The weather is gorgeous and warm! The front door is open, and the cats are enjoying going in and out. The lilacs are beginning to open, even up here on the side of the mountain. I think it’s a good year for lilacs. There are more blossoms on the dark purple (persian?) lilac than there have been recently, the new white lilac bush we put (a year ago? two?) in have their first two blossoms, but even better, the bushes around the mailbox that I thought looked like lilac foliage, but haven’t bloomed since we’ve been here are blooming this year. For the first time in years we’ll be able to bring in lilacs to our bedrooms! Hooray! (On the other hand, I saw the first black flies on the screen this week, and heard the first mosquito in my bedroom. Alas!)
Yesterday we pulled up the encroaching knotweed from the garden. I know that it’s probably futile, but at least it doesn’t LOOK like a stand of bamboo anymore. The quince is blooming- if flat. I wish I could think of another place where we could move it so it could grow up. We moved the concrete blocks from the side of the driveway to the edge of the herb garden- maybe we can define the edges better, and that will help. If we left them there and got the driveway plowed, it would mean pushing them back into the garden, so it’s not a permanent solution- unless I want to commit to always shoveling it by hand. But with the blocks gone, I was able to put in my Mother’s Day pansies, and some new Nasturtium as well. (I have that strip between the south side of the house and the driveway fronted with cinderblocks on their sides, which I’ve filled with soil, and in which I plant flowers. There’s a tulip (I don’t remember planting that), and some lily of the valley (some in the garden, some in the driveway, some in the cinder blocks), narcissus, and the bleeding hearts are spreading (even to the herb garden, and I’m not sure how that happened!). And there are dandelions everywhere and they make me happy. The Comfrey has come back, although the saffron crocus didn’t seem to make it, and the chives are about to bloom. Spring has well and truly sprung and it’s warm!
Earlier this week it was chilly, and I wasn’t quite so happy, but that’s OK too. All last week we hunkered down and had “comfort food”: Mac and Cheese, Beans and hotdogs, Tuna noodle casserole, Ramen, “Glop” (rice, tuna and velveeta), pork stash (what mother called a cross between has and stew) and biscuits, beef and popovers, lots of mashed potatoes and gravy… I also baked. Made dark gingerbread, our version of rice krispie treats (with cinnamon and sesame seeds), and a Coke Cake. And with the sticky rice at the bottom of the steamer I tried out the rice ball panda maker. It has a thing that cuts nori into arms and ears etc ot make pandas. They’re SO cute! (they even have little tails on the back!)
I went through the tupperware cupboard and sorted out the stuff we like best and use most and sent a huge box to the recycling center with the ones I was willing to let go. Oddly I seem to have lost all the cake carriers, but still have 5 pie carriers. I used to have 10 of each back when I was cooking a lot for the SCA. Even after sorting we still have a huge amount, perhaps more than we need. But I like having the right size I want when I want it.
Yesterday the pre-registration for the 50th Year celebration closed. I am rather bummed out because I can’t go. We can’t afford to travel that far without selling, and the selling sign up was in December, and we were too insecure about energy levels to do it then. The SCA has been such a part of my whole adult life, and I’d like to think I was an important part of the SCA. Perhaps I have been. Perhaps people will remember me even if I don’t go. But frankly, I’m not sure. People in the SCA are SO impressive that it’s not surprising that it’s hard to remember the accomplishments of the past. I filled out a “memorial” page for Ælfwine, mentioning things like the treaty we made with Acre, and the modular house. The things people will probably remember are things that have to do with his helping them personally (like pushing a stalled car off of a still smoking firepit), or his interesting sense of humor. Sadly, like the treaty with Acre, I think what I’ve done has gone away- like the MDA auction, and how the letters of intent have turned into proof of membership, and my long attempt to get the courtesy requirements for peers to be extended to Royal Peers. I think big so I fail big. I wish I had gotten a commemorative stamp made for the SCA. At this point it seems that most people I meet know someone who used to be in the SCA if not someone who is. The SCA is a part of the modern world just as much as bowling leagues and comic books.
