the support of those who are putting me up for Laurel. This probably means I’ll be finally getting around to making and Anglo-Saxon Urn for Ælfwine’s ashes, and finishing the gold-work collar on the gown I’ve been working on for two years, and several other projects. The problem with thinking in those terms is that it reminds me of all the other unfinished projects I’ve got on hold, which is kind of daunting. Obviously I can’t do them all at once, but I’ve always had a hard time deciding that something I’m excited about is lower priority that other things I’m excited about. Usually I make that kind of decision by things with expiration dates, or other time constraints. I really need to come up with a better system. Kat is currently doing an hour of this, an hour of that- (her web comic, housework, exercise, etc.) and that’s working for her. I’m more than a little jealous.
I REALLY have a hard time figuring out what my passion is, where my joy lies, or all those other things that you’re supposed to center your life on. I want it all. I want to integrate art, history, healing, divination, and family life in some way. Every time I try to pick one, something pops up and reminds me that I don’t want to stop doing the others. I know I can do them sequentially, but apparently not in very short bits.  This week I watched the movie Hugo, and in it Hugo notices that everyone has different things they do with their life- his father fixed things, Melies made magical films, and Isabelle wishes she knew what her purpose in life was. Hugo, as a watchmaker’s son, said that machines don’t come with extra parts, so he was convinced that even when we don’t know what our purpose is, we must have one, which I think is a very reassuring philosophy.
I finished up the course “Power over People” Classic and Modern Political Theory, which started with Socrates, Plato and Aristotle, and ended up with Machiavelli, Marx, Hitler and Ghandi. Mostly it was sequential, but I’m glad he put Ghandi at the end. I always prefer to end on a positive note. Political Theory is not my first choice of interesting topics, but at the same time, it does come down to, as the professor said what is the relationship of individuals to society? What is the right way for men to live? which are deeply interesting topics- especially in an election year. As he talked about how both Hitler and Ghandi played their audiences and inspired them, I look at Obama and Romney and what they offer their supporters. I don’t subscribe to the “great man” view of history, I believe that the currents of history will toss up the right man to fulfill whatever role is needed at the time, rather than having a unique man shaping the path of history. Yes, Romney seems to think that the rights of the rich individual to self determination are far more important than the rights of a poor individual, but he wouldn’t be a front runner if there weren’t a lot of people supporting him. I want to figure out WHY they support him? What are they afraid of? What do they hope for?
A great deal of posts flowed around the internet this week about Romney back in private school hacking off another kids hair while his friends held him down. I hope that these days an incident like that would be considered assault and battery. (In Anglo-Saxon times, the payment of were-geld would have been about the same as for raping a woman.) He says he doesn’t remember it, but if it happened, it was only a prank. I don’t know which would be worse, forgetting it, or lying about it. I have always been a strong advocate of letting people live down their past mistakes, but to characterize assault as a “prank” is a dangerous perspective for a possible president (arguably the most powerful man in the world) to hold. I’ve just watched Judgement at Nuremberg which pretty much addresses the same question. (I sent for it after watching Imaginary Witness last week.) What happened wasn’t the question, how and why it happened was the question. As Judge Haywood (Spencer Tracy) says, if the “defendants were all depraved perverts – if the leaders of the Third Reich were sadistic monsters and maniacs – these events would have no more moral significance than an earthquake or other natural catastrophes. But this trial has shown that under the stress of a national crisis, men – even able and extraordinary men – can delude themselves into the commission of crimes and atrocities so vast and heinous as to stagger the imagination.” It is that Romney and his supporters don’t seem to take the alleged action seriously that is worrisome. I’m all for letting someone leave his past behind if he (or she) has grown beyond his mistakes, but not dismiss it. More importantly, I wonder what is scaring his supporters. Yes, for many, economic times are bad, and the modern U.S. no longer claims to be “One Nation under God”, the way it did fifty years ago. We acknowledge the diversity, and allow more definitions of acceptable. Like little children without parental forcing them to behave, they worry about where the limits are, and long for the certainty that the remember from their youth. But the people who used to be ground down and kept invisible under that “idyllic” imaginary golden post-war era are not going to put up with going back to the ghetto, the slums, or the reservation so that “Ozzie and Harriet” can claim, as the Germans did of the camps, that they didn’t know. It’s important to me not just to deplore a “defense of marriage” act, but to understand why that restricted view of marriage is so important to the (slight?) minority that support it.
