6/1/11 Say Something Nice Day

It’s Clothesline Week- which would be great, except for right now when we’re having a summer storm. Yesterday I had laundry hung out. That’s about all I did, catch up on laundry, dishes, unload the van, put things away, check back email…. I wouldn’t think it would take so long to get caught up from just a few days absence.
“Sumer is icumen in, lhude sing cuccu!” The lilacs are passing, but the iris are opening (the lilacs were in season up in central NH at ASP.) The Sweet William have started blooming, and the pansies still are going strong. It feels like summer now. Time to bring down the fans from the attic! Also the crushed ice/slushy maker, and other summer things. (We already have the iced tea brewer in use. I’ve gotten fond of the “Arnold Palmer”- a drink we encountered in our travels: half lemonade and half iced tea. I make it with just 3 tablespoons of sugar to the pitcher, and figure when we want it sweeter we can add more individually. Even day to day how much sweet you want varies.
I’m sleeping under a sheet, and that’s only to keep off the mosquitos and black flies. I mean to switch to a waterbed, but have to move all the stacks of books piled around the bedroom before I even get to taking the mattress bed out, so I haven’t gotten to it yet. Luckily, with all the rain in May I’m not worried about over-taxing the well. I’ve checked over all my wool and quilted clothes to tuck away until fall, and pulled out my light cotton and linen skirts and shirts. Apparently last year I picked up two sleeveless blouses. Yes, they match, but I never want to go sleeveless where anyone can see me anymore (my vanity has me doing the out of sight- out of mind thing about my upper arms!). What was I thinking?
At least it didn’t rain over the weekend while we were camping!

We went up on Friday, so Wednesday the girls went shopping, and Thursday, Kat cooked. A few years ago when there was no food seller at h Connecticut Beltaine, we offered various kebabs, pilaf and stuffed grape leaves (the girls tell me that most people don’t know what “dolmas” are). Last year, the same situation happened at A Sacred Place, and Kat did it herself- adding mini-muffins and other baked goods- and cold drinks. Most people bring their own food, but some people liked not having to cook for themselves. Shema (the owner ASP) also just told the speakers to run a tab there and she paid Kat back for them. This year her son Ian did a meal plan. For $30 you got 6 meals (two breakfasts, lunches and dinners), but when Kat was told that there was a food plan this year, she thought that that meant that she’d be feeding speakers and performers again, not that most people would be being fed “for free” in the tent next to her tent where she was selling food. Mostly people were excited about the cold drinks, and I think she also did well when lunch was falafel.
She’d also decided to follow her own ethnic background and offer sausages and mashed potatoes, (she decided against meat pies, because they’d be hard to reheat), although she kept the meat on a stick. She offered a variety of sausages- hot links, cheddarwurst, kielbasa, plain hot-dogs, eggs at breakfast. The mini-muffins and cupcakes she sold for 25 cents each. At some point they have an egg hunt, and some of the eggs have “gold coins” in them worth 25 cents each- Shema allowed would buy them back from the vendors. In theory it would get the kids into the vendors booths- but there wasn’t much most vendors had that cheap. The kids loved the 25 cent blueberry and cranberry/lemon muffins and red velvet cupcakes, but I think the greater surface area makes them dry out so fast it’s not worth it. IF, and that’s a big if, she does it again, I think she should offer cookies instead. She wanted the little ones so people could mix and match, but you can do that with cookies. But it was a whole lot of work, and she didn’t make any profit, so she may never do it again.
I will say though, that the kids there were some of the most pleasant and best behaved kids I have encountered at the variety of events we go to. We’ve talked about it, and the girls have come to realize that they don’t
So with me “organizing” the vendors and speaking, and her running her grill, Willow had to handle Cabochons all by herself. We took the trailer, so we had room to take the second shop with food, AND a separate sleeping tent. During the day we decided to pick up more camp-cooking pans, so we have a nice set now, and can boil water for eggs at the same time as making oatmeal.
