Angel Food Cake Day

I think this may be our “Indian summer” week- it’s lovely out, the front door is open, the sun is shining. There are a few stubborn Purple Cone Flowers blooming, The trees are incredible, and we have pumpkins. So this is the pretty and pleasant part of fall. I’m planning on enjoying it while it lasts. I continue to enjoy the rain although there were places where it was impressively deep last week- nearly flooding.

There wasn’t much to say about last week as I was leaving on Friday (except that I didn’t). After finishing the letter, I printed out directions, checked the weather for Camp Hi Rock, and made dinner. After dinner there was a meeting of the CTCW planning Committee. We talked a bit about panels, and a lot about Maryalyce having found a new hotel in only four days. After the meeting I made up the Essiac for Liz. Since the plan was to get home Monday at dusk, and leave for Liz’s at dawn Tuesday, I had to have the Essiac made up before I left. You boil it and let it sit for 12 hours. I was mostly going from memory. Had I thought it out I’d have done it before 8 and been able to leave earlier. Oh well. John helped me make a new set of rune staves since a few of mine have gone missing. I seem to have misplaced the “Rambo knife” I usually use to make them. I took it to the war, and have no idea where it is now. Sadly, I managed to get my finger hit with the mallet and feel a bit sore and a little more embarrassed. I still need to carve the runes onto the sticks- and before that I want to sand them.
Having stayed up past midnight on Friday, and getting up early to finish packing and leave ASAP (absolutely before 2 so I wouldn’t drive in the dark), I was foggier in the brain than I’d like to admit. I’m blaming it on lack of sleep, and if it was something else, I hope I figure it out. For one thing I couldn’t seem to pick outfits to pack- thank goodness I have Kat to help with that, and John to carry heavy bags and bundles. The older I get, the more I seem to take.This time I took 2 chairs, one for the clan space and one for the clan table so I wouldn’t have to haul one back and forth. At this point I am not good with climbing INTO a picnic table, so I grab the spot on the end. One of our other clan-members, Valerie had a broken foot and had one end, so I asked Ulf, who as clan leader had taken the other if I could have it, and he let me. I also took two mugs, one to leave at the table, and one of our metal insulated cups to take down to the clan cabin. I am afraid I burned my tongue the first day because I figured the tea would have cooled enough after a half hour- but it really hadn’t. I also have my bedding, AND Willow’s mattress pad, and a feather-bed, and my suitcase, and the bag of spinning, and my huge suitcase, and my incidentals bag…. I’d checked the weather on the computer and it said that Mt. Washington Mass was going to be cold- twenties at night and forties in the day. So I packed wool skirts, sweaters, shawls, flannel slips, stockings, UGGs, mittens, coat, hat, scarves… I was ready! Except that it was in the high forties at night and 70s during the day. We were in low clouds up there on the mountain, but I was really over-dressed!
I’d brewed the Essiac to take to Liz on Tuesday on Thursday night. It has to sit for 12 hours after boiling, then be heated again, strained and bottled. When making it for Mother, boiling it last thing at night and bottling it at noon was not a problem, but not good planning this time, I used the time to do CTCW messages. At noon, After reheating it,  (the kids serialized the bottles for me- thanks kids!), and having spent far too long looking for the cheesecloth, I clipped it on the strainer, and started pouring the essiac through. John yelled and I realized I hadn’t put the empty pot under the sieve! I lost about half of it! Oh well. Bottled it (and now have to mail it up to Maine. More on this later.)
At that point I was ready to go and headed off. Around Leominster I started thinking about topping up the gas and decided to plug my phone in in case I had to use the GPS at the end.  I remembered putting the phone in my purse and the charger in my incidentals bag, and not spotting it, I pulled over and searched the car. I had put the phone in the purse, but left the purse hanging in the front hall. Nothing else to do but go back for it. I wasn’t comfortable driving without a license, but I knew I’d have to gas up before I headed back, so I would need the money. I might have been able to borrow some at the event, but I just bit the bullet and went home. Sometimes the choices are clear cut.
I got back at about 4, two hours of light left, in theory I could have gotten there by eight, but that would have been driving in the dark. Instead Kat and I went out to the library to exchange books. What I had not considered was that Milford was having the Pumpkin Festival this weekend (Heir to the late lamented Keene Pumpkin Festival). Much of the center of town was blocked off with many kiosks- it smelled great: fall leaves, popcorn, cotton candy, cider, doughnuts… all the smells of a harvest festival in New England. We passed a store window that was painted over with “The Ghoul with the Pearl Earring”, a respectable take off on Vermeer’s with a skeletal face. The library was in the blocked off part, but the policeman let us in- only to discover that the Library was closed for the three days of the festival, so we could drop off, but not pick up. (I told the officer on the way out in case someone else didn’t know.) Then we went to look for a gift box for the tablecloth we got Lee as a wedding gift. Oddly they didn’t have any standard ones, but we got a Christmas box the right size and a wedding gift bag. We also picked up four of the cutest cups with Day of the Dead skulls on them!
