From: Tchipakkan <email@example.com>
Subject: Happy National Wildflower Week and Herb week!
To: “Val Stark”, “Albert C. Young Jr.” “Kerensa Roberts” “Jeanne McCarron” , “Minerva Sprogis” , “J H Grace”, “steve Mason” , “Gary Collins” , “Abram Mark Ratner” , “V Stark” , “Jim Revells” , “travis Witty” , “Michael McClennen” , “Sue Weiss” , “Catherine & Sean Kane” , “Hugh Sider” , “Bettina Helms” , “Emil M Stecher” , “Stasia B Millet” , “Raven & Bella & Josh Kaldera” , “Joshua Tenpenny” , “Trevor Hart” , “Linda anfuso”
Date: Wednesday, May 9, 2012, 6:57 PM
It’s been raining off and on most of the week. I didn’t get rained on Saturday, but it remained overcast. Sunday was gorgeous, but I really was hoping to enjoy the “Supermoon”. The full moon was at perigee and was supposed to be more big and impressive than any other time this year. It seems like most nights there are eclipses, or meteor showers or the possibility of seeing the Northern Lights it’s locally overcast. I can’t dismiss the possibility that this may just be my perception, but it’s annoying.
There are a lot of flowers out right now. The lilac is blooming, and that’s very early. Sadly, I think it’s not going to survive- the maple that grew up next to it is taking the light and water and nutrients I think. To my delight the bleeding hearts are still blooming like crazy! The quince bush is still in blossom, and there are scattered bulbs- a painted tulip, a few scattered narcissus, still a blanket of violets. And there are a few blossoms on the apple trees when I drove past the orchards, so spring is coming. I do always worry when there’s a lot of rain while the orchards are in blossom because it will make it hard for the bees.
I mustn’t neglect mentioning that the dandelions are making a gorgeous display everywhere. I even saw a patch where I wondered if there were early daisies because it was such a cluster of round, white dandelion heads- reminding that the Saxons called them “eggwort”. But especially with all the rain, everything is incredibly green.
Monday was Kat’s 25th birthday. We didn’t do much- we had a nice roast beef dinner, I made a lemon cake and Kat made the boiled icing for it because that’s her favorite- tinted it lavender. Her gifts are all in process of being shipped with estimated arrival dates from now until mid-June (most of the Dr. Who themed stuff is coming from England and I didn’t pay for accelerated delivery). John’s gift did arrive in time- he got her a usb hut shaped like a Tardis/blue police box- with flashing lights and sounds. I sent for a tea set, and did initially add special delivery- until I discovered that it was well over the cost of the set! Luckily I was able to put it back to normal delivery, and saved that money. Eeps!
Willow and Kat were both pretty exhausted from the Karaoke party
party the day before. This was the (what has become) traditional KatCon. Kat picks a theme- for 2012 this year it was apocalypses- and they bring food and go to Doremi, a karaoke bar where you can rent a private room for $50 an hour. As their friends are into cosplay, they come in costumes. Kat’s was Global Warming, I think someone may have had Zombies, a couple of them were War (behind the camera) and Pestilence, and I think one was Alien invasion- at a wedding. War and Pestilence (played by the Parent twins) did a duet from the Jeckel and Hyde musical which was, apparently, awesome.
They had a Twinkie for the centerpiece, which no one ate. However Raye brought each person their own pack of Pringles, and this year (you may remember that last year’s theme was a tea party) they decided to have an ice cream cake which looked pretty apocalyptic before they finished it (in a warm room). When they arrived they were surprised by a late opening, thus all these parking lot pictures. At least the costumes show better than inside, where they enjoyed rocking out. (Willow was a 80s rock-opalypse, made for fun- but then, weren’t they all‽)
While they did that, I went down to Beltaine: A Pagan Odyssey. I shall always have a tender spot in my heart for this event, as it was the first one where I as accepted as a speaker. I admit that one is always a bit less picky about “unknowns” when filling the Friday slots, but that was my start, and I will always be grateful. A couple of years ago, there was a certain amount of chaos- Alicia experimented with not allowing day-trippers, only weekend long attendees, and it was a huge failure. People got angry. Last year she gave up on trying to do it although it had 10 years of history. This year they tried it again, but only Saturday and Sunday. I got up at 6, and actually headed down Saturday morning, for an 11 o’clock workshop. I taught palmistry classes this weekend.