Last year we’d tried to re-erect the bow house main tent that had blown down in the wind the previous year. This year they’ve put up an incredible new frame. It’s still a series of arches- covered by a huge tarp, but these are made of bent wood. It’s gorgeous. Eventually, when the roots are removed from the main area out back where the camping will be, that will no longer be the main tent, but will be covered with clear plastic and become a huge greenhouse. On the other hand, the same wooden arches support the roof of what looks like a permanent stage beside Shema’s House. Once again there were a lot of great performers, singers, story-tellers, bands.
She’s got the temple fire circle, and his year they augmented the dug privy with porta-johns. That made a lot of people happy. They have running water this year- finally. (Last year she had a pump she’d turn on to fill 55 gallon barrels.) She ran a cord out for a refrigerator for Ian’s kitchen (he’s got a VERY impressive gas grill) and a big refrigerator- and Kat could plug in one of hers too. Behind Kat’s Kitchen there was a table for Kat to put her wash bins- but they never got theirs out, so everyone used ours, which could get frustrating- especially when they wandered off with them (even though they were labeled with Kat’s Death Kitty logo).
The peepers were in full voice. Full, LOUD, voice, in the stream just behind the tent line. While we were setting up Friday, we thought we heard one in each of the tents, and as Willow leaned over to look for the one in Cabochons it “went off”- it was sitting on a corner of one of the tables, about an inch from her head. I tried to pat it and it leapt onto my chest. I got a good view of the little tree-climbing feet (then it leapt over onto the tent wall). Meanwhile, Kat spotted the one with whom this one was conversing. It was sitting on the edge of the washbasins- and stayed there singing all night. (It was gone in the morning.) I really didn’t mind the frogs, but the June bugs were out in force, and I really don’t like them.
During Imahku’s performance, one of them dive bombed her, which was a little disturbing for her. Since she’s Khemetic (Egyptian) priestess, I called to her that “they were just like Scarabs- only without the dung”. I don’t think that reassured her much. She taught a couple of classes, and did a performance. A kid was heckling her, so she told a story about “Little Eight John”, a nasty kid who after refusing repeatedly to reform, was turned into a bug, and his mother squashed him. I wondered why the kids were being let to stay up so late, but then it occurred to me that if they stay up late with their parents at the fire circle, maybe they won’t wake their parents up quite so early the next morning!
The Stag King was chosen by the contenders racing this time (last year it was tokens found in a cake), but I don’t think they’d been warned that the queen was chosen by as whichever of the ladies hit him with the most water balloons. Good thing it was hot. (Jess was REALLY determined that no one else was going to be her boyfriends queen, and she soaked him with a LOT of them.) The next day there was a may pole and ritual drama honoring the earth. While they didn’t memorized their parts, everyone played them well, and it was very effective. I
On thing that bugged me was the reference to the floating trash island “as big as Texas”. (If that were true, why hadn’t anyone ever sent me a link so I could see it in a satellite view?) I looked it up, it’s not really a floating island, but it is a section of the ocean that big that’s more like a “soup”. It may be as big as Texas, but it’s mixed into the water where it doesn’t break down, the pieces just get smaller (so fish, birds, etc. eat them). Currents consolidate them into these patches, full of bottles, bags, straws, all the stuff that we use. It’s increasing, and currently there’s six times the plastic out there as plankton; I don’t know at what point it becomes “too much”, but I know that the ecosystem wasn’t designed to have ANY plastic floating in the plankton beds. I was appalled to read that only 5% of the plastic used in the world is recycled. Shema asked everyone to stop drinking bottled water. I think we just need to recycle glass, plastic, metal or whatever we are drinking out of. I also think it’s easy to bring your own canvas bags to the store. (Just have to REMEMBER!- “Hey, John, go put our bags back in the van!”) AS they said, if it were an island, we could scoop it up and reclaim it- but it’s lots of floating pieces. Plastic has its place. It does reduce weight and the amount of fuel used to ship stuff, but it has to be recycled- if we always cleaned up our own messes, we’d be OK.
