4/28/2016 Letter Writing Week

The weather has been your typical April mix, it’s been warm and sunny enough that we’ve had to intellectually remind ourselves that it’s too early to put up the screen door, then Monday, it was rainy and cold, and several friends shared pictures of the snow they’d gotten- I guess we got lucky.
The maples are leafing now- still tiny, but the red buds are gone, so the pink haze on the trees is becoming a green haze. We brought in some Hyacinths a couple of weeks ago, and they lasted until yesterday. I am not used to the idea of bulbs being cut flowers, probably because they are not “cut and come again”. One of our family stories is about me, probably around 2 or 3 having picked a bouquet for my grandmother from her tulips- with all of about two inches of stem. Given my mother’s penchant for enhancing a story it was probably about 4″, but certainly not enough to put the bouquet in water- and the garden display would have been gone. Oh, well. They sure smelled great. We had to move them off the kitchen table to the upstairs bathroom because the scent was so strong it overpowered the food. With the recent snow warnings I brought in a few narcissus from the back of the garden. They have pink bells- I think I got them in a collection of assorted narcissus, or maybe got them for Willow. They have a lovely scent, but not so overpowering. I also saw the coltsfoot flowering on Herrick street. It’s sort of hard to tell about that because from a drive-by perspective a coltsfoot flower looks a lot like dandelion, just no leaves. I know that’s where they grow though. Sadly, from the road (and we don’t feel like going through the soggy back yard), Willow and I can’t spot the batch that used to grow behind the house.

I think I broke my little toe (again?). The other night I was lying in bed and the blankets were pressing down on my foot making it hurt- and then I remembered stubbing it on the drawer a couple of days earlier. Funny how you don’t even notice hurting yourself, what you notice is not recovering as quickly as you’d expect. The drawer was catching and I’d taken it out to check it- being a cheap construction, it was falling apart and needed to be fixed, and I hadn’t taken it downstairs yet. About this time, the top drawer in the secretary also came apart. So, John and Willow and I ganged up on broken drawers, and fixed them. I think I would rather glue back veneer from a nice dovetailed piece of furniture than have to deal with a modern piece of fiberboard printed to look like woodgrain that dissolves under the pressure of pulling out the crooked staples with which it was assembled. Grrr. Luckily, we are stubborn and clever, and they are back in service, (for as long as the repairs will hold).Caelin
Willow is off again today watching Avi’s kids (must be vacation). The trade off between getting out of the house vs. getting tired seems to work, and she’s fond of Bianca and Cailin, and VERY fond of Avi, so she goes there, makes them play outside, stops them from eating junk food, etc. Last week she decided to give Bianca the flowered canopy I’d gotten her some years ago and she’d never used. Apparently 8 is just the right age for it.Bianca's room But now we need to think of something for Cailin to balance it.
The girls are busy with their commissions. Kat finished the dress and pinafore that she’s been working on, and she seems to go back and forth between that one and the lavender one with PILES of lace.heart pinnafore I was hoping for a picture of it finished- it had a red bow at the front of the collar as well (matched the big bow at the back- and the row of buttons down the back are all red hearts!). I loved the “tattered edge” trim she made for the pinafore- it’s fully lined! I hope her customer appreciates it! I am totally charmed by her lacy bonnets and wish I had an excuse to wear one!

lacy bonnetShe’s also decided to include a lavender sachet with each dress to store it- made with the leftover fabric from the dress. And the girls got some lovely tissue paper with roses and other flowers to lay in the fancy boxes she uses. She figures that if she’s going to charge $150 for a dress, they should have all the trimmings. She is truly a class act! (The three of us constantly remind each other that we are probably undercharging, but it’s really hard to figure out what to charge when what you’re offering isn’t available anywhere else. You kind of fall back on, how much were the materials, and how much can they afford to pay, because what something is worth varies in the minds of the people thinking about it.)
kat's sewing table lavender laceThe day she was sending the pinafore dress off, she got a reminder of a commission for a bonnet, and went back to finishing that. She’s also working on an article about Roman hair styles, this was inspired, I think from watching episodes of Dr. Who. She observes that often the garb on the people from the past is more accurate than that of the companions- indicating that what they rig up for themselves in the tardis is a bit filtered through their expectations. Well done Dr. Who producers! I really wish they’d done more history adventures, I expect they planned to have more time travel originally, but then the fans liked the space adventures. Oh, well. As I understand it, Star Trek Next Gen was supposed to have more family dramas- Wesley was just supposed to be the tip of the iceberg, but that never developed
Yesterday Willow got a request for a quote on a blanket with a lovely illustration of 3 wolves- and was worried that they wouldn’t understand how putting it into fleece really simplifies a design, but they were fine with her response, and even the “it’s going to cost you more”. So I have had to have John clear the jewel boxes off the table so she can cut out a new one.