Willow watched Avi’s kids a couple of times this week- Kaylin on Sunday, and Bianca for a half day. She has agreed to watch Avi’s kids part time this summer. She is going to have to get a “back-ground check”, which means filling out forms and having an interview, but since I’m not sure she’s even had a speeding ticket, she should be fine, depending upon how they feel about the anti-anxiety medication. That will give her a bit of spending money, and she’d like to get a bike she can leave over at Avi’s to ride with the kids. Avi has a bike, but the seat is apparently very uncomfortable. Avi says she deals with it by just never sitting down. It’s probably one of those “banana” seats. I’d like to ride my bike again, but this area is so hilly that if it’s not up-hill on the way out, it’s up-hill on the way back, so there’s no good place to ride if you are starting from being really out of shape! (but the girls and I are starting to walk again)
Willow finished her commission for the blanket with the three wolves- and it came out gorgeous! The customers wrote her back and said they loved it, which is what one wants.
Kat’s customer also got back to her to express her appreciation for the dress she mailed off last week. I found a picture of it: miles and miles of lace! (it even goes under the panel with the applique. I am so proud that she is making these Lolita style dresses available to people who can’t get them from the “name brand” sources. Having found her tumblr page, I am attaching the previous dress with pinafore and bonnet at the end for you to admire!
Allow me to gripe a bit. While looking for her Tumblr page, I discovered I had to change my own password. She tells me they’ve had security breeches recently, so I spent about a half hour trying to get them to accept a new password. They kept telling me it was too short, and I should try again. If they want you to have 25 characters, one a number, one a dingbat, then they should say so up front not make me guess! I think my hand hurts because of the stress! They just kept saying “Password must be longer” (Yes, we all know that it doesn’t make it work better to hit the keys harder- but don’t most of us do it anyway?) They just kept saying “Password must be longer” and I got so upset!
I also put in an hour or so this week trying to turn in some one who was “fishing” (“phishing”?). Someone said they were the TDS administrator and that they were changing their system and I had to send them my user name and password. I am too smart to fall for that, but would really like them to get stopped, so I tried to tell TDS, which required finding the right person, and trying to forward the letter to them. I tried forwarding, cutting and pasting, finally taking a screen shot. They called back today to get me to get the full long header which required another run through all the ways to try to get it to them. (Their tech department can just look at my screen, but apparently not whichever department I got.) On the other hand, the fact that they called back to get more information does indicate that they are pursuing trying to track down these bozos, and that’s good.
Willow also went to the movies with “Evil” last week, although they left a bit early because she had to get to a doctor’s appointment. Monday Willow drove Kat to her appointment in Peterboro at 3, and knowing that Kat needs regular feeding, dropped her off and headed for Jaffrey to get some fries and nuggets to have when she got out. Sadly, the appointment was at 1. (They are always so disapproving when you miss an appointment.) Kat tried to call Willow, but discovered her phone was out of charge, she looked for her kindle because she plays Tetris on it when she’s stressed, but it wasn’t in her bag, she used up the last of her lorazepam, but found her last gabapentin that they told her to use up when she got stressed (as she would the lorazepam). She borrowed the office phone to call me- and I called Willow, and sent her back. And that was just a bit of whole day of “comedy of errors” that sometime happen to all of us. But knowing that doesn’t help when you’re in it. It was a “horrible, terrible, no good, very bad day”, and I hope the last for a while.
Steve came up on Saturday- usually he visits on Sundays, but this time he could hang around because he didn’t have to get up a five for his commute from Malden to Providence. He’d love to retire, but since that would involve selling his house, and moving all his books (not to mention finding another place to live at a lower income), he’s not quite ready to plunge into THAT adventure yet. I am hoping if he does he moves closer so we can see more of him, but I fear that southern NH is not a cheap place to live. (I finally paid my December property taxes and the June ones will be hear soon.)
