Festivities!

Today: Happy Halloween! Happy NaNoWriMo Eve! Happy Reformation Day!
Tomorrow/Sunday: Happy All Saints’ Day!
Monday: Happy All Souls’ Day!
Wednesday: Happy Guy Fawkes Day!

Did I leave anyone out?

As I said to my Calvinist friend, “my little ecumenical heart is always a little sad on Reformation Day.” I’m glad for Luther and what he did, but I still hope for a day when the Church is reconciled to itself.

I’m not doing NaNoWriMo this year (a dagger into my heart, let me tell you), but I am writing: it’s my turn for Bede. So for tradition’s sake I will watch a vampire movie tonight and stay up until midnight to write the first few lines. Good luck writing, fellow writers! This year I’m “a lover, not a writer,” in the NaNo sense. I salute you! May your fingers be swift, your caffeine be strong, and your word count multiply like rabbits. If you’re doing NaNo this year, let me know, so I can send you pretty pep talk cards and whatever other goodies I can.

On Monday, the Renaissance Group will be performing for an All Souls’ Requiem Mass. It’s our first performance so I’m nervous, but excited too.

Funny how all these holidays snuck up on me. In Oklahoma you were always forewarned by the sudden weather change in October: the dark stormy clouds, blustering winds, leaves swirling in a flurry of wind-borne fire, the sharp crispness of the air, the tanginess of apple cider, scents of dampness and occasional woodsmoke. Here the weather has been the same since I arrived, if getting gradually yet progressively colder. Today Felic and I are going to carve pumpkins, and then maybe it will actually feel like Halloween.

Edit: Well, we don’t have time to carve pumpkins, but the lady at the University Travel Agency wore a witch’s hat while we BOOKED OUR TICKETS TO ROME. I’m going to Rome for Reading Week!

Faith & Politics

Firstly: Read this post on Kali’s blog. She wrote a very eloquent, educated Christian response to a letter sent to her by another Christian who was dragging religion into politics.

Today I had coffee with a former Pentecostal, a Calvinist, and a nondenominational Baptist—sounds like Hard Soap again, except I represent Laura’s spot by being the liturgical one—and the subject turned briefly to American politics. Yesterday I read the ridiculous, ignorant, absurd Focus on the Family’s “Letter from 2012.”* This followed by the discussion today, the similar letter Kali received and her cogent response to it, only reinforced to me my rather “unchristian” approach toward government and politics.

The Christians who draft these letters need to remember the Constitution. There is separation of Church and State for a reason. It works both ways people: keep the Church out of the State, and keep the State out of the Church. And nowhere do I believe it is written that Christians should take over the government and impose their teachings on everyone else. Faith is a spiritual matter, not a political one. We, as individuals, should be promoting the Gospel of Christ through our lives, attitudes, actions, and words, trying to be as Christlike as possible. The State isn’t commanded to do that. We are.

* I found this response to Focus on the Family’s letter. I recommend reading it.

Holy smokes!

Last Tuesday our Latin class was unexpectedly cancelled, causing much speculation. Today Felicity and I arrived slightly later than usual, and thus didn’t get our usual, coveted seats right next to the white board, and were forced sit across the room. I sat behind Jesse and Sam, finally sitting with the other English majors. Class begins when Maxwell-Stuart arrives, so the students have the tendency to get there early, as he has more than once begun class five minutes early. Amidst the banter as we waited for him to arrive, Sam exclaimed, “Holy smokes!” Jesse and I followed his gaze and muffled our own shocked exclamations.

It was Dr Maxwell-Stuart, and he wasn’t in a kilt.

Class was cancelled last week, he apologized, because he had to go to the hospital. He continued: “My treatment has a curious side effect, which leaves me unable to wear my kilt.” Of course, the dear man declined to go further.

However, his attire today only increased the awesomeness that is the PMS*: high top converse, jeans, and a business shirt with sleeves rolled up just far enough to reveal the tattoos on both his fore-arms. Did I mention that he wears a gold earring? Seriously, I think I have the coolest Latin professor ever.

* This nickname was bestowed upon him by a previous student, not myself. It is also much easier than saying out his multisyllabic name every time.

Homecooking

This evening was just lovely. The past couple days I’ve been feeling just sort of blah and “gray,” but tonight Jane, Emma’s mom, had Felicity, Ginger, and I over for dinner. She picked us up in front of Gannochy and drove us out to her house which is about twenty minutes out. As we drove out I realized that I hadn’t left town since I arrived 4 weeks ago, and it was incredibly refreshing to see the little stone fences and sheep and horses and green. I love the sea, but the sea and the sky are the same shades of blue and gray and so are the buildings… It was wonderful to see living things.

We had a homecooked meal, with carrot and sweet potato soup (yum!), followed by salad and pasta, with a plum and apple crumble for dessert (mmm!!). We stayed until 10 PM just talking! We have plans to have dinner again, and sometime to go to Ikea in Edinburgh, and an open invitation to call Jane whenever we need a “mom” if we get sick. 🙂

When we stepped outside, the sky was so clear and black with pinpoints of light just hovering above arm’s reach. Incredible.

