9/7/2011 Enthusiasm Week (ho hum)

It’s raining today, so our water table is in good shape, and it’s still what I’d call pretty warm. Willow isn’t quite so generous, but she has spent a great deal of time with her hands in cold water rinsing her silks, so that may have something to do with it. In deference to that, and the possibility that the thermostat MIGHT kick the furnace on, I’ve closed the front door. To be honest, I have put on long sleeves and a wool skirt and slip for the second time since I stopped wearing them when the heat hit a few months ago. Frankly, it seems cozy (one of those cycle of nature things). I suppose I should reassure everyone that we took no major damage from the hurricane. I didn’t anticipate any major problems, and we didn’t get any (the inconvenience of 36 hours without power doesn’t count- we lost power for a couple of hours yesterday when a tree fell across a wire, and they fixed it, no biggie). Pictures on the news and other friends checking in reminded us that things were much worse not too far away. Morgan and Rachel Kuberry had to stay in an hotel for a couple days while their basement flooding was dealt with. (Our sump pump took care of ours.)
The asters are coming out. I’m biased, I don’t care for the white ones, but I love the blue ones. The jewelweed is still lush, as is the goldenrod. (This weekend I missed the class, but got to see the wool that was dyed in goldenrod, and it’s not a bad yellow.) While we were walking we saw some campion that was pink instead of the more common white. I love the fall, it’s cooler, the smells are wonderful, and of course, the farmstands are full of incredible local produce. We get our milk from Fitch’s and also can get incredible tomatoes and lettuce, melons (although they often are “ready to eat” and can’t be held), and other stuff. I tend to figure that that sort of thing is supposed to be available in the “summer”, but logically, summer is when the vegetables are growing, and so they become ripe in the fall.
Is September fall or summer? I tend to think of it as fall because our formative years: 5 to 18, are spent in school, experiencing time through the School year- September through June. This week I saw the buses passing again. A new generation is learning that way of experiencing the year. Other subcultures think in other calendars- I think I’ve heard that the fiscal calendar starts in June, the SCA calendar changes over on May First- the anniversary of the first tournament; the Celts have it at Samhain/Halloween, Chinese New Year is the first New Moon after the winter solstice, I think; Rosh Hashanah is in the fall- probably also a combination of solar and lunar cycles. The Islamic New Year rotates all through the seasons. The Vernal Equinox is what I consider the most logical time to call New Year, and was the Roman New Year until they decided to move it to January so that they’d have enough time between electing their consuls to have them get to their new posting, which came down to us through the Julian and Gregorian calendars. This is enough to reassure me that it’s all relative. The calendar(s) exists to give us a common point of reference so we can communicate, and all show up at the same time when we plan something.
Meanwhile, fall (school starting) seems to me a time of new beginnings. New supplies, new books, new clothes, new teachers, new projects, but old friends. When I was in school we could go home with friends from school and just call from their house to get permission to stay. Dogs wandered around the neighborhoods freely. Most were within bike range. In the fall the maples turned- I have fond memories of burning leaves, something that’s gone by the wayside. Looking back I realize that even when I was a kid we weren’t as “natural” as all that, although more so than now. I’ve started a new book: The Nature Principle: the end to Nature-Deficit Disorder, exploring how we have distanced ourselves from nature, and what that’s doing to us. I worry that walking for exercise is not enough.
I guess the experience of camping is one of the draws of weekend events for the SCA. I’m not sure how many people really like that part or if they just put up with it. Certainly there are a lot of cooler chests and Colman stoves and lamps, and when we can get cabins to stay in rather than pavilions, they are popular. I suppose an aging population is getting more aches and pains brought out by cold and damp, so since it’s what we do “for fun”, reducing things that hurt as much as possible is not surprising.
This weekend was Harpers Retreat, an event celebrating the Bardic arts created by Ina and Ron probably a couple of decades ago. Ina actually came this year- with James, her apprentice, but Ron stayed back in Littleton. For the longest time it was at a 4H camp in Bear Brook State Park,  but the rocky, steep, narrow paths got hard on some of us, and last year we tried a far more civilized camp (flat, cleared, nice dorms)- but it was too expensive. This year it was at a girls camp in Peterboro, about 15 minutes from our house. Since it was that close, we day-tripped, thus skipping all the complications, and joys, of SCA camping.