As I arrived I was very pleased to discover Mockingbird being dropped off by his wife. (Elizabeth doesn’t camp.) Many years ago I met Mockingbird when he was caught in a thorn-bush. Despite being blind, he enjoys camping, and generally gets around very well. However, like me, Mockingbird gets up earlier than those “party pagans” who stay up late drumming and dancing around the fire well past midnight. I was going to the privy, and he’d apparently gotten turned around after his trip there, so I was able to direct him back out. Mockingbird is absolutely incredible- he just deals with not being able to see without any comment, and is able to point out to us the calls of the many birds around there. This year he identified a robin, a catbird, and several others. I always come away wishing I could find a tape or disc so I could learn to recognize bird songs myself. He’d just brought a sleeping bag, and the tent I’d brought was a “three man” (8×8) tent, so I invited him to share it. We had a great time chatting before dropping off to sleep.
I’d been planning on taking “Ketil”, our big canvas tent, but when it turned out that this year Beltaine (Mayday) was going to be the weekend after rather than before the first, that ran into conflict with KatCon. The kids thought for a while about coming down with me Friday night, staying and helping sell on Saturday, and going up for Karaoke on Sunday. It would have taken two cars, but when I heard that no one would have been there on Friday, taking two cars seemed foolish. It occurred to me that instead I could just take the pop-ups, which I could put up by myself. (Although Elizabeth did help me put up my tents before she left. I was also helped break down by another lovely couple- who I’ve spoken to for years, but still don’t remember their names, blush!)
Beltaine a Pagan Odyssey, has always been famous for entertainment, but sadly, this year, both the acts Alicia had booked cancelled, so there wasn’t as much going on in the evening. (This did give me the chance for more talking with Mockingbird.) There were only a few dozen die-hards there this year, although in the past there have been two to three hundred. Everything was smaller, so the corner of my pop-up was only about 10 feet from the single speaking tent. (usually there are three running at the same time). This meant that I got to speak and even go to classes by putting up a sign telling potential customers where to find me. There were only two other vendors there, and given the numbers involved, I did pretty well. At least I was able to make back the money I spent on gas. Thank goodness for the help packing in- the girls and I really have it down, but alone it would have taken me much longer. I got packed up and out by 4, and home before dark (indeed, I was asleep by the time the girls got home- but they did get lost getting out of the city).
Had I known that I was going to get so into the subject of Death/end of life studies, I’d have offered a workshop on that rather than the palmistry; you will correctly guess that I talked about it anyway with anyone who expressed any interest. I’m not yet done with my reading about death. This week I read Grave Matters by Mark Harris. This is a lot more recent (2008) than Caring For your own Dead (1987) and things have improved a great deal since then. There are many more options, including the green burial I mentioned last week. Far more people are getting cremated these days- it’s up to fifty to seventy percent depending upon what area you live in. I expect a lot of it depends on what your cultural expectations are.
(After all, yesterday North Carolina voted down gay marriage, and I don’t know anyone who’s worried about that around here. I feel sorry for the people who find it frightening enough for it to worry them. What are they afraid of? Losing the way we live now? That’s going to happen no matter when or where you live. Change is the only constant.)