This week I noticed a large bundle of hair bands in my box of hair supplies. (Maybe because of talking with Kat about hairstyles?) Thinking, or perhaps, over-thinking, about it has left it a symbol of a lot that’s going on in my life. I don’t often use hairbands any more. (For those with short hair, the term hair band is used to distinguish the cloth covered versions from simple rubber bands we used to use when we were kids. In theory they are less likely to compress, break, pull on, and otherwise rip out your hair the way rubber bands did.) I have switched mostly to using “hairpins”, which are different from “bobby pins” or “roller pins”, again, because I am losing enough hair to age – probably from dropping estrogen levels. I think they do less damage. Still, although one does occasionally see hair bands on the pavement or floor, so someone’s losing them, apparently over the years I have reached the “enough” point where I haven’t had to buy any for years, and consolidating them all in one “hair supplies” box has rather left me with more than I’m liable to use for the rest of my life.
Also in the box are hair combs- in years past I liked using them to hold my hair back, yet leave it hanging down- especially when Willow decorated them with silk flowers. I’m no longer comfortable doing that any more, even though there’s no reason I couldn’t when just sitting at the computer. Sometimes I’ll put up a “ballerina bun”, which someone showed me in my teens- gather the hair into a hairband, use a clip to hold the top of the tail against the head and pins to tuck the end under. Apparently this allows girls with short (chin, or shoulder length) hair to comply with the uniform hairdo in ballet classes. I have those clips, I have some lovely jeweled clips, and decorated combs, and even some head bands (the ones that go around your head). Also technically called head bands, there are plastic versions, but there’s an unspoken family agreement to refer to those as “headache makers”, which reduces confusion about which you are speaking.
Still this accumulation is much like my other accumulations: I have to ask myself: is this something I’ve collected for a part of my life that’s essentially over? And how much do you clear out of what isn’t needed? The common wisdom of magazines you see in checkout aisles is “get rid of it all”, if it turns out you need it again, you can get another”. This attitude is one I consider vile- not only is it wasteful, because “get rid of it” means waste, throwing away something that’s still good, just because it’s not useful to you. It also ignores the energetic component of every item. Either you put a lot of effort into getting each item to a place where it will be best used, a huge investment of your time and energy, or you simply dump it somewhere- wasting resources, dumping the recycling problems on someone else, and also wasting the time and effort you had put in to finding it in the first place. Add to this the time and effort it might take to find a replacement later if the need comes up, and it makes the real cost much higher than that put on it by the magazine pundits. We all recognize that if you can throw away the scarf your grandmother gave you, and easily get “a scarf” later, but while both may be “blue” or both may be “30 inches long”, it will NOT be the one your grandmother wore in college. Perhaps people who don’t get along with their families don’t care about things like that. There certainly seem to be a lot of people in the modern world who are suffering from lack of social connections. I guess they didn’t realize the value of what they were discarding.
Moreover, the example “replacement scarf” may well be polyester, not silk, and not made any more. If you try to fill in a missing piece in a set of inexpensive china and you’ll discover how difficult it is to find something. For the rich, there are antique dealers who specialize in finding the $30 or $80 plates. I doubt most of us have that sort of money. If you got your set piece by piece at the grocery store, or at Walmart, while we know that hundreds of thousands of other people also got that same set, and must be down to 3 pieces, where do those end up? I think the theory is that if you got it that way, you don’t care about it, so why not just buy a new set. But sometimes you LIKE something and want to keep it.
On the other hand, much of what I have stored is materials and tools for projects. Aside from the invested time and money, there’s an emotional component- am I willing to relinquish the ambition I had to complete that project (as soon as I found the time)?  I am always hesitant to waste the investment- financial, temporal, emotional- I have in any item. The theory that if I want it again, it’s replaceable probably isn’t more than a theory.
But looking at storage areas full of cloth, trim, yarn, art supplies, things I haven’t gotten to, lacking the time to use them, I think I should pass along those I won’t get to using so that someone else can. How many pieces of garb will I need in the next decade? How many books will I be able to read before I die? One of the things I hate most is finding stored food gone bad. A (mythical?) good housekeeper always would store things so that she knows how much she’s got, and how old it is, and uses the oldest first. I am very liable to put a box or can in the front when I get home (exhausted) from shopping, and use the first one I find while (rushing) to making dinner. Luckily most materials aren’t like that. I know this having bought trim from the 19th century. Still, if I don’t get to them, someday my kids or I are going to have to get them out of this house, and perhaps I’d do better to reduce that job to a reasonable level by tackling it a bit at a time.
The best way I can think of to find time for that is to give up the internet, and I’m not quite ready to do that.
The computer is where I pretend I have a job: Friday, for example, I sent out a letter to all the speakers who’d said they’d be coming to CTCW this fall, asking them to please submit their proposals and giving them the link to the form, then I remembered that I need to check the proposal database to find submissions and put a reminder in my iCal to check it twice a week, checked it, and created new pages on the website for Workshops and Panels (since the format won’t put those up until we create the schedule, probably in three months after people have finally gotten around to submitting them), I put the ones that had come in up on those pages, updated the speakers bio pages, then created 17 blog posts talking about each of the confirmed speakers, posted on the group page about the new pages, asking people to submit panel suggestions and feedback. And yes, that took more than 8 hours. I begin to understand why people are paid to do secretarial work. None of this is very exciting, but it needs doing.
I also am working on paying down the credit card. I hate “adulting”.