I’d reserved, when we got back from Pennsic, for Kat and me, because Kat’s particularly fond of Harpers, and not for Willow because she was so wrecked. Willow did come with us though, which allowed me to wander and chat, and even got into the feast (from the waiting list).
I have to say that it was one of the best feasts I can remember, there wasn’t anything on the menu that wasn’t at least good. There was shrimp, and marinated chicken, and beef, saffron rice, some lovely spinach puffs, and some sort of soft (cream?) cheese balls in sesame seeds, gingerbread with fresh fruit for dessert, and an incredible honey mustard sauce, which has changed my way of looking at honey mustard. After the feast I sank into a chair outside the hall and “couldn’t move”. Claus, Alizaundre and I sat there and talked quietly while the bardic competition went on. One of us, I forget which, because we all agreed, said he or she felt like there was a bowling ball in our belly- we’d eaten so much. After about an hour Kat came back down from the hall and told me I’d missed the main event, and to get my butt up there. I did get up for the competition for baronial bard, and the free singing. We must be getting older because that was pretty much done by midnight. I remember when the singing went on long into the night.
There was a young girl, Anna, who’d come all the way up to harpers to play and sing from Hershey Pennsylvania. They’d meant to combine the trip with sight-seeing in Vermont, but many of Vermont roads still have enough damage from Hurricane Irene that they had to go through Massachusetts instead. She had a lovely voice. (Kat tells me there were many lovely voices during the competitions.) Now I’m having guilt because I’ve volunteered to be Baronial Historian, in an attempt to make sure that we don’t lose track of our history- but things have changed since chronicles were common, event’s now are spread across several areas, and I have no idea about a lot of the stuff that went on. I mostly sat in the market area and chatted with friends. Oops.
Tom and Shannon showed up on Sunday, and were disappointed that there wasn’t singing during the day. (I think mostly it was jamming on harps, and maybe dancing during the day.) Jeanne plugged me in for a round-table on Dark Ages cultures which was mostly attended by Anne’s newbies- and that because the class on Sex in history was cancelled.
One old friend who turned up was Pug ma Hom, who was baron down in New Jersey for a decade or more. Initially I didn’t recognize him because he had a lot more white in his beard than I remembered. He and his lady are retired, and now traveling and helping various charities build housing and such activities as that. That’s very cool. Anne of the Fuzzy Hat had a large bunch of new members with her (as I’ve become used to) and I was able to give her copies of the Dr. Bronner’s song, I sang her a bit of up at the Great Northeastern War (I must have been too tired to think). I’d have sung more (my goodness, the acoustics in the new hall were marvelous), but am always a bit nervous when singing in front of strangers, as opposed to around my own campfire. I suppose that’s why on Sunday night, although the halls were still there, they had a couple of fire pits going, and that’s where the singing was. I was so excited about new songs I’d picked up at the war, I shared those “first”, and didn’t get to sing the old songs I actually know by heart. I noticed that even when I know the words of a song, if I’ve got the words in my hand (theoretically as back-up), my mind tends to go blank rather than make that usual effort to find the words in my memory. Annoying.
Rhude told the kind of funny story of how Michael dragged our shop down to Pennsic years ago. It’s just one of those stories, not unlike the tale of when Ekke tried to ride his motorcycle to Pennsic, or Megan’s tale of Hurricane Gilbert. One thing on top of another, until you can’t imagine how anything else can go wrong. (“Do you smell smoke?”) I suppose that’s why both Rhude and I could sing songs about driving to SCA events- dealing with what we are getting ourselves into is a universal experience. Heck, the Feast Song, I decided not to sing because the feast had been so good, and I didn’t want to appear to be criticizing it, included reference to beet pie, and they’d served beet pie. It was so good that if I can get the recipe, I’m making it! A lot of our songs are poking fun at what a weird hobby we have. Others glorify or poke fun at historical events. Some are just lovely songs. We left earlier than I’d have liked, as it started to rain around nine- people were moving inside, and I figured, what the heck? Oh- one other thing, at the post-revel they had bacon brownies. The brownies were nice and moist (as brownies are when there is plenty of sugar and fat), but you really couldn’t taste the bacon, and the little chewy bits didn’t enhance the texture.