I think it’s at times of stress that people are most likely to fall back on the familiar, and things from childhood, and to be most willing to let other people tell them what to do (enter the “child” position), especially if they’ve never thought about it. Dealing with death, that final parting with loved ones, is intrinsically going to be hard; but it’s an intrinsically spiritual activity. I really, really don’t want to have my final interaction with the world I’ve loved so much be adding useless garbage and active toxins. I have finally now read several versions of modern embalming (as opposed to ancient forms). Did you know that while they pump the formalin (formaldehyde) into a corpse’s, they are flushing the blood out- and into the drains? No kidding. Here we are in a culture that treats blood like hazardous waste, and undertakers are allowed to dump it down the sewers! (I am willing to bet that this changes when each municipality discovers it.) So on the one hand, we’re supposed to seal up bodies in coffins to keep them from contaminating the groundwater, and on the other, the blood and liquids from the abdominal cavity get flushed into the city water treatment system. Pick one, are we contaminated/contaminators or not?
They push the “vault” on you- the grave liner, because it’s supposed to be an added layer of protection, but it’s for the cemetery not the body. Wooden coffins rot (as do bodies), and without the modern vault, that means the dirt above it settles. Metal coffins do tend to last longer, but that just means the vault is redundant- an extra $2-5K expense. The real reason for the vaults is to make it easier for the cemeteries- to reduce the expense of manpower trimming around the graves. The same reason for flat memorial stones- so they can mow right over them. If the grave sinks, they’d have to fill it in. In my opinion, since it’s for their convenience, they should pay for the vaults- but of course, they “sold” the grave to you, so they can’t intrude. I was amused to read that while they suggest that they are to protect from water, at exhumations, about a third of the vaults need to be pumped out- the coffins (excuse me “caskets”) are floating or underwater. I figure, whether or not you want to, you are going to biodegrade (rot), so why give your good money to the funeral industry?
The whole embalming thing is only an American custom; timing suggests to me that the whole “open casket” custom that justifies the embalming (and since it’s a temporary cosmetic utility, how can we justify poisoning the soil that way?), came about at the same time as the funeral industry “undertook” to relieve us of caring for our own dead, it probably is only psychologically necessary if you have given up your normal interaction with the body. I can see if you are old and your friends are all dead and you have no young relatives to carry the coffin hiring pall-bearers. Rich people throughout history have paid for mourners to make it look like they had more friends than they did. Now poor people spend money they don’t have to affect the trappings of the rich to try to show respect for the dead that they wish they’d actually taken time to talk to while they were still alive. Have a clue people: talk to your family and friends before they die, then bury them yourselves!
Laws have been changed so that next of kin or designated persons can legally do what only funeral directors used to be allowed to do, on the other hand, they don’t make it easy. A death certificate must be completed in the city or town in which the death occurred, but Trish, our town clerk, had no idea how it was done. I find it hard to believe that no one has died in town; she suggests they are filing on line. With whom? the state? I can’t find where to get forms for NH death certificates (although I have found MA forms), and you need a death certificate before you can get the permit to transport a body (unless you are burying it on your own land). They don’t make it easy.
Still there are a lot of options, and I think, expanding. I really recommend Grave Matters to anyone who wants to start thinking about this. He covers keeping vigil at home (wash the body yourself, and tuck packets of dry ice in pillow cases around it- since it goes straight to gas, doesn’t get the bedding wet), burials at sea (mostly of ashes), mixing the ashes into “reef forms”, so you help revive the health of the continental shelf, green burials, and more. I am going to repeat that preparing a list of your preferences and who to let know if you die is something people should have FINDABLE, even if you don’t expect to die soon. I do think that most of us are surprised by death, one way or another.
I also watched a National Geographic documentary: Moment of Death which was pretty good. I’m thinking that this is just the latest manifestation of “the pig in the python”, the Baby Boom Generation aging and dealing with stuff. I am having a harder time than I expected dealing with being over 60. My mother and her mother both died at 63. That would leave me only three years to get done everything I hope to do. On the other hand, my father is 88, and Grammie lived to 94, which is the pattern I think I’m more likely to follow, which means that I’ve got as much time left as I had between birth and when I became pregnant with Kat (or backwards from here to before Willow was born), only I’m already losing capabilities, which is kind of depressing. (change that to challenging to make it a more positive statement). It’s a long time. I suppose that like everyone else, I can only live as though each day was my last, and as though I’d live forever.