What does NOT need doing is facebook. I go there because I want to- in theory- find out what’s happening with my friends. Sadly, most of it is sharing fun, cute, uplifting, informative stuff- not what’s going on in people’s lives. It IS fun, and I enjoy it, get sucked off into reading the articles, exploring the graphs, looking at the pictures, and then hours have passed. One of the worst things is when I sometimes click a bit off of where I was aiming and lose the page. Once you’ve lost your place on facebook, you aren’t going to find that interesting thing you were looking at again. There are many versions of an old folktale about a master thief in which someone’s walking down the road and sees a nice boot. “What a pity it’s only one” he thinks and goes on. Around a corner, he sees another boot- he checks it, and it’s the mate of the first. He puts down his pack and runs back to get the first boot (missing, of course), but when he returns his pack is gone. It’s been stolen. You can’t go back for missed stuff, and that’s what fb is like. I keep scrolling hoping to find some of the notes that talk about what’s going on in people’s lives, but there aren’t enough hours in the day- nor a way to sort. On the other hand, my frustration level has not gotten high enough for me to ditch it, only to bitch about it.

Over the weekend the girls went out to the dump, and did a string of other errands, including dropping off a broken screen at the hardware store to be mended. (I’m always nervous in a string of errands like that that I’ll leave the repair item at the dump.) Sadly, that was enough to do Willow in for several days. We are so hopeful that sooner or later the medications we’re trying will result in more energy, comfort, sound sleep, contentment, etc. The only thing really easy to see is indigestion. It’s getting a bit harder to cook.
I remembered a friend telling me how much better she felt when she started drinking teas made with Oat straw, red clover, and other strengthening herbs, so I’ve started making pitchers of some of those and leaving them on the table. I am actually quite fond of oat straw with a touch of cranberry juice. Willow remembered she has a jar of rosebuds for making tea and looking it up, benefits of rose tea include helping with depression and anxiety, improving circulation, helping with menstrual pain, losing weight, sleeping, clears skin, helps digestion and more. And we’d just gotten it for the taste because Willow loves roses!