The only thing I didn’t like about the ritual was that it ended with going around and having each person say what they were going to do to help the earth. This would have been fine for a circle of 10-20 people, but there were 80 people there, and people need to remember how the dynamics of different sized groups require different design. I DID like the paper cranes. One of the kids activities was folding paper cranes, and seeing them shining in the sun (they’d put the ritual off until it was going down and had cooled off enough) I thought they’d been sprayed with something shiny. Well, maybe, but it was just that Shema had made the blanks from high gloss seed catalogs. I had no idea they were so shiny! Very pretty. I don’t know if there were a thousand, but there were a LOT!.
I did three workshops on Palmistry- one on Character, one on Health, and one on the Fortune Telling part. I must say that not only did it go over well, I liked doing it that way because only having one specific part of the discipline to cover allowed me to focus on what I was trying to convey. Sadly, I was scheduled against workshops I’d like to have attended- but that’s the way of things. I got to go to Kirk’s talk about Masonry and the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, and one on Elemental Stewardship. Willow went to his one on Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture, and I caught the end of Niniann’s class on herbs. She also brought me a Mandrake plant of my own, and I bought some Stock from the Twig Lady.
I also did some palm readings, and got a Elemental reading from Kirk- apparently I’m mostly Earth and Air, and although I’ve got enough Fire, I need to get more Water in me. (In theory, that will help me lose weight.) It’d be hard for me to drink more, but maybe I can do more water type activities. (So I’m wearing blue, and have a dolphin glitter tattoo on.)

Usually we can break down in a couple of hours, but it took us more than three we were so wiped out by the heat, humidity, and having been on our feet so much. We stopped at Appleby’s on the way down and Willow discovered that she likes Strawberry Mojitos- and Kat discovered that her ID is expired, so she’s going to try for her license again.
As I said, between the fatigue and heat, I didn’t do much yesterday. I have started working on the booklet about the Sixth Century Plague. It’s really hard not to get sucked into the entire range of the historical interaction of Plagues and People, Man and Microbe, and the other fascinating books (like Justinian’s Flea, and The Plague at the End of Antiquity, and The Encyclopedia of Plague and Pestilence) I’m reading on it. I’ve already gotten side-tracked a little into the How Climate Made History, because that does have an impact.
It’s hard not to think about the various ways that disease works in history and apply it to the modern world. In both the Sixth Century Plague, and the Black Death, the population of Europe was halved, and there have been other huge “die offs”, throughout history. What I’m looking at is the social, economic and cultural effects of these epidemics, and the things that led to them. Usually, they seem to have come when the population was at a high point, due to things like climate and other factors. They were almost always preceded by both ecological and social problems- like major migrations, war or civil war, famine, drought, etc. .
One of the most interesting things I’m looking at is that the 6th century plague led to the Dark Ages- loss of a lot of the knowledge of the classical world, and several centuries of slow recovery, whereas the Black Death let to significant social changes, but also the Renaissance. IF some bacteria or virus migrated, and we had another epidemic which way would we go? Would we come up with new systems of dealing with suddenly having 40-50% our labor force gone by becoming more efficient and positive, or would we make it worse by fighting over what was left? The most recent pandemic, in 1918, affected a third of the world, but only killed 3% of the world; the mortality rate was said to be 10-20% of those infected. As far as I could tell, the main thing that happened was everyone tried to forget about it. The writers say that (as was said before 9-11, and is said of the California Quake) it’s not a question of if, but of when- it’s an inevitability, and how are we going to deal with it? I can’t help but think that if we look at it that way, we’ll be able to deal with it better. Diseases mutate, populations die off, and the world goes on. Looking at how people dealt with it in the past gives us some hints. The two big things seem to be how to dispose of the bodies during the crisis, and how to get workforce reorganized after. I bet technology will help with both those things, just as modern medicine will keep the die-off lower. It has been argued that the Great Depression may have been at least partially a result of the Flu combined with WWI, maybe that’s the sort of result we’d get these days.
I’m not sure I’m going to be reading ALL of these books through. When I’m working on a project like this, sometimes I just read the Introduction, Preface, and first and last chapters, anything labeled Conclusion or Summary, as well as everything in the index related to what I’m studying. I’ve done that with the books I’ve got so far, and now I’m writing up something to hand out.