Something, probably the weather, is inspiring me to clean things out. On the other hand, I threw away wine colored quilted skirt because when I put it on there were two big holes in it. I don’t remember setting myself on fire, or snagging it on anything. The sort of looked chewed, but I have no idea whether a small corner caught in the door of the dryer, or one of the kittens decided to see if it was tasty. Weird. But I’m also chucking other clothes that are just not wearable in “polite company” any more. Not having animals, I have fewer excuses to keep work clothes, although I’ll admit that when I put on my red canvas skirt and T shirt to plant and take out that wild rosebush that’s been annoying me, it was exactly what I needed! I really should have pockets in ALL my skirts and aprons. Or maybe make a work smock/ pinafore to put over clothing when I work. Sigh. The other day I saw this macro go by: “One day I’ll do amazing things. Today I’ll be satisfied if I manage not to spill food on my boobs.” I think I do both, spilling daily, amazing, maybe weekly or monthly. Still, I’m not sure that anyone is satisfied if they look back over their life and think “I never spilled on myself”. They don’t realize how great that is.
I don’t know if I mentioned that as sort of a consolation present to myself for not going to the Dowsers conference I decided to take an online course on the Cunning Arts. I am not doing so well with that. My biggest problem is feeling that “I already know” so much, and while I love the new stuff, it’s very hard for me to let go of old habits and try to do the exercises. There’s an old story about a master who demonstrates to a ‘know it all’ student that if he doesn’t empty his tea cup, the master can’t put tea from his pot in the cup. I have a horrible feeling I’m that student.
The New Normal on Wednesday was a lot of fun! I had Kirsten back and this time she talked about the symbolism in tarot minor arcana– the numbers. She speaks so well, it’s easy to tell she has prepared this material as a class before, and I felt that my usual attempts to ask leading questions were only disrupting her lesson plan. I’m going to have her back next month!
Sadly, due to distractions, I didn’t get the letter done on Wednesday or even Thursday, so I do apologize for that.
What have I been reading this week? I finished reading Coyote Waits, which was one of the earlier of the Hillerman novels, but I had skipped it because I’d seen the movie, and having read the books knew that there would be much more in the book than the movie could possibly show- and I was right. Willow has now finished the last of the series, so we can talk about it. If you like mysteries at all, I can highly recommend them.
Since Leaphorn was character who disliked anything he couldn’t figure out, almost every case of witchcraft, which seemed pretty ubiquitous, turned out to have some other explanation, but I still went back to re-read Witchcraft in the Southwest: Spanish and Indian Supernaturalism on the Rio Grande. The problem is one of cultural differences I think. If I understand it correctly, the Native Americans, are animists (like me) who think that everything is alive and has a spirit, and that spirit may react to what you do, even if it is the spirit of an animal or even a thing or a place. Since that’s the way I think, it makes sense to me. But for most modern Americans, I think they see religion as something separate from everyday life, not an integral part of life, in which every action you do has something to do with spirits. I look as most religions as an expression of cultural identity. Religions are simply how a culture explains how the world works. With Christianity, the story of creation and the deeds of the ancestors tells how God made people, but because they chose to make their own decisions not live in obedience (as children), they were “sinful”, that is they were punished with eternal labor/pain. But Christ not only gave them more gentle instructions to live than are found in the rules made up for when they were a wandering tribe, he also took their sin on himself, if (and this gets a bit confused to me) they let him- and I think, once again giving up making their own choices. When they say “Medicine man” they mean a man who understands “medicine” a word that appears to be a translation of “something that’s good for you”. The “medicine man”, what we’d now probably call a shaman, is the one who knew how someone had fallen out of balance with his health or community or the spirits around him, and could tell him ways to try to re-achieve that balance. I’m also reading a book on traditional (folk) medicine in Virginia and North Carolina, which is looking at it in a multi-disciplinary way- through folklore, anthropology, sociology, and medical. I think that one is trying to find ways to integrate the parts of folk medicine that are successful into the modern medical paradigm, which is designed more and more for efficiency and judged using medical jargon. If you want to get a treatment accepted, it has to be tested using the established procedures, if you want to get published you have to “talk the talk” that is required by those publications. It excludes many things that can help because they don’t fit into that paradigm. I think most of the doctors would like to do whatever it takes to help their patients, but to be allowed to practice, you have to tow the line, practice in population centers, do it the way you can get reimbursed, and not have your license pulled. But this leaves us with cities with a 500:1 patient to doctor ratio, with rural counties having a 10,000:1 or worse ratio. Clearly the “efficient” model is not taking into account how do we most effectively meet the needs of everyone in the population. It’s like the Texas bill that says “we don’t want women to have care that’s not up to high standards, so we’re closing local clinics, and if they want care they can drive four hours each way to get it.” That’s not an improvement in care, fellas! I’m sure I’ll mention more when I’ve finished it.