DSC02506I tried making chicken Cordon Blue again (this time with cheddar instead of swiss), and Willow joked that I’d said I was going to try Beef Wellington next, so the next time I had beef I coated it with chopped mushrooms and garlic and wrapped it in sheets of puff paste. It wasn’t bad, but was more bland than I’d expected with all that garlic.  (the boneless chicken breasts were down to $1.69, what’s going on with the prices? And when I went to the Post Office with Kat, I discovered that the price of stamps has gone down (first time since 1919).

stamps-pets-780x439I have to say that while a lot of the stuff I hear on the internet sounds like conspiracy theories (I’m sure both sides say similar things about each other), sometimes it does look like Congress is trying to destroy the USPS, and I think it’s a great service and wish they’d leave it alone!
As much as I like the internet, I am always concerned about how we can tell what to accept or not. On Tuesday, lots of people posted angry images of ballots without Sanders name, or that their name had been removed from the voters registry. If we can’t have a fair election, we are in deep trouble as a country- but, is it possible that these are faked? So much information is manipulated on small as well as on huge scales these days. Computers help misinformation spread faster (or information). What do you trust? I am  sure Snopes isn’t 100% perfect, but it’s a good place to start.
I saw someone pass a warning that people have been leaving plastic bottles with draino & tinfoil in a plastic bottle that can cause injury by exploding if you pick it up. Snopes has that one as true.  First, why would anyone do that‽ Second, won’t circulating it widely make it more likely that this will reach some idiot who will try it? I can see trying the mentos in diet soda trick, but something that spews hot drain cleaner and may blind or injure someone? There are people out there who like to cause trouble, and consider “getting away with it” the goal. I am so ambivalent about whether to try to create a better world by concentrating on good stuff, or trying to fix problems by making myself aware of them. Sigh.

I’d mentioned that my uncle Charlie went into the hospital. He seems to be out again and better. As I understand it, what caused it is still somewhat mysterious, just one of those things we have to deal with as we age. Darn. I suppose historically we just died, so that’s an improvement. I talked to Liz, and I’ll be going up to help open camp in May, and hope to see them then. I’m a bit frustrated because we don’t seem to get up there much. The girls have been going up with their friends in August, but this year their friends are organizing a con, and while maybe the week after that would be good (so they can relax), I don’t know yet how that scheduling will work out.
While the girls were out doing errands this weekend someone from the town came by to inspect the house. I assume it was to make sure the tax valuation was right, but he mentioned that there was a note about the house having lacked maintenance. I know that there were some years when we were half painted because no one wanted to go up to the peaks before we had Wally do it, but now it’s done. This reminds me of those “this will go on your permanent record” threats in school. Years after we sold the old house we were still getting notices about it because the town didn’t seem to track even something as clear and blatant as who owned it. A complaint gets into the permanent record, and never comes off. And stories of stupid or even fraudulent inspectors abound. (I suppose those are the ones that are more interesting to talk about.) Still, I was cranky about it all day. I sat and watched old TV shows on Netflix stewing in my aggrivation. This does not sound psychologically healthy.
On the other hand- one evening just before bed Willow and I went to check on Kat who was making some odd noises- turns out she was laughing at a funny performance from the celebration of Shakespeare’s birthday last week (did you notice Talk Like Shakespeare Day go by? or it may have been for the anniversary of his death April 23, 400 years ago).  Do click this link and watch it yourself: To be or not to be…  Sometimes we just have to embrace the moments of joy. I hope you enjoy it.

Last week I had Coyote Skywoman on my podcast and she recommended a movie I am by Tom Shadyak. It’s a collection of interviews he did asking “What’s Wrong with the World” and discovering what’s right with the world. Like the Secret and What the Bleep do we know? it collects information about how humans are part of the world and connected to each other. I expect that each person will have to find the form to figure it out for him or herself, but I really liked it. (I watched it on Netflix). They mention a term: “They have a word called “wetico” which means a soft of cannibalism where one culture eats or destroys another culture’s way of life.” If someone thinks it’s OK to have surplus while others starve, they are considered to have a psychosis. I have to agree with that. Our culture has a bad case of Wetico. Now I have a name to hang on it.
`This week I was going to be talking to both Charles Neto and Janine Marie about ministry to Pagans in prisons because she does it in Maine and he does it in Maryland, and she mostly works with heathens and he mostly works with Wiccans, and Umbanda, and I thought that would be fascinating, but we lost Charles- oops. I worry I talked a bit too much.