I finished the Land of Painted Caves and once I got to the third section, it was good- much like the first books. There was a plot. There was conflict, and resolution. Characters from earlier books turned up, which was nice, since mostly I was reading it to find out “what happened to Ayla and Jondelar next”? I can honestly recommend that anyone who liked the first books get this one- and just read the third section. The first two, as I said last week, are travel logs. Actually, they aren’t that different from this letter- descriptions of what happened to them or us- without leading to any conclusion, supporting any theme, or being anything but snippets of information.
The audio course I’ve listened to this week was the Medieval World. I watched La Cage aux Folles- the original French film on which the Birdcage was based. I think I actually prefer the remake. I loved Robin Williams, Nathan Lane, and Gene Hackman’s performances. (I think I liked the houseboy in La Cage better though.) Both versions were a wonderful expression of how family is people connected by love- no matter how otherwise non-standard they are.
Other movies I watched were No Country for Old Men, and The Education of Little Tree. I’m not sure why I ordered Old Men. It was a modern detective serial murder mystery, with Tommy Lee Jones as the detective. The villain was terrifyingly psychotic, and the end didn’t have the clear “good guys win” ending I prefer. Education was also fairly depressing. It was about a young partly Cherokee boy being stuck in a state Indian School, and how awful it was, especially when the alternative was staying with his “hill people” grandparents, who tried to teach him the Way. One lesson will stay with me. 8 year old Little Tree go his first money, and was sold a calf by a fast talker, and it died on the walk home. As his grandfather said, if he’d told him to go ahead, Little Tree would have blamed his grandfather, and if he’d told Little Tree not to buy it, he wouldn’t have learned to be more suspicious of “too good to be true” deals. Of course, what Little Tree said he learned was ‘never to trust Christians’- because the crook had told him that he was giving him a deal because it was the Christian thing to do.

Especially now that I’ve thought about how annoying reading the Land of Painted Caves was, I wish I had some more interesting things to talk about. I got very cross yesterday when Alizaunde shared with me that there are Laurels who think that because I teach RunValdr at SCA events that I shouldn’t get a Laurel because it’s not historical. Poor Honour listened to me rant about how stupid it was of them to judge me on nothing more than the description of the classes that they didn’t attend. Had they attended any of my classes they’d know that I know my stuff on Anglo-Saxons AND Runes; and with RunValdr, I make it very clear what is SCA period, and what isn’t. I see it as sheer laziness that they don’t come to my classes and find out what I do know. I’m willing to admit that I don’t know their specialties, and am offended that they think they can judge mine without even looking. This is not what I consider appropriate courtesy from Peers. I think next year I’ll do a few more workshops on Runes to give them the opportunity to see that I do know what’s authentic- and maybe when we’ve got the Complete Anachronist on Period Soothsaying out, they’ll have to accept that just because things are outside their comfort zone, that doesn’t mean the research is spurious.
Another thing she told me is that they’ve put a three year term limit on landed Barons. I think this is a bad idea. SCA Royalty changes every six months- it’s the Barons who give us a sense of continuity. Since their job requires them to know their Barony intimately, it takes a year or two to get good at it. I hope they overturn that rule as soon as possible. The stated reason is that they want to make it possible for new people to get a chance to take on these leadership roles, and prevent burnout. If that’s true, they should put in a rule preventing fighters from being king so many times. Sometimes it seems like the same two or three guys are just passing it back and forth between each other. There’s a provision already that says that Barons have to be reviewed by their people. If the people and the Barons are OK with it, the Kings should stay out of the way and stop taking the crown over and over.
There’s a rant for you. Maybe next week I can rant about the “real world” again. (Could have tied in the German E coli epidemic I suppose.)

Reason and free enquiry are the only effectual agents against error. Give a loose to them, they will support the true religion, by bringing every false one to their tribunal, to the test of their investigation.
Thus in France the emetic was once forbidden as a medicine, and the potato as an article of food. Government is just as infallible too when it fixes systems in physics. – Thomas Jefferson