The girls went to Lee’s wedding on Saturday. I’d planned to go, but forgot that it was happening when I reserved for Twilight. Oops. Lee is Raye’s mother and the girls said she looked SO happy, and they looked at each other so adoringly it was just perfect! That’s what weddings are supposed to be like. They took some pictures including ones of Lee in her gown, but I like this one of them dancing in “civvies”, they do look happy! I’m not sure any of us Taylors look happy except Kat when we’re in dress up clothing. Cosplay is more fun and usually more comfortable.
I will admit one thing we should have known better. Kat and I  stopped for “one or two things” on the way home, and ended up with far too many treats (the first bananas of the fall, cider doughnuts, chocolate, cider and nuts for me to share with the clan, Irish butter, and easy-to-prepare foods for the kids to eat while I was gone. Luckily roast beef was $2.99; that’s dead easy.) One really should not shop while hungry! We also got some lemon and chocolate biscuits that Kat had been craving, since she’s not fond of the oatmeal cookies I made last week.  We packed them in tins, because we continue to find rats and mice in the traps! (I suppose that may go along with the surfeit of squirrels along the roads.) I wish the cats would have at them, but they did leave us a dead weasel on Friday. It was too small to bother saving the pelt, but I was impressed with the cats.
“Singular They” (still not sexed or photographed), decided that Kat’s room was sufficiently explored and ventured out into the west wing, where she has continued to skulk. Zoloft and Pyewacket seem to spend an inordinate amount of time sitting in the doorway of the west wing and staring at her. This morning I woke to cats fighting under my bed, so I fear that we did not get a kitten small enough to avoid the requirement of establishing hierarchy through fighting. Oh well, it was a good plan.
OK-Saturday dawn I was up and out, and still arrived at 11. Clan tables are decorated and labeled, but everyone was off doing their spiritual stuff, and I lucked out and found someone who found someone who knew that the Boar Clan was meeting at Lakes 4 and was able to direct me there. I came in in the middle of a two hour work session, but it was OK. The Earth Spirit people are wonderful folk, who tend to have a much greater appreciation for ritual than I do. Rites of Spring has workshops and various rituals and is about community. Feast of Lights is workshops and a midwinter ritual, and Twilight Covening is a fall long weekend with a very impressive Visioning Ritual, other rituals scattered throughout, and in between, people split up into clans (6-15 people) and work on some specific aspect of spiritual practice. I didn’t run a clan this year, but didn’t want to give up on the great conversations I have had there. I really like the people. Ulf was doing another heathen oriented clan. This one was Boar clan- talking about the net-heathen code called The 9 Noble Virtues: Courage, Honour, Truth, Fidelity, Hospitality, Self Reliance, Discipline, Industriousness, and Perseverance (the last four seem significantly redundant to me). People who feel drawn to the old gods are having to try to recreate and reform the practices of historical heathens and pagans into something suitable to the modern world. Who knows how the beings we call gods look at it. Since they seem to live in their own dimensions, yet sometimes come into ours, one has to wonder if and how they changed as time has passed between when the stuff that was written down about what they did back then and now. Not to mention the difficulties of trying to interpret the surviving writings which are both fragmentary, and mostly (in the case of heathenry) written centuries after the conversion by Christians. 
Personally, I prefer the “Nine Charges” which include faithfulness to friends, keeping your word (especially oaths), dealing gently with the humble, respecting elders, striving to remedy evil, helping the friendless (yet distrusting outsiders), ignoring the drunk, honouring ancestors, and obeying the law. These seem to me to cover a greater range of life, and are less redundant. But then, all of these have been made up by people doing their best in the modern world. Christians had to do the same once upon a time. Who knows what the religious geography will be a century from now?
During morning and afternoon Clan time I‘d missed Friday and half of Saturday morning) we read passages from the Poetic Eddas that were supposed to illustrate each virtue, then we talked about how it worked into real life. Ulf, the clan leader, suggested that we show discipline by skipping dinner, which was made easier because that was the work shift for our clan, so we were also showing industriousness by getting a lot of work done. (As a clan leader he had to go off and work on the big ritual. I’d rather work in the kitchen myself.)
