The weather has been ranging from unseasonably warm to bitchy cold from rain to snow to almost nothing but small grey berms. And, as is traditional, I get a blizzard for my birthday.
Last weekend I went to the Feast of Lights. We generally sell there if it’s not against Birka, but Willow has come down with misery of some sort or other. I can hardly be surprised, the final tally for Birka was over 1600, so that’s a lot of germs to choose from if your immune system wants to party with a new virus or bacteria. Apparently hers did. I have to say (having spent WAY too much time on facebook) that it seems like every other one of my friends was also down with something or other as well. That time of year I guess. I guess I called in saying that we weren’t going to be able to sell mid-week, and Jane let me share her room, so I didn’t have to pay for a hotel for just me. I hardly minded not selling because it allows me to not have to go back and watch the tables (although Jane offered to keep an eye on them for me when I was speaking), so I could go to workshops.
I did have twinges of a sore throat on Thursday, which was worrisome, but I took my vitamins and slept myself out, and as usual, that did the trick. Heavens knows how many colds could be averted if people would simply give themselves time to sleep! Not having to pack the van was a blessing, but I had a nagging feeling as I packed my suitcase and a bag of food in the morning that I was forgetting something important. I got out in time to get there for the first workshop- then about halfway there (an hour out) I remembered. I was teaching RúnValdr and had spaced packing the posters and handouts. I spent about five minutes trying to figure out if I could get along without them, had to admit that I couldn’t, and turned around and went back. Aside from the two hours of extra driving, I also had to print out a set of the handouts. I got there with about a half hour to bring my bags in, and then plunged right into the class. I’m glad I went back for the materials!
Then I could relax and read the program- to discover that I’d been working on an earlier version of the schedule. I’d been thinking I was going to be doing RúnValdr and “Do you Fear Death?”, but it turns out the Death was the one that was dropped, and I was doing “Traditional Winter Celebrations” and “Votive Offerings”. Oops, and drat! Frankly, I developed the Votive Offerings talk to promote the ones we sell, and we didn’t have the table there. This also meant that I didn’t have the “show and tell” aspect of the talk I depend on. Also, I have I would have brought a bunch of images of votives I’ve collected. Some of the Greek and Roman ones are fascinating, (even occasionally disturbing). One of my favorites is a bust of a girl with her hair falling out- apparently this was given to Minerva’s shrine for making it grow back. Some Roman ones for internal disorders showed images of the organs- they look more like autopsies to me, not an image of something healthy. But the offerings sometimes show the problem that needs or needed fixing, and sometimes show the problem fixed- so there are a lot of variations. (Also gifts for the temple and priests, substitutes- like a horse shaped cookie or sculpture instead of a horse, etc.) I hope I get another chance to do that one with the visual aides.
The Traditional Winter Ceremonies was based on my mania for holidays, and requires my lists of holidays. I called home and Kat, bless her heart, was able to find my files and send them to me. I couldn’t figure out how to print them out from the hotel’s computer, but I spent the first 90 minutes in the morning noting my favorite holidays, and the class went fairly well. I think I should make a handout- I think the people who came would love to have had that to take back with them.
Sadly, the drawbacks to speaking is that I am often scheduled at the same time as classes I’d like to attend. I was able to catch one with Raven and Stephanie but I didn’t get to any of Orion’s workshops. I really enjoyed the discussion of indigenous voices with Andras’ guests Wande Abimbola and Ifaboyede M. Ajisebo McElwaine Abimbola. It’s always exciting to hear about what’s going on elsewhere in the world (well, more on that later), but I liked hearing about their college- the only one in africa where the classes are being taught in the Yoruba language not French or English. The theory is that if there are many dialects, that the European language will serve as a lingua franca- but in a multi-lingual setting, there is no reason not to use the native language except residual colonial mentality.
I went to a dream workshop with Juniper Talbot which was incredible. The techniques she shared really help in finding the many layered meanings of dreams and make examining even other people’s dreams useful to everyone involved.