Sunday morning Baroness Maria had a presentation about doing demos and recruiting that was interesting. What I took away from it was that it was well designed, with good emphasis on taking care of new members when you’d recruited them.  From two to three thirty there was a Curia- an SCA business meeting. I passed along the request from the Gluten Free Feast group for being able to do our first Gluten/Casein Free feast. We’d need to do it as the feast at another event (Birka?) or develop an event to do around it (a cooking schola?), but I don’t want to steamroll my own ideas onto other people, so I am much slowed down by waiting for other people to respond. I think this would be a good thing, but is it something I’m pushing and they’d just like me to do for them, or is it something they really want? I don’t know, I always mostly respond to my own excitement about a project. I wish I were better at being able to tell what the people around me really feel.
At the same time this week was the official end of the Cathedral of the Pines Pagan Garden Project. After a few people really busted their butts on it, not enough people actually participated, so it has faded away. Lyrion and Raven scattered some seeds and blessings across the site last weekend (while I was at Harpers) and I have closed down the Yahoo Group. I hope perhaps some good came of it, and someday we may have a small area at the Cathedral where we can be a positive image for the community. One thing this has showed me is how much easier doing projects like this are if one has money to throw at it. I also remember what Marian said about you haven’t really started something if it goes away when you stop pushing it yourself. Guess that’s what happened with the Garden Project. I have to remember that I am “dangerously enthusiastic” and people will follow me in my projects, but that if I’m not there, there is no one to follow, and they will wander off. If I’ve led them into new areas, and not given them the tools to forge ahead without me, it’s like leading a herd of sheep into the wilderness and deserting them to be eaten by the wild predators. I guess that’s why I prefer teaching people things. Empowering people is so much better than doing for them. Then I don’t have to feel guilty about deserting them.
I’m still unable to update the Changing Times-Changing Worlds website, and some of the vendors and speakers are beginning to ask what’s up. I’m afraid I’m letting them down, at the same time beginning to feel a little overwhelmed, and nervous that we won’t have enough people this year to cover costs. I wish I were better at marketing. I’d like to be working on my book, I’d like to be cleaning the house, I’d like to be working on the sculpture, I’d like to be doing more art, I’d like to be be working on my website, I’d like to be getting the cookbooks done up professionally, I’d like to be doing more exercising. The only thing to do is “just do it”, and when I do something, I’m not doing other things I want to be doing. I’m cross with myself for what I’m not getting done, and annoyed with myself for being cross with myself instead of being more positive. This could get really circular! I guess the trick is to convince myself to want to do less. Yeah, like that’s going to happen!
Kat sent off a lovely skirt she made for someone this week. (If we spot similar fabric, I’d love to have one like it!) She’s taking over more of the dishwashing in order to allow me to get more of my projects done. Since fall is here, John is in the perennial (well, bi-annial) project of shoveling out the goat barn. When not doing that he’s writing.
Willows created more painted silks, and I’ve created a batch of statue blanks that I’ll begin pushing into forms of gods and people as soon as I’m done with this letter. Willow also has lined the new wooden trays Dana made us with different colors of felt. As soon as we put new feet on them (mostly to keep them from coming unstacked during transport) we’ll put the silver into the new ones. I’d like to have some sort of stand that tips the trays up so they are easier for the customers to see, but I suppose that’s unnecessary. When I mention it the girls don’t seem to think it’s a good idea, and they’re usually better about sales than I am.
As I’ve been writing this letter the phone has rung more than a half dozen times. Half of those times, I got a dial tone, indicating that it was on auto-dial from some telemarketer. The other ones were life telemarketers, either for me, or forwarded from Mark’s phone, and only one was willing to give a number so Mark could get back to them. As I reached for the phone this last time, I realized that the predominance of these calls that are NOT from friends has led to my being cross when the phone rings, expecting it to be someone I don’t want to deal with. (I guess that’s what “caller ID” is for.) The same thing happened with mail- it’s mostly “junk mail”, advertising we don’t want. Enough of it is designed to look like something else that I’ve lost track of real mail because I couldn’t tell the difference and ignored it all. The same thing is already happening with email- with enough junk coming through the filters that I don’t even want to check my email.
Is there a way to be in contact with friends that isn’t contaminated by advertising? The advertising MUST be successful enough to make it worth the advertisers spending their money on it. I don’t understand. I seek out things I want to get, and I get things I see that I want that I encounter while getting things I want, but I can’t remember the last time I bought something because I saw it being advertised somewhere. It’s probably got something to do with those questionnaires that ask you if your car makes you feel sexy or powerful (as opposed to it works), or if you buy food because it looks healthy or delicious (as opposed to available and affordable). I know people who’ve bought food because they had a coupon for it, but because they saw it advertised? This may be one of those things I don’t get. Bruce had a book called Buy-ology, on one of the stacks of “to read” books by my bed that might explain it.