Love must be sincere

It’s been interesting and much cause for thought being a Christian in the medieval program. I’ve brought it up with Felic, and from time to time we wonder how one could be a medievalist and not be a Christian, whether being Christians ourselves gives us an advantage over non-Christians in our field because we share a similar background with the people we’re studying, or whether being Christians makes us biased, unfair. How to balance faith with academic discourse? I enjoyed Mirror of the Blessed Life of Jesus Christ because it was a devotional book, but I mustn’t let that prevent me from placing it in context, recognizing also that it was used as anti-Lollard propaganda, one extremist’s reaction to another.

The CU says a lot about evangelism, and for the first time I’m surrounded by people who do not know the Bible as well as I do, that actually I’m the odd one out now for having begun reading it at age 8 with no small amount of seriousness. Golly, do I know my Bible Drill. 🙂  But here, as at OBU with all its talk about missions, I hesitate. Not because I am ashamed of the Gospel—on the contrary, I know my Redeemer lives, that he is the body and person of Jesus Christ, Son of God and God himself, the mystery of the Trinity—but because I have never been one for confrontation. Especially now, as I am rereading The Sparrow, as I think on Emilio Sandoz and the Jesuits, on the human condition, on my own approach and relationship to God, the conclusion to my hesitation is that I am a soul seeking God, on a journey of my own, and this will manifest itself in the mirror of my life without needing words.

Continue reading

Busynesse

My sister-in-law said on her blog that “if you’re too busy to blog, then you’re too busy!” I read this while I glanced through my blogroll this morning during my quick Internet routine, prioritizing emails, posts, etc, to go over again when I get back from class and (maybe) have a little time. Considering that my posting frequency has dropped, and correspondingly the posts have become longer, my response was “but I am busy!” I try to make up for my infrequent posts by writing interesting ones when I do. Otherwise you might get a post written while I wait for my oatmeal to cool to a temperature suitable for consumption, the oatmeal-and-apple being my second breakfast, masquerading as lunch, for the day, eaten in an absentmindedness caused from staying up until 1 AM doing homework that we weren’t going to turn in, for a class I’m not even being assessed on. I need to go to the store, as my options for lunch were pasta or oatmeal, and I opted for oatmeal because it took less time to make, and I’m on my last tea bag. After I finish reading Nicholas Love today I’m supposed to call Felicity and we’ll both make the dreaded trip to Tesco. Until then, I’m going to eat my apple, finish my tea, read “Sunday” and the Treatise, go over the discussion questions, and brush up on my Lollardy and Carthusian monks.

A moment of victory: Dr Maxwell-Stuart switched to my side of the room half-way through the new exercises–“I don’t want to leave anyone out unnecessarily”–where I sit at the front, leaving me no time to prepare, and I successfully parsed Stellam claram viderunt et statim Altum Deum laudabant. “They saw a bright star and immediately began to praise God on High.” Three weeks into Latin and we’ve got 6 cases, 4 tenses, and 4 declensions, and somewhere in my brain it’s beginning to click.

More than once this passage has come to mind over the past few weeks:

For povreliche yfostred up was she,
No likerous lust was thurgh hir herte yronne.
Wel ofter of the welle than of the tonne
She drank, and for she wolde vertu plese
She knew wel labour but noon ydel ese.
But thogh this mayde tendre were of age,
Yet in the brest of hire virginitee
Ther was enclosed rype and sad corage;
And in greet reverence and charitee
Hir olde povre fader fostred shee.
A fewe sheepe, spynnynge on feeld she kepte,
She wolde noght been ydel, til she slepte.

–“The Clerk’s Tale,” The Canterbury Tales, Geoffrey Chaucer, IV. 213-224

Dolphins

Laura’s birthday was this week, so today Felicity and I took her to Jannetta’s and then hung out at The Central. Jannetta’s is the gelato place in town. Ice cream, mmm… I had Ferrero Rocher and it was amazing. We were going to walk down to West Sands but it was cold so we went to the long pier instead.

That’s half-way down the pier, looking back into town. The castle ruins are on the right, the cathedral ruins and St Rule’s tower are in the center, and in between the two amongst the mass of buildings are Gannochy and the English buildings.

The view of the North Sea was incredible… and we even got to see dolphins! I tried to get a picture of them…

Laura showed us around Deans Court after dinner and then we went back to the pier for stargazing. The sky was partly cloudy, but because we’re just a small town next to the sea, and so far north, the stars are breathdaking. I can’t wait to go out to the pier on a clear night! Tonight we had an amazing view of a 3/4 harvest moon rising over the black sea, casting a glittering golden path across the waves to the horizon. I tried to take a picture, but just couldn’t do it justice. It’s times like these that I wish I had a better camera that can take nighttime pictures.

My day off and I only got to read two pages of The Sparrow. This makes me very sad indeed.

Thursday

My biggest accomplishment today was reading “Thursday.” And confusing everyone around me as to what day today actually was. (It’s Friday.)