When I think about death, I think about waving cardboard at the box Dad and Bob built for Mother’s ashes because the varnish was still wet before we buried them out at Clearwater. I remember dumping Fitz’s ashes here on our land, and wonder if I should let my body be cremated to match Ælfwine’s, maybe make a few extra Anglo-Saxon pots in case the kids want to use them (seems unlikely). I think about seeing Grammie (and Jeanne’s mother, and Dennis’ mother) in her coffin- ick. That’s like visiting a wax museum. If they added some sort of supporting framework, we could get our pictures taken with them. Sorry, not what I consider a great idea. In the old days, the people who could get there for the funeral probably lived close enough to have known he or she was sick, and the rest got a letter letting them know (like Jerusha finding out about her sister in Hawaii). I think about Cate who was with Bob through all the crap of his cancer and hospice and everything, but then at the funeral, everyone was with Nancy (his first wife), and she seemed ostracized. I think of ministers giving “fill in the blank” eulogies, and the mobs at Steve Morgan’s funeral- buses full of the students he’d touched. For my first 13 years we lived next to the Adams’ funeral home. I remember always resenting it when there was a funeral- we weren’t allowed to go outside to play, and even worse, Mr. Adams put out signs in front of OUR HOUSE, reserving parking for the funeral. Not that we’d probably have had more visitors than could fit in our driveway, but still, it seemed like he was borrowing something that was ours without asking.
One of Mother’s funniest stories was about the time she was coming in after dark and noticed the light was on in the basement, where she knew he prepared the bodies. So she snuck over and peeked in. You know the little basement windows at ground level? She couldn’t see much, but a corner of a table, and blood everywhere. She went back to the house and wished she hadn’t looked. Later, she did admit it to Mrs. Adams, who laughed. It was hunting season, and Mrs. Adams had him clean his deer down there rather than in her kitchen! When I think of Ælfwine’s death, I have guilt about people who came far to be supportive and I didn’t speak to them, but mostly I was tired and while I wanted to help them with their grief, I didn’t really want to spend much effort on it. I always wonder whether I should go to a funeral- will I be just one more guest to try to be host for, or will it help? I expect that depends entirely on the individual involved.
A tangental thought I had, thinking about church, I wish that someone had told me when I was young that it is a natural thing to be able to recognize the cough of your mother or father even in a huge crowded church. Because of that phenomenon, I used to feel that my mother coughed more loudly and often than anyone else’s parents. At this point I realize that the chances are good everyone else my age probably felt the same about their parents. We just didn’t know. The saddest part is that probably our parents programed the “shame” response into us in an attempt to control our behavior.
So maybe that’s it for my examination of death, I’m sure I’ll soon get into a new passion. Oh- and here’s the song “Little Ditches” sung by Clam Chowder, Steve got for me.
Before going down to Beltaine, I amused myself by re-watching The Wicker Man– the anniversary extended version with commentaries by Christopher Lee and the other actors and director. It was an incredible movie. I also watched a new movie- The Wicker Tree. I rather think they wanted us to see it as a sequel. In it a young American couple comes to be missionaries to the Scottish. I can imagine few things so insulting as to go into a Christian community and try to convince them that the way they worship Christ is wrong. They are SO annoying that by the time the scottish pagans (much like the folk of Summerisle) do sacrifice them, you are practically good with it. Christopher Lee did make a token appearance as an “Old Man” in this one, so apparently he didn’t hate it as much as the Cage “remake” (which WAS vile).
I’ve started reading Bones: A forensic Detective’s Casebook, so while washing up yesterday I watched some of the TV show. Having been sensitized I now notice the funeral customs I see in the show and waste energy being bugged by it. I hope this passes soon, but suspect it will not. I still wince when I see what passes for “normal” birthing in modern media depictions.