Feast of Lights has gone back to the Clarion in Northampton, Massachusetts. This is the one where the rooms are all grouped around foyers with either a garden or fireplace. We were able to eat by the fire. They have tables and chairs for that. I stayed with Jane and Bacchus (he had the other bed, I brought an inflatable mattress), and brought a batch of Chicken Fiesta. (It makes such a large recipe that I was able to leave plenty to feed the kids while I was gone as well.) Jane brought Salad and Bacchus, of course, brought imbibables. I saw many friends- Bob seems to have remembered my birthday, and brought me a candle with a bizarre x shaped wick that makes a large flickering flame. Currently it’s sitting in the bathroom waiting for the next power outage- or being lit by anyone who wants to soak in the tub with candles. (We’re getting quite a collection of them by the tub now.)
With all the driving to and fro, I finished listening to “the Grandeur that was Rome”, the course on Roman Art. I’m still getting some of the art books about Greek art from the one I was listening to last week, as well as books on Roman art I got to help with this one. Forgive me if I’ve mentioned before, but I’ve discovered as I listen to the audio courses, that I really do get a lot more out of them when I read as much of the “supplemental” reading they suggest as I can get my hands on. I was actually much more taken with the Greek than the Roman art, although I have to say, I think that there has to have been a lot more to Roman art than copying Greek statues and architecture. OK, and Roman Portraiture. Wow, were they good at that! I could look at their portrait busts all day, and I really wish that I could have seen them painted. When people show them painted, they tend to use a flat color, like a cartoon, but we know from surviving wall paintings and even mosaics, that they knew about painting, so I expect that a painted statue was like painting a portrait on a three dimensional canvas. The result would have been something like our waxworks, I expect. Creepy if you came upon one in low lighting, I bet. I wouldn’t say that I really can tell one period of Roman Art from another, but it was sad to see the incredible veracity and power of the portraiture in the early Empire devolve into relatively crude depictions in the later Empire. Frankly, the more stylized early work had more energy and honesty than the later stuff. I like comparing what was going on in Etruria and Greece at the same time, and have started on another audio course on the Iron Age Celts, and am trying to line those up on the same timeline. I think I’m going to go back and listen to the Integrated history of Greece and Rome, and see if I can match the Celtic activities, opidia, art etc. to the works mentioned in that.
The books I’m especially enjoying right now are on the “Greek Dark Age”. At the end of the Mycenaean period (Troy, Heroic Age) about 1200 to 800 BCE there was another Dark Age, where we know very little, literacy seems to disappear, no monumental building went on, and it’s a big mystery, not unlike the period after the fall of Rome. Was there a climactic component to the drastic depopulation and “loss of culture”? Perhaps disease? These are wonderful areas of study that haven’t been much taken into account in traditional historical surveys.
Speaking of literacy, I have been appalled and relieved to hear about the threats to the Library at Timbuktu, and how many of the irreplaceable manuscripts have been saved by individuals. How can anyone feel it’s acceptable to destroy books even if they disagree with what’s in them? I was also very unthrilled to hear about the ruling that says that it’s legal to kill Americans linked to Al Qaeda. Sorry, having a “informed high-level official” say that someone poses an “imminent threat” doesn’t fall within (the way I see) our rights of due process. Neither, I suppose, does a person who’s shot by a police officer who is participating in a “sting” or other operation intended to prevent further criminal activity. But I can also see this as somewhat analogous to the Trayvon Martin case. Zimmerman may well have thought he was seeing an “imminent threat”, but one would prefer legal confirmation by thorough investigation before the suspect is killed. If occasionally someone is accidentally killed while trying to bring them in, that’s different than giving ANYONE a carte blanche to go around killing people because they think they’re bad guys. 007 may be good for movie plots, but it’s not good for real life. I’m sure there are people out there who think that I’m evil because I’m a pagan, (or not their interpretation of Christian, or Muslim), and I am very happy that our country generally says that their opinions don’t get to decide whether I live or die. There are places in our culture where one man’s religious feelings are allowed to have a huge (and I think inappropriate) impact on the lives of others: for example custody decisions are made based on one judge’s feelings. Some of the Christian’s who work against birth control are trying to impose their religious views on others. I’ll admit that we live in a complex world, but at the same time, I am very disturbed any time our Government decides it’s allowed to bypass the basic rights (privileges?) we have established for Americans.