I finished Hunt for the Skinwalker: Science Confronts the Unexplained at a remote Ranch in Utah. I’ll admit that both when I bought it, and when I picked it up again, I was hoping for more on the Skinwalker mythos from the southwest. While it was a book written in 2005 about investigation about weird stuff that drove a family from their ranch in Utah. The authors conclusion seems to have been: ‘we don’t know what the hell is going on, but it’s real.’ The author did cover how the evidence stacked up for several theories, and seemed to think that the string theory concept of parallel dimensions was probably the best bet. I was surprised, having pretty much ignored the aspects of “weird shit” that covers UFOs, Bigfoot and other cryptids, and animal mutilations, I didn’t realize they often presented together. Also apparently it includes the sort of “making this disappear and reappear” (and move around) events that I tend to associate with pixies. OK, we don’t know what’s doing it, only that it does happen, there seems to be a nasty sense of humor behind it, and we figure there are some invisible beings doing it. I am coming from a history/folklore background, I suppose if you come from a science background you’ll prefer something from a ship rather than something from a mound. Both seem to suggest something from another dimension.
One of the movies I watched this week was a three part Nova series called The Elegant Universe which gave a layperson’s overview of string theory. It’s four years old but I don’t know if much has developed since then. I wasn’t as much interested in the stories of the squabbles between the mathematicians and physicists over which was a better version of a unified theory. One of the things they mentioned was the CERN particle accelerator. I remember hearing about people worrying about whether when it was finally turned on it would destroy the universe. Frankly, I don’t know whether they’ve tried it or not yet. On the other hand, a whole lot of what they were talking about in the string theory didn’t sound that odd to me. Once you accept a multi-verse model, which, as a magick user, I do, it only makes sense. The girls and I do wonder about them using the term “brane” short for membrane, to reference the layers of reality. Frankly in speech, it’s hard to distinguish “branes” from “brains” and I occasionally got confused, would it be that hard to say membrane instead?
I finished Mummers, Maypoles and Milkmaids: A Journey Through the English Ritual Year. It was pretty much a picture book- someone who’d gotten interested in the folk festivals of the British Isles took lots of pictures of them and collected them in a book. I think the thing I liked best was that the author mentions more than in other books I’ve read the way that many of these festivals were started in the late 19th century by Victorian romantics or the late 20th century by neo-pagans or by some folklore group or other in the 1920s. There are a few with centuries of tradition, but they are rare, and honest coverage of this is refreshing!
Having become dissatisfied with my ignorance about Native American beliefs, I opted for the quick version, and am making my way through a juvenile series on different tribes. This week I read Navaho,& Pueblo and will probably continue until I get distracted by another topic.
I finished the graphic novel Persipolis, the story of growing up during the Islamic revolution. I remember when I was a kid reading about the Shah of Iran and how he was trying to modernize his country, and how good that was. I remember being sad about the loss of that progress when we heard stories of the revolution on the radio- but of course, I was busy doing the SCA, and raising my children, so I my awareness of it was the most rudimentary. Reading it made it very personal and real, and I don’t feel really emotionally ready for the second book, although I expect I’ll read it someday.
