911 6/20/2012 Litha/summer solstice

Just a short note this week- we don’t seem to have done much, which is good, because I don’t want to spend too much time here.
It is HOT today, and I understand that it will be hotter tomorrow. We’ve brought out every fan in the house, and they are making it bearable, if not comfortable. If this keeps up, I’ll be putting a foot bath under the computer table again. Bless Mark, he has invited us out to lunch tomorrow- in air conditioning! Willow has been talking about taking a book and blanket and hanging by the waterfall, but nice as it is down there, it’s a half a mile through the woods to get to it, and by the time you get back to the car, you’re hot and sweaty again.
Kate’s climbing roses are blooming, but aside from the roses, it’s just wild flowers- the same as last week, and they’re very early. When we pass the pond at the bottom of the hill, we always check to see if the waterlilies have opened yet, but so far they haven’t.
We celebrated the solstice with a steak on the grill and some lovely German potato salad. Ben was going to join us for dinner, but he overslept.
Freya continues to bump into things, so we figure she’s lost a lot, if not all of her sight, and to be frustratingly incontinent, but she’s got a new “trick”. For the last couple of weeks she’s been driving us nuts by sitting on the stairs, virtually invisible, “waiting for us to trip over her”. Thank goodness she’s found a better place to sit. She’s taken to sitting, and even sleeping, on the newel post. We are not sure how she gets up and down, but the internet says that blind cats still go up and down trees, just backwards from the way sighted ones do, so I guess she’s getting along. At least we don’t trip over her anymore. Frankly, I’ve been tripping over Zoloft a LOT more- she has been doing that thing where they insert themselves in front of you while you’re walking. I hate that. I wish I had a picture of that!
What I’ve been doing is working on the book cover for Jane’s friend, Lynn. I keep forgetting what a bitch composition is. I’ve scrubbed out and repainted almost every part of the painting several times already, and am still not satisfied. I had a bunch of very nice dead wolves in for a while, then realized that they looked like we were standing over them, and they should look flatter, deader. It’s the perspective thing. Since they’re on snow, about the only way to show perspective is size and angle. Then I did them the wrong size. Kat posed for me to show me that Haakon would probably have caught that air born wolf with an upswing not down,  but it’s not as dramatic, so I think I’m going to change it back. Sigh. Once I’ve got them all where they belong, putting in the details will be the easy part. And that’s what I’ve been doing. (and undoing, and redoing) Welcome to the world of commercial art.
This weekend we went up to the SCA event, the Palio. Later I saw lots of great pictures of the equestrian activities, but I spent all day in the vendors and Arts and Sciences areas talking to friends. OK, I did catch court. Jeanne/Deirdre was inducted into the Order of the Silver Crescent for all the work she’s done here in Stonemarche. As usual with East Kingdom awards, it was way past due. There were also other awards, but you probably wouldn’t recognize them- frankly, I continue to not remember the names of people I’ve known for years, and it’s really embarrassing!
Because I am trying to get this painting done and off (she wanted it in May), we decided not to do the weekend with camping, but just day-tripped on Saturday. This meant I missed the Golden Sword Tournament on Sunday, but I suppose I did make some progress. I’ll feel better when it’s actually done and been mailed off. As usual, I always think things will take less time than they do.
While painting, I’ve run through a lot of movies in the background. I’m willing to admit that some of them do probably slow me down, especially if I look up to catch a visual. The recorded classes work better, as they really don’t need to be DVDs, although they occasionally put images, or names and dates as if the professor was expecting you to take notes. I’m listening to one on Great Ideas of Psychology, although just finishing the history part. The professor used the Witch Craze as an example of when the malady being diagnosed existed not in the “patient” but in the mind of the “observer”. I think that’s something psychologists need to remember. It may take a while- it’s a 48 lecture course, and the material is often a bit dry, so I am also listening to Citadels of Power, the Castle in History and Archaeology, which is more interesting, but has more images.