Willow finally felt well enough that we could go to see The Hobbit on Wednesday. We really enjoyed it, and I was glad to have seen it. The additions didn’t bother me, and we came home and looked up the “Dwarf Cheat-sheet” so we could talk about who did what because even when I already knew all the names (I know both all 7 Disney dwarves as well as all 13 Tolkien dwarves and can recite them quickly), trying to match them to the on-screen images was hard. Give me a DVD and a few watchings and I’ll be fine. Meanwhile, what was up with that hat they put on Bofur, or Nori’s hair? (especially Nori’s hair!) And why didn’t Radagast wipe the bird poo off his face? It made him look like part of Davy Jones’ crew on Curse of the Black Pearl. I admit, I’m going to have to go back and re-read the Hobbit, with perhaps a bit too much of “let’s see what he changed” in my attitude. I am looking forward to the next ones.
The Hobbit is such a long movie (three hours) that by the time we got out it was six, and it was a dash to “pop over” to Manchester and put the bins of Gold Key garb that Kat had cleaned, sorted, repaired, and packed up again into the SCA locker. We were watching the minutes because it’s generally about an hour from Manchester to our house, and my show starts at 8. We did get home by 7:30 though, and it turns out that my big problem was that I hadn’t stressed to my guest that it was 8 pm EST- eastern time. The studio is apparently based in California, so it was late afternoon for him while I was babbling on, wondering where he was. Luckily the gentleman who does the next show chatted with me, and we rescheduled my guest, but THAT was a learning experience I hope not to need repeated. In case you wonder why I mention all the foolish things I do, it’s because I hope that if possible you can profit from my mistakes and not have to go through this stuff yourself.
This week I tried another Roman Empire Mystery series- Parthian Shot by David Wishart. The mystery was intriguing, but I will not read another in the series, the protagonist, Marcus Covinus, uses modern euphemisms, which may give it a greater feeling of a Raymond Chandler novel, but constantly broke through any feeling that I was reading about a historical character. I have sullenly (and gleefully) grabbed one of my Marcus Didius Falco books to re-read, and am happily “listening” to them say “Cobnuts” rather than the f word, and enjoying just as wonderful a story without the anachronistic intrusions.
I also pulled out my Engineering an Empire DVDs and re-watched the bits on Roman engineering, such as Trajan’s forum. Incredible. I have tried to look up who has made a larger freestanding concrete dome than the Pantheon because everyone says it’s the largest since modern time, but can’t find what supplanted it.
Logan’s Run came in, and I have now finally watched it. I fear I keep deconstructing the society in my mind- so many reasons it couldn’t work! If you don’t remember it, it was a 70’s sf film which was probably based on the premise “never trust anyone over 30” in which science provided a perfect world in which no one had to do anything but enjoy themselves, and everyone was killed off at 30, although no one seemed to think there was anything wrong with this (except the occasional runner). People want to be creative, people want to be useful, people want to be connected to other people. There was just so much wrong with the premise that the rest was spoiled by it.
Ah well, I’m a grumpy old lady. Now I’m a 61 year old grumpy old lady. It occurs to me that by the time my Mother was my age she already was in her three years of “you’re supposed to be dead in a month or two” stage of cancer. I really expect I’ll be more likely to follow Grammie’s pattern of living until I’m 94, but meanwhile that was an arresting thought. Still, as I think about my parents and grandparents lives, when you “wake up dead” what is it that you are going to look at in your life? We hope to be a good influence on our children, and the other people around us; to help them be the best they can be, and help them where we can, …the basic “have left the world better off for having been here” idea. I’m pretty sure my parents did that. And I hope I’m doing that.
Meanwhile, having taken FAR too long to get the letter out this week, I’m going off and having some birthday cake!
It is better, of course, to know useless things than to know nothing.
Lucius Annaeus Seneca
(Apropos of nothing I wanted to say- it’s five o’clock and still light out! Yay!)