It didn’t hurt that there were 14 of us, I have been in much smaller clans. (I wasn’t happy that that was the night they served beef briskit, which I prefer to the soft tacos, or chicken curry they had at other meals.)  I don’t think I actually learned the names of all the clan members. I do remember Ulf, Austin, Karma, Chris, Hawkeye, Matthew, Walter, Victoria, Rhiannon, and Valerie, and that means I have missed three of them. Darn. Rose points out the power of words, I shouldn’t say “I have a bad memory for names”, I should say I am working on getting better at remembering names.
I got lucky and there was room in the cabin next to the clan cabin where I got to sleep. There’s a thing we do where we put curtains around bunk beds to keep it warmer (although we didn’t need it this time). People who worry more about head room than staying warm, sleep on the top bunk. Me, I put all the padding and fur stuff on the bottom and never tried to sit up in bed. Jane showed me the best trick, always have a rug (or fur) on the floor so you don’t have to get out of a warm bed onto a freezing floor. That allowed me to pull on my boots and get to the shower cabin when I had to get up in the middle of the night!  I did LOVE Hawkeye’s curtain, where she’s put the animal from each clan that she’s been in- that’s boar there on the end! I took pictures, but continue to not know how to get them out of the camera.  Oh well.
I’m afraid that my big takeaway from the weekend was realizing how much physical ability I’ve lost. (I’m not sure that’s spiritual.)  I really REALLY shouldn’t drive at night, and not just my strength and speed, but my balance isn’t what I expect it to be, and it’s probably time for me to stop automatically tossing those hearing aid ads they’ve been sending me since I turned 60. I’ve always had a hard time distinguishing what was said in the cafeteria with lots of echoing and 200 people talking at once (maybe only 75 at a time), but I’m sure I missed a lot of instructions during attunements and rituals whether they were speaking softly for effect or because a lot of people just don’t speak loudly enough when they aren’t used to public speaking. When feedback forms arrive I’m going to suggest more adaptations for the elders. Another example of that sort of adaptation is that when the ritual lasts several hours, they are going to have to work in bladder breaks for some of us! This year we didn’t get back to the dining hall until two. We’d shared the ritual soup at six. It was much nicer than usual this year even though they say they didn’t have any nightshade (potato, tomato and pepper) in it. I’d thought I’d tasted peppers- but you don’t mess with food allergies and sensitivities!
I am not going to say too much about the Visioning Ritual. They set up various displays in the woods covering acres of ground, various terrain, dozens and dozens of people playing roles and providing “backstage” help. (And then they make all the lights and other stuff disappear almost immediately. It’s very impressive. But we aren’t supposed to talk about it much, especially not try to figure out how it works. Given my inability to see in the dark, I went to the alternate VR. Sometimes that’s done as a guided meditation, allowing the mobility impaired to experience in their minds what others are doing out in the woods. This time they simply took us through the parts they thought we could actually navigate, so we could experience as much as possible. I will say that as in other years, it was impressive, and I think I can mention there was a huge labyrinth to walk made of luminara. At the end of the ritual everyone gathered there, and people took the luminary and processed back to the hall. It looked a lot like the last scene in the original fantasia watching them flow up the mountain with the flickering (electronic) candles glowing.
After the ritual there’s a meal, and they pass out Tarot cards that are supposed to give you a clue to your upcoming year. The card I recieved was the Four of Swords, which implies that the upcoming year is going to be a time of rest and recovery for me. I am SO eager to regain whatever strength I can, but the challenge is to stay quiet and inactive. I am thinking it’s time to finish books, and clean the house (that’s sedentary, although I’m not sure it’s technically “resting”.)
People are fed out into the prepared area, sometimes in groups, but this year one at a time with enough time between that we don’t bump into each other. Given that there are well over an hundred people, it’s not surprising that it took 7 hours. This year one of the options we had while we waited was talking around a fire about our common humanity. Sue had the task of trying to keep us on track, and did a fair job of it, despite the tendency that both I and Bob Bestwick who was also in the alternate ritual this year to dominate conversations. Since the main reason I go to TC is to have wonderful conversations with wonderful people, this was a wonderful stroke of luck for me.