It occurs to me that I want a mouse, or remote or some gadget that I can click and stop my thoughts, maybe rewind them, so I can catch the quick ones better. And preferably have a zoom in function as well. Computers have made information retrieval so easy, I want as much control over my brain. Funny, in theory in our brains all we need to do is to think about what we want to think about, or remember. But memory isn’t perfect, and so we can compare what we can do mentally with what we can do with a computer. I resent when my brain isn’t superior to a computer, even though it is most of the time. I guess mostly I want that gadget for my dreams which tend to be more ephemeral than most thoughts, but seem to have some really wonderful inspirations, if I could only hold onto them.
On the way up and down to Connecticut I listened to Alexander and the Hellenistic Age. I had a feeling I’d listened to some of it before, but it’s hard to tell. Am I remembering hearing this or is the teacher covering information I’ve heard elsewhere because this is a topic in which I am interested? Do things sound familiar because I’m old and already know a lot, so I am only filling in corners, or am I old and forgetting things? I would so like to think it’s the former. I love hearing about the widespread and interlocking cultures. Just how “Greek or Macedonian” was the Seleucid culture? How much trade was there? What were travel conditions like? (What shall I study next?) I did trip over a documentary: Ancient Mysteries: The Hidden City of Petra
which had a lot more images than one usually has of the carven city.
At home I’m listening to Power over People Classic and Modern Political Theory another Teaching Company course, which I had a hard time getting into because it started out with Plato’s Republic. But after getting into it, it is really about people and the big questions- what is truth? What is justice? how can we know? Another documentary I tripped over was Imaginary Witness (2004), a documentary about how Hollywood has depicted the Holocaust/Shoah over the years. I have sent for some of them, they looked so good, but will be hard to watch. I do think, as was said in the first Diary of Anne Frank movie that people are essentially good. But we also have a capacity for self delusion, for not seeing things that make us feel even more helpless, that permits us to participate in the most horrible things “unwittingly”. I’m sure that the majority of Germans didn’t let themselves know what was going on, and the ones who had to see it were broken in some awful way. We wouldn’t be doing the harm to the planet we do if we allowed ourselves to be aware of it. Doctors promoted treating amputations with boiling oil and hot irons, syphilis with mercury, and treat cancer with chemo. They don’t want to do harm, and convince themselves they are doing good because it’s the only way they can stay sane. Heck we wouldn’t eat the food that we eat if we were aware with each bite of what it was doing to our bodies. But we don’t let ourselves know. I expect that there’s a perfectly good reason for it in the evolutionary scale of things. What’s good for continuing the line may not be best for the individuals involved.
I suppose it’s worth mentioning that I’ve decided to undertake a similar experiment to the one Willow did last month. She gave up wheat and dairy, I’m going to try to give up sugar and white flour for a month. We generally try to avoid the overly refined foods, but I do love to bake, and make a cake or pie if I’m feeling down. I figure that if I start feeling really crummy in the next few days, I’m probably going through withdrawals, and that will mean I’m actually addicted, so should give it up. The very first day I’m having problems because many of the things that I take for granted- like yogurt, do have sugar in them, and I have to look at things like Velvetta and figure that they are not real cheese. Frankly, I don’t think it should be too hard, because I’m still allowed all real food- it just may be hard to find it. (I note that Vermont caved into Monsanto’s blackmail. 90% of Vermonters wanted the GMO food out, but Monsanto threatened to cripple the state financially with lawsuits if they passed the law. In my opinion, American Civil Liberties or someone should slap a blackmailing a state official suit on Monsanto. Where’s Teddy Roosevelt when you need him?) Anyway, I’ll let you know how I do with this project. I’m hoping I’ll lose weight, but either way, I’m sure I won’t hurt my health.
At least if I get into something else I’ll stop talking/writing about death all the time, eh? (although I’ll note that no one wrote to say “stop talking about it please”.)
If you would not force yourself upon another person, than you should not do so to forest, field, and fen. Sarah Lawless