I finished the book Catching Fire: How Cooking made us Human, about how learning to cook had a lot to do with turning the early hominids into modern man. As cooked food is more nutritious, we were able to spend less time chewing, have less gut, and bigger brains. Cooking also meant that someone had to prepare the food. When one is just gathering, animals eat what they find alone, but when prep is needed, women started preparing the food (apparently in something like 175 out of 180 hunter-gatherer cultures studied, and in the other, both do food prep). He’s basically looking at the move from early pre-humans to early hunter-gatherers, so he doesn’t get into the affects of agriculture. I’d love to see a book like that.
I finished At the End of Life: True Stories about How we Die, many of the stories were just wonderful, although some were sad. I’m finishing a few more (Life Lessons, and The Ultimate Journey, Inspiring Stories of Living and Dying) in my exploration of death, but am pretty sure everyone has heard all they want to about it.  On a lighter note, I then picked up and tore through the first two books in Rick Riordan’s new series: The Lost Hero and Son of Neptune. Fiction is fun; brain candy. I was ready for some. Now it’s time to plunge into research for my Pennsic workshops. (But first, the paying job!) I also saw An Encyclopedia of Fairies: Hobgoblins, brownies, bogles and other Supernatural Creatures on the “to be shelved” rack, and grabbed it. The short articles are perfect for a quick brain “snack”. I have SO got to get a (used) copy of that!
I put The Grey at the top of my list because it’s got Liam Neeson as one of a handful of survivors of an Alaskan plane crash who are being picked off by wolves. I hoped that I’d be able to freeze frame and get some reference pictures. Sadly, what I got was that wolves move really fast, and a reminder that one really has to have the picture from the same angle. Mostly the movie was about people confronting death in different ways, but I can’t really recommend it.
A while ago I put a bunch of WW2 movies on my list, fascinated by a documentary about movies about the Holocaust. Sophie’s Choice came this week- what a great movie! The performances were incredible, the plot and theme and characters complex and balanced. And whenever I did look up, Meryl Streep was SO beautiful I wanted to stop working on wolves and just do her portrait. She would have made a wonderful madonna! She and Kline and McNicol all seemed so YOUNG, compared to the work with which I’m more familiar.
Kelly’s Heros was a lightweight comedy from 1970, which may be why Donald Southerland’s character seemed like a hippie transplanted into the 40s; and there was a raft of other stars from Don Rickles to Clint Eastwood, in a comedy about a group of oddballs going after some German gold. I remember the theme song Burning Bridges. I guess it would have been from my senior year of High School, also a lightweight pop song, but full of nostalgia for me.  The Book of Eli I picked because it was post-apocalyptic, a genre of which I’ve been fond since I first read Alas Babylon, and it had a fascinating twist. Gary Oldman and Denzel Washington are both after the last extant Bible. The premise was after a final war and ecological disaster, people blamed the war on religion, so made a point of destroying every copy of the Bible in the world. I expect that there’d have been some blood spilled to protect some of the historical versions, original Gutenbergs, or the Book of Kells, but I can also see that as a reaction to a religious war, although not the extreme success at getting rid of it that they portrayed. It was, at least, more interesting and less depressing than The Road. LA Without A Map probably got on the queue because David Tennant played an undertaker. Sadly, even with a surprise cameo by Johnny Depp, it was a predictable romantic comedy about a loser trying to go after his dream in the form of a girl “too good for him”.

I watched a documentary on The Nim Project, which was the one where they spent 5 years teaching a chimp to sign. I had heard of it, but what I hadn’t heard was when that project was done, they sent him back to the chimp farm where he was then sold (with others) for medical experimentation. Luckily for him an eccentric millionaire heard about it and bought him, but the end of the documentary showed how when he was visited there by those who’d worked with him as a child on the signing project, he both remembered them, and resented his abandonment. I’ve heard since of another primate (I think gorilla), who learned to sign, and was able to tell the people about his memories of his capture and watching his mother being killed. Very sad. We SO don’t know what we are doing.

That’s about it for the week. Kat and I did give blood- and her hematocrit was up enough that she was able to do it this time. Also looks like we’ll be able to donate at the Pennsic Blood Drive, as the schedule seems to be right for it this year.

I’m going to rush off, and try to put a few more hours of work on the book cover.


 “If you can’t take the heat, don’t tickle the dragon”