This week I watched  Cheyenne Autumn, a classic western by John Ford.  Maybe it’s because I was a kid in the 60s, and that period threw on a filter over what movies they showed on the television then or how I saw them, but I’m told that Westerns always portrayed the Indians as bad and the cowboys as good; but what I remember was movies like this one. Whether the way they were shown in Disney Daniel Boone or Zorro, or other TV shows like the Lone Ranger (which generally showed Tonto either as really helpful or a victim of ignorant prejudiced men), what I remember being dished up a pile of “look what we did to those noble savages who were only defending themselves” perspective. Even the introductory scene in The Magnificent Seven shows that the gunfighters are defending the intrinsic right of a dead native to be buried. Sometimes I get a bit confused about the assumption that the westerns were anti-Indian, when I didn’t see them that way. Certainly Little Big Man, Billy Jack, and Dances with Wolves are later than the traditional westerns, but they reflect the way I remember portrayal of the Indians. I have always remembered fondly the scene in Broken Arrow where Cochise tells Jimmy Stewart to wipe the grease on his arms after eating because it’s good for the skin, and when told that white men wash it off, responds “what a waste!” That made sense to me.
Cheyenne Autumn is full of stars: Richard Widmark as the cavalry officer trying to do his job of avoiding violence with the fleeing Indians, Caroll Baker as the Quaker teacher who felt it her duty to protect the starving children, Mike Mazurki as the polish Sergeant who didn’t want to be forced into the role of “Cossack”, Karl Malden as the Prussian Captain Schurz who studied and admired the indigenous cultures, and hated his orders, but felt that order was necessary and he should follow them no matter how much he hated them, Sean McClory as Doctor O’Carberry at the fort, who led a mutiny to save the imprisoned Indians from being frozen to death because of those orders, and Edward G Robinson as the Secretary of the Interior Schurz who wanted to do the right thing, (although I got the impression that maybe his character also enjoyed frustrating the rich guys who were trying to pressure him). There were also some potshots at the media that would falsify reports to sell papers, and people who hated Indians because they knew someone killed by one. I thought it showed proper variety of people trying to deal with the situation. It also showed a variety of behaviors in the Cheyenne- showing them as humans who disagreed with each other (one young man was trying to steal another’s wife, and that was hurting the friendship between the older man and his father). They didn’t show a huge variety, but I think the movie was about the white people trying to deal with the issue.
The reason I took the movie out was in one of the Hillerman books (Sacred Clowns, I think), they mentioned that the movie had used Navajo extras- and had a scene where Chee and his friends were watching the movie at a local drive-in. The Navajos in the audience were all laughing because when the movie Indians were speaking “native language”  apparently they were using ribald language, because none of the white people could tell what they were saying, as long as it sounded the way the director wanted. For example, when they were supposed to be signing the treaty, they were making remarks about the size of someone’s penis. In Hillerman’s book, Chee’s Hopi friend used that as an analogy – that not understanding Navajo culture, he lacked the ability to interpret what was going on in the criminal investigation they were doing. That’s one of the cool things about Hillerman’s books, he knows that each of the native tribes had a different culture, even though some trading back and forth has happened because of the years of forced proximity. While the director chose to employ real Indians (even if they were the wrong tribe) the studio insisted on casting stars Ricardo Montalbon, Sal Mineo, & Dolores del Rio as the lead Indians- the ones who could actually speak English (get paid for lines- I’m guessing they didn’t count the Navajo unscripted speech).
I was talking about this to Willow, and she expressed that she had no interest in hearing this depressing story. This explained to me why, for some reason, they threw in a humorous diversion in the middle. It was probably like the clown scenes in Shakespeare after horrible dramatic scenes. This “entreacte” had Jimmy Stewart as Wyatt Earp,  as Doc Holliday, John Caradine as Major Blair, in the “Battle of Dodge” which had nearly nothing to do with the rest of the movie, except that the idiot cowboys who killed one of the Indians who was begging for food (“I always wanted to kill me an injun” “Go on, I dare ya!”) was interrupting their card game, and it was amusing in the middle of a fairly depressing story of the Cheyenne trying to return home to Wyoming from the deserts of Oklahoma on foot in winter.