Another activity before going out was “making art” which was then given up during the ritual. I found this extremely problematic. Art is what you do to send your self out into the world, to reach others, depending upon the medium, one can hope that it will last and continue expressing your inner feelings even after you are dead. I am guessing that whoever designed the ritual considered it a physical representation of an inner feeling, and getting rid of it was, I don’t know, freeing oneself from expectation? I really have no idea. The rituals are designed as collections of symbolic images and tableaus, or experiences, so each person takes away from it something different because of how the symbols work within their minds, and I think it works well. But the idea of asking everyone to do art then throw it away really goes against my inner understanding of art, and I find it hard to be accepting of that part of this year’s ritual.
What else? Spinning. I am not convinced that it’s industriousness- a “virtue”, so much as a “nervous habit”: I have to have something to do with my hands; so I brought my spinning along and did that. Every so often I dropped the spindle, and for most of the weekend was working really hard to not do that.  (I’m not entirely certain that eating isn’t something I do to have something to do with my hands and mouth when I have no handwork, or art, or housework to do while I’m engaged in something that doesn’t use my hands.) I’d brought pre-formed rovings, and for some of the time I was separating the brown ones, as they had been crushed together. When I came to try to spin them though, I wasn’t able to do it- the staple (length of each individual hair) was something like an inch long, which didn’t allow me to use it- not at my current level of expertise. I will probably have to come up with some sort of felting project to use it.
On the way down I allowed myself to push the speed limit, and go with the flow of traffic, which on those long, straight western stretches of I-90 tends to be above the legal 65 mph. It still took me four hours, not the 3 hours and 11 minutes Google Maps thinks it should take. I did take note that it’s an honest 15 minutes between East Road and the camp hall, but it’s still one of the most habitually inaccurate time estimates on the google map program.  I’m sure they just take the distances and estimate based on the speed limits, totally discounting traffic, traffic lights etc. On the way back I left at 2 and still didn’t get back until 6:30. I’ll concede fifteen minutes for stopping to gas-up, and a lot of it has to have been a major slow-down around Springfield. I’d made a point of sticking to the speed limit to see what the difference would be, but that traffic problem messed that up. I enjoyed listening to some old cd collections, and discovered (when the Colonel Bogey March came on) that I can’t whistle any more. I hope that if I try every day I can strengthen my face muscles enough to do it again.
Liz called about five minutes after I got in to say that I didn’t have to come up to “spot” her. She has been recovering well enough to not need help any more. I have to say that I was every so relieved, and slept until noon the next day. It’s also wonderful that she’s doing well. Sadly, the doctors have told her that they want her to follow the surgery up with chemo, which she was hoping that she was going to be spared, and I did too. I am hoping that I can simply go up and spend some time with her to have time together, but I’m trying to make a plan on what to do for the rest of the month.
Checking the refrigerator I found some sausages and some chopped ham, so last night I made a quite. I meant for it to be 8 eggs, but I’d put in too much onion, ham and cheese and added more to cover it. Sadly this meant it took nearly two hours to cook. I have discovered that a quiche can be too big. Live and learn.
I am getting SO sick of autocorrect essiac became essay, quiche became quite, workshift became worksheet. I don’t spell well, so I should love auto-correct, but I also have a decent vocabulary, apparently larger than is in this computer.
What have I watched and read this week? Less since I spent the weekend away. I watched The Man who invented Christmas which was a lot of fun, as we watched the characters giving the author a hard time. I found that very appealing! When I got home I watched Sargeant York while I sat and vegged because it was Alvin York Day. Nice movie. I’ve continued reading the Tales of the South Pacific and the Little Colonel books (Holidays, Boarding School, in Arizona, Christmas Vacation). As an adult I see the blind spots where she doesn’t even see racism and sexism. She really doesn’t, although her big failing is class-ism. She redeems herself although she tends to be unaware of her privilege because she’s willing to learn about work and deplore the conditions others have to deal with… in as far as she can. She’s really VERY privileged! 
Well, I am still trying to catch up on my sleep, so I’ll send this off, and go to bed. 
Virginia / Tchipakkan
“I drank the Kool-aid, now it’s all good.” WTF?
Holidays this weekend
Th Southern Food Heritage Day, Sausage Pizza Day, Myths and Legends Day
F  Gumbo Day, Egg Day, Arthritis Day, International Moment of Frustration Scream Day
S  Yorkshire pudding Day, No Bra Day, Day for Failure, English Language Day
S  Dessert Day, Chocolate Covered Bug Day, Pastor Appreciation Day
M Mushroom Day, Grouch Day, Cheese Curd Day, Handwashing Day, Multicultureal Diversity Day
T Cat Day, Liqueur Day, Food Day,  Boss Day, Dictionary Day, Spine Day
W Pasta Day, Hagfish Day, Wear something Gaudy Day, Trauma Day