Other than that, I’m reading Our Inner Ape (I think I heard about it on NPR), talking about how if we want to look at other primates to explain why humans are the way we are, we should look as much to the Bonobos as much as we do to Chimps and Gorillas. I don’t remember being aware of bonobos before, and apparently they weren’t differentiated from Chimpanzees until the 50s. The difference seems to be that bonobos are slightly smaller, and manage everything with sex rather than with violence (as Chimps do). Since we are descended from neither, but from a common ancestor, we are as likely to share “natural” traits with the cooperative bonobos as we are with the aggressive great apes. They also share with humans that their females don’t just nurse their young, but also have actual breasts, which reminds me of the film I’ve seen of the big foot with boobs. One thing is for certain, we do have a lot in common with the other primates, and we are made most uncomfortable by watching things that remind us of ourselves.
I finally got around to watching that episode of Dr. Who, The Gunfighters- A Holiday for the Doctor, where they went to the OK Corral. As Kat said, it was fun to watch the English actors playing cowboys and attempting Western accents. I liked the way they had the musical narration that was so common to many westerns, and used it as an excuse to rewatch Kat Ballou, which was a marvelous send up of the genre. A great deal of fun, and I loved the way Kat’s father refused to believe that his Indian bronco-buster wasn’t Jewish, because a he’d heard a ‘United States Senator say that the Indians were the lost tribe of Israel’. There were a LOT of great lines and fun bits in that movie!
I also watched Hombre with Paul Newman, and A fistful of dollars and For a Few Dollars More with Clint Eastwood, and Red River with John Wayne. I’m not sure which protagonist seemed more problematic as a hero. In theory it’s supposed to be the “man with no name” from the spaghetti westerns. They all have in common that they were more accurate with a firearm than most of the men around them, and that they could take a beating and keep on coming. At least the man with no name, when challenged about his motivations explained “I knew someone like you once, and there was no one there to help.” In the sequel, he similarly seems to be quite willing to kill people, but has a preference for bad people, and the other bounty hunter was simply single-mindedly pursuing the murderer and rapist of his sister. One can hardly fault an individual when the culture is willing to simply put a price on a man’s head and let someone shoot them to get rid of them. I was not really expecting much, but was very pleasantly surprised and impressed by the cinematography- the use of color and dark and light was wonderful. Even the supporting characters, while simple, were charming, like the supporting characters in Asterix comics. They were not as complex as the main characters, but were real.
I begin to see why people are fascinated with the culture of the west- at least as portrayed in movies, the stories are about people who do everything their own way, and when civilization creeps up on them are not comfortable with it. In Hombre, Newman plays a man who’s unaccepted because he is mixed race, and it may be impossible for him to escape that. Each of the other characters is also trying to work within or escape the roles that have been forced on them, more and less successfully. One begins to admire the pragmatists like Russell and Jessie (the “Indian” and boarding house keeper) who accepted that life sucks and you deal with it, at least one admires them more than the characters like Favor (Frederic March), the Indian agent, and Braden, (Richard Boone) the outlaw, who try to rig the game in their own favor, even if it hurts other people. Wayne’s character in Red River is similar. He considers his own “honour”, and yet, he has no problem with branding other men’s cattle as his own (which I think technically, makes him a cattle thief) or killing them if they cross him. But because he sticks to his principles of doing what he says he’ll do, even if that includes killing the son he loves, we’re supposed to admire him? I was more attracted to his sidekick played by Walter Brennan, and very amused by the interplay between him and the Indian to whom he had lost “a 1/4 share of his store teeth” in a poker game, so they passed them back and forth. The genre keeps my attention, but as they say it’s hard to “un-see” something, and when you know the crap the government pulled on the First Nations, it’s easy to look at an Indian attack and realize that it’s probably happening because the “innocent wagon train” is full of people who are going to “settle on” land that doesn’t belong to them, but that’s OK because if a native hurts one of them, the army will come and kill the red men because they’re red, no matter who started the violence, and if anything of value is found on the cruddy land the Indians were pushed onto, then some justification will be made to take that as well. It’s shameful, and doing stupid dishonest things violently isn’t brave and romantic, it’s reprehensible.
OK, that’s sort of grumpy (or as the girls would say “salty”), but at least I didn’t mention politics this week, eh?
I’ll finish with the thought “I love dandelions!” (and wow, can the scent of lilacs fill a room!)
Until next week,
“Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it.” Confucius
“Think of all the beauty still left around you and be happy” Anne Frank