This week I read the Navajo Mystery books: Thief of Time, First Eagle, Hunting badger, The Wailing Wind, and bits from the Tony Hillerman Companion. Coyote Waits finally came in to the library, so Willow (who reads faster than I do) is swiftly catching up. I rather like having someone with whom to talk about the books. I’ve discovered the pattern in them: in the first chapter the crime is described, in the second and third chapters, we find out how Chee and Leaphorn each start looking at it, a few chapters before the end, they compare notes and start to solve it. In the earlier books this collaboration was prevented by the many different and not particularly cooperative agencies in charge of different types of problem. The only one I haven’t seen yet is the CIA. The FBI is presented as extremely secretive, and often not too bright because of their fondness for their own protocol, and lack of respect for the locals from whom they take over. At least in NCIS, the two agencies work together, even if the FBI seems to hog the publicity. In one story the need for the FBI to maintain it’s image becomes a plot point.
Frustrated by this anti-FBI bias, I went back and watched a few episodes of Numb3rs, where, if they aren’t creative, they bring in help who is. (Specifically, I watched the episodes where Lou Diamond Phillips who played Chee in The Dark Wind, played an ongoing character, the sniper Ian Edgerton. They kept bringing him back for the whole run of Numb3rs.)  Each of the Hillerman books has something hook to grab my attention, the bubonic plague in the prairie dog population, the fiasco of a real man-hunt in 1998, Native Myths, Gold Fever and how it hurts people and the land. And, of course, there are wonderful characters. The Companion has an encyclopedic reference of all the characters in the books- sadly it was written in 1996, and only covers the first 10 or so books! I also went back to finish the book Witchcraft in the Southwest.
I also watched the movie the Shootist with John Wayne. According to the special features, it wasn’t well received when it was released, although it’s since become known as one of the greatest Westerns made. The theory was that there wasn’t enough action in it, although he shot one guy in the credits, two men who snuck into his bedroom to kill him in the middle, and four or five in the climax. I suppose he didn’t punch enough people. The interviews mentioned that in the book “the boy” killed him, and they made a “happier” ending for audiences by having him not. Given that he was actively dying of cancer, and had arranged that a bunch of people who wanted to shoot him would be there, we can be fairly certain that he’d gone to commit “suicide by idiot with a gun”. Jimmy Stewart played the doctor who diagnosed the cancer, and having described what to expect said “I don’t think that the death I just described to you is,… it’s not the one I would choose.” He’d been sucking down the Laudanum, and been told that eventually it wouldn’t work and that he’d die screaming. Given that, I can see that the boy who had come to love him might shoot him to help him die as he’d want to. But modern American audiences are just not rational about death. Both the movies I watched this week were excellent. I think I’ll watch more westerns.
I watched Gettysburg this week. Not a cowboy movie, although it was from the same period. Like Cheyenne Autumn, it had a cast of thousands and was a lot more closely based on history. Apparently it was shot on location. Sadly, it seemed to be endless depictions of people caught up in a stupid situation trying to get through it with some semblance of sanity and mostly falling back on “honor and duty”, and looking really confused. What are they doing? Shooting cannons and rifles and causing each other horrible injuries? Ripping up fields that are partially hayed (nice touch that)? They concentrate on “why is our ammunition stored so far away that it’ll take a half a day to get it to the cannons”, or “who’s going to take over when this officer is dead?” rather than “Why are we killing each other?” I also kept thinking about my friend Star, a shaman, who was overwhelmed by the unquiet ghosts when she visited there, and helped send them on to the right part of afterlife. (Yes, dying in confusion is a likely way to get stuck between stops.) I can’t imagine that recreating the battles on top of where they died wouldn’t help focus that energy and pour extra energy into them.
I’m also reading Ghosts in Shakespeare, which the title covers pretty well, although it also goes into other supernatural bits, and  Persepolis, a serious graphic novel about living in Iran during the early years of the Islamic revolution. I’m only reading a bit at a time because it’s hard to deal with ugly reality.

Oh well, I’m sorry to have been late this week. I have been having some fairly weird dreams and nightmares, so cashed it in at midnight to finish (at leisure, and with more mental health) today.


“An ocean, a rainforest, the human body, are all co-operatives. The redwood tree doesn’t take all the soil and nutrients, just what it needs to grow. A lion doesn’t kill every gazelle, just one. We have a term for something in the body when it takes more than its share, we call it: cancer.” Tom Shadyac