As I said, I’m hoping that the no-sugar thing is working for me. I’ve been reviewing Nourishing Traditions, a combination book about food and cookbook, very big into the all-natural way. It’s very pro-raw food, and fermented foods. When I first encountered it, I was amused to compare it to other health books I’ve read that recommend no fermented foods (based on people who have yeast problems). This time I’m struck by it’s recommendations in contrast to another book I’m reading: Catching Fire- How Cooking Made Us HumanCatching Fire talks about how our bodies reflect the evolutionary changes that came about when our distant ancestors tamed fire and started cooking our food. To my surprise it says that even animals do better when eating cooked food. (Pottinger’s experiments indicated that cooked food would render animals sterile and sickly.) I guess that it comes down to what the individual needs. Still, we have lost both jaws for chewing harder materials and a dozen or so feet of intestines to process it over the centuries. I think the thing that really surprised me most was that apparently it only takes about two thousand years to have changes create a new species. One season of stress will result in noticeable differences in an effected population (they gave, as an example, finches with heavier beaks surviving, and thus breeding better, in times of drought when the heavier beak gave them an advantage with tough seeds, but that if good/normal years followed, the tendency was for the species to return to the old mean size for beaks). I already knew that carrots give up more vitamins cooked than raw, but I hadn’t realized that they aren’t the only foods that we do better with processed than unprocessed. Still, apparently grinding is also a good way to make nutrients more available. I still haven’t finished it but I’m really enjoying it.
Friday we went to see the Avenger’s matinee. (We may be cheap, but not quite cheap enough to do the drive in, which is not as comfortable. Heck, the Avengers was two and a half hours, which is more than most bladders can deal with. I suppose that accounts for the long lines at the rest rooms at the drive in between movies.) I loved it. It’s as good as Thor, and Iron Man and other adventure movies I’ve liked. Willow asked me what movies I remember from when I was young, and frankly there weren’t that many. I really am enjoying the action adventures they’re doing now. It may be that I just don’t remember them.
Aside from that I cleaned the oven, which shouldn’t be such a big deal, but I don’t care for the caustic chemicals, the fumes, and leaning over into the oven. I SO love that my oven door comes off! That really helps. Still, I worry about the chemicals. Time after time we see that just because something is legal to sell, even common, it doesn’t mean that it’s not having a negative effect on our health and the environment. It used to be common to treat syphilis with mercury, and amputations with cautery. That doesn’t mean it was a good idea.
Saturday Steve came up and we had fiesta chicken and watched Pirate Radio. He’s still got a cough hanging on from winter, and I showed him some accupressure points- maybe that’ll help. He’s tried doctors and having tried antibiotics, they can’t figure out anything to do about it. He’s always been more interested in strange little films than action adventures, and it’s nice to have someone to watch them with. Pirate Radio was theoretically based on the sixties when Britain (although exporting the Beatles and Rolling Stones) didn’t want Rock and Roll being played over the air for some reason. There was a lot of good music, and a huge and talented cast, including Kenneth Brannaugh, Emma Thompson, Bill Nighy, Nick Frost, and a pile of others. I spent a great deal of time looking for the ones I was expecting and only just recognizing them by their voices at the very end. A great deal of the humor is rather low, (a government agent is named Twatt, and they make a lot of jokes about that). My favorite line was when the minister who was trying to stop the Rock and Roll said (when Twatt pointed out that they weren’t breaking any laws), “You see, that’s the whole point of being the government. If you don’t like something you simply make up a new law that makes it illegal.”