Other things I’m reading include a novel Julian about Julian the Blessed (or Julian the apostate, depending on which side of the religious question you sit). I’m watching a Teaching Company course called Books that Have Made History, Books that Can Change Your Life in which I’ve heard about the Iliad, Meditations of Marcus Aurelius, and the Bhagavad Gita. This is a dangerous set for me to listen to, as hearing about these books makes me want to read them- or read them further, I have, luckily read several of the ones in the course. Of course, I haven’t actually learned Greek and Latin, so cant read Plutarch and Vergil or Homer and Plato in the original, and I think I’m doing well to read the Grimm brothers tales in German, as opposed to attempting Goethe. Thank goodness for English speaking authors! Oh, boy, more things to “want”! (maybe this wasn’t a good idea)
I’ve also re-read The Deathly Hallows, which, as far as I can tell, only misses being a “great” book by not being written in “noble” language. It certainly addresses important themes about good and evil, life and death, and how a person deals with challenges. I feel that in another century Rowlings books will be considered classics in the best sense. Compared to Rowlings, while the “southern vampire” True Blood books do contain mythological creatures, and deal with life and death, I’m afraid while I read Dead Reckoning and thoroughly enjoyed it, it’s mental candy, and not that good for you. But there’s still room for that sort of thing in our “entertainment” diet.
The Thin Man was like trying a recipe of your grandmothers, it was enjoyable, but I don’t think I’ll go out of my way to watch the rest of the series. The Vault of Horror was like having Kraft Mac and Cheese- a taste of, or from my childhood, which was mostly fun for the nostalgia factor. I did enjoy seeing Tom Baker in a non-Dr. Who role. In comparison, Scaramouche with Stuart Granger and Mel Ferrar was like old Coke- why did they stop making it? It’s a marvelous swashbuckling historical fantasy, and if you want a fun evening, I can heartily recommend renting it. (I got it from our library.) I’m not sure whether John or I sent for Dragon’s world: a Fantasy made Real. It was a pseudo-documentary, in the style of Walking with Dinosaurs, about archeologists digging up dragon remains and figuring out the science of how they flew and breathed fire. In the same batch was Adventures of a Teenage Dragonslayer a bit of made-for-TV silliness, that was not quite in the “I want my hour back” category- mostly because I was working while I was listening to it, and didn’t feel it cost me much. The best part of it was watching the assertive mother telling off the jerky principle who was coming down on her creative son. The other thing I watched this week was one of those I watched for “cultural literacy”:
Gnomeo and Juliet and it turned out to be pretty good. The music was done by Elton John, and his songs have been going through my head ever since I watched it. It was witty and well done, and I don’t think Shakespere would have minded it. Continuing my metaphore, I would throw it into the category of a pizza- hardly haute cuisine, but delicious, not particularly good for you, but nothing in it bad for you either.
I should get back to my sculpting, but I wanted to share this last theory I came up with (it’s amazing how having your hands busy frees up your brain). There’s a tradition that your life flashes before you if you’re in a near-death situation. Memories are attached to your body with muscle memory and scents, and such, so maybe we are just doing a quick review of those memories when it looks like we’ll be turning in our bodies to see what we’re going to take along with us when we leave them behind. I was thinking about how hard it is to find happy memories. There seem to be no end of memories of embarrassing or scary or sad situations, but it seems to be difficult to recollect blissful, happy, contented, joyful times. I’ve decided we should (I should) practice- practice remembering the good times, and plan and work to make more of the good memories. I expect that if we remember the things that we already remember that make us happy, it will be easier to direct our activities to those things. I expect it’s like “quality time”, they discovered that it was incredibly important, but then upon further study, discovered that you couldn’t plan it, you have to create time, and then some of it becomes quality time. Still, with the quality time, it was most likely to happen when you were with the people you wanted it to be with, and putting your attention on it. In my own thoughts I’m amazed at how much of my most blissful moments are those of anticipation- waiting for the curtain to go up at the theater, planning SCA events, as opposed to being at them, looking forward to holidays…. Contentment sneaks up on me when I am involved in doing something I’ve planned for…. Joy is probably the sneakiest of all- spotting a rainbow, or a butterfly, or something else beautiful, and almost always natural. Anyway, that’s my latest theory.
Until next week…