I do like having someone to talk about a film after I’ve seen it, and I know I’m not the only one. Kat had me watch a creepy Spanish movie this week called The Orphanage (by the guy who did Pan’s Labyrinth), which reminded me of The Haunting. It was about a woman who was about to open an orphanage that she’d grown up in again, when her own child disappears mysteriously. Geraldine Chaplin did an incredible job as the creepy medium who confirms for the mother the supernatural aspect of the disappearance. I tend to think of her in the 3 MusketeersHawaii, or Dr. Zhivago, so she was hauntingly familiar, but I couldn’t place her until I looked her up; but all the acting was excellent. Most US “horror” movies these days are either psychologically creepy, or just teen-oriented movies with lots of body parts (either having sex or getting chopped up), or supernatural versions of that. Asian horror has a real creep factor, and they often, as in the Orphanage, pay a lot of attention to the cinematography, character and plot development, and they still have good special effects.
I think I’ve mentioned that once a month Lyrion has resurrected the old idea of salons- people come together to talk about some fascinating topic or other, and she had one Sunday. I’m always bummed when I miss one, but this week I was free. This week’s topic was going to be the Grail, but no one but I showed up- (everyone else was probably visiting his or her mother). So Lyrion, Raven and I (motherless chicks that we are) instead talked about my recent passion- end of life care and funerals. Lyrion has presided over several funerals and memorial services and has an even bigger library than I do on the topic. I went home with five borrowed books on death and burial. The first one I jumped into was Never Say Goodbye, a lovely book by a medium who talks about how the dead are around us all the time. I tend to think they would have something better to do, but apparently according to his experience, they’re keeping an eye on us almost all the time. Many of the “proofs” of their presence seem to be the kind of thing that I’d ascribe to fairies, but given what I’ve read about the relationships between fairies and ghosts, it may not be a big deal. There was a bit of that in the movie Photographing Fairies; I’m not sure, but it seemed that perhaps people who died morphed into fairies, or pixies, or some late Victorian version of them. Frankly, it wasn’t as good as I’d hoped, although I must say special effects have gotten to where you don’t have to think about them much.
Far more to my taste was Your Soul’s Plan a book about how we plan many of the things that we have to deal with during this life, whether illness, loss of a loved one, poverty, handicaps, abuse, or other things that fall into that huge category of “bad things happening to good people”. It makes a lot of sense to see them more as situations we’ve born ourselves into for what we can learn from them than trying to make them into some sort of punishment. I’m a bit weak on the whole punishment/sin concept anyway, so I may just like the book because it fits in with my pre-established world view.
I recommended to her a PBS documentary: A Family Undertaking: POV. Home funerals, as they say in the film, are not for everyone. I wouldn’t be surprised if my father, having worked his butt off for so many years figures that paying someone else to do the “heavy lifting” after he dies is part of what he worked for. On the other hand, he probably would go for the least expensive version because he’s frugal. On the other hand, I expect that my sister Liz, having preferred the packaged “fairytale” wedding, would probably prefer the packaged funeral. All the presents she’s ever given me have been really classy. I expect she would want the polished, mahogany casket with brass fittings, and find a cardboard box with pretty pictures glued on, and people writing good wishes on it not classy enough. As they said- it’s not that there’s anything wrong with the standard funeral, but that often people don’t know that there are options if it doesn’t fulfill their emotional needs. It’s good to know beforehand. I loved seeing the dead bodies as people got their relatives ready, it’s one thing to read about it, but another thing to see them.
At any rate, I came home with some fill in the blank forms for setting up Durable Power of Attorney and Advance Directives, and such, and also several cuttings and plants from Lyrion’s garden. She gave me some comfrey, and some bleeding hearts (I told her the Annie Fellows Johnson story of the bleeding heart from the Little Colonel series.), and a gold flowering bush of some sort that I’ve forgotten the name for, and a few other things. They are planted, and hope they live. She had purple, white, yellow, and even pink violets!
So long for now- there’s a lovely thunderstorm coming in and in theory the computer should be turned off during.
A society in which consumption has to be artificially stimulated in order to keep production going is a society founded on trash and waste, and such a society is a house built upon sand. – Dorothy L. Sayers (1893-1957)