I woke up tired because I slept in, because last night Felic and I went to Kate’s for a Medievalists’ marathon of Black Adder. It was slightly awkward because I didn’t know most of them, but fun. There was wine and cheese and gerbils. I sat next to Dr Woolf, a prof who likes to hang out with students, and drank my Dr Pepper out of a wine glass. “His pot is blacker than his kettle, Black Adder! Black Adder!”

Because I knew my room would distract me, and today must be A Productive Friday, I headed over to 66 North Street. I’m glad I did. Not only did I finish “Wednesday” and “Thursday” (chapters from Mirror by Nicholas Love) but I also got to spend time with some of the English folk. I had been feeling somewhat isolated from the rest of the English department because I only saw other English majors in my Research Skills class, and the class is so large that I usually stick by Ginger or Katherine. But this week our class was split in half because the classroom in the library is only so big, and the group I went with on Wednesday is the same group that are also in my Latin class, who are Renaissance people, and who also use the upstairs reading room in 66. Which, happily, is the same room I prefer. So today I found myself sharing the silence with Rachel, Bronnie, Jesse, and Katherine, punctuated periodically by sharing interesting things, and ’round 4:00 a, “I need a break. Do you need a break?” and we all went to MacGregor’s for coffee. Even though I tend to be a hermit when I study, I’m going to try to go to 66 more often because I am still productive there, and there are people to be with, and nice people too.

CU tonight was “Get Involved Night,” so there were booths set up around the town hall for the different ministries the CU does. I signed up for a discussion group that’s going to read Good News to the Poor by Tim Chester and talked with Ali about Families First, which has a Big Brother/Big Sister type thing. I want to get involved with something in town, but it’s hard to decide because there is literally always something to do. Which is great, but also, bad. (Most) Wednesdays and Saturdays are the only nights I don’t have something to go to. Tuesdays and Thursdays I can literally be doing something from 3 PM until 10 PM without any breaks (I haven’t, because I’ve said no, that’s crazy, but the point is that there are enough things that I can). Meanwhile, I have a massive reading load that I spend all of my free time chipping away at. So I’m torn with this desire to put my roots into the town, to befriend a child or help with the Toastie Bar, but at the same time trying not to overload myself. For many things I will just have to say No. (And now I’m learning why the first two years of uni don’t count for undergrads here.)

By the way, Dr Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog is awesome. “With my freeze-ray I will -stop- the world…” It’s worth the $6 it costs on iTunes.

Literature is my boyfriend

According to one of my Chinese hallmates, I look “more beautiful than ever!” She amended, not that I wasn’t beautiful before, but even more so now. Had I found a boyfriend?

I tilted my head, blinked for about half of five seconds, resisted the inclination to imitate Mal in “Serenity” with an articulate “huh” and answered calmly that I’m dressed up for a reception. Upon further chit-chat, apparently one of her guy-friends had been trying to get my number. I played up the workaholic bit again and she agreed that I was “much too busy for a relationship.” Because, at the present, considering I spend several hours with him every day, Nicholas Love is my boyfriend. He’s a funny guy and a good writer. What else could you want when literature is your boyfriend?

On my day off I went to the book sale at the Union and bought four VSI’s when I shouldn’t have (Ancient Philosophy, Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle, which I have been coveting for years) and began rereading The Sparrow while sitting in the cemetery with Felicity and startling every other tourist who came around the corner and saw living persons where they were expecting only dead ones. On Sunday I went to church and spent the remaining waking hours on Latin. Fortunately it’s beginning to make sense. My class schedule is switched around this week, so after Latin on Monday I spent the rest of the day reading Nicholas Love: Middle English prose is a heck of a lot easier than I thought it would be. As I mentioned above, I’m quite enjoying it. It’s basically a synthesis of the Gospels and tradition about Holy Family and the apostles, with some introductory theology thrown in. My work at the museum is proving helpful here because a lot of the tradition I’m familiar with, and it’s fun to encounter it in narrative style.

Monday evening I also got a special treat: Hanna Howard and her brother came to visit during their whirlwind tour. I dragged Felicity along as we Oklahomans took over a table in a pub and enjoyed the evening. It was great to see a familiar face, to talk about books and writing and things back “home.” I’m glad we were able to meet up.

All day Tuesday I kept thinking it was Wednesday, and thus got a head start on reading Saussure for Research Skills. Hooray for Norton Anthologies… I think Saussure might be making some sense. And it shows that I can’t escape modern literary theory by being a medievalist after all, because my Arthurian Romance book today began talking about Arthur as a floating signifier for a hero. Pearsall is affirming some of the guesswork I’ve done about early Arthur and is giving me direction as to where to go next in my research. Hopefully tonight after the reception I can familiarise myself with Geoffrey of Monmouth, in addition to reading “Wednesday” from Nicholas Love.

Today I saw an original edition of St Augustine of Hippo’s sermons, a facsimile of the Ellesmere Manuscript and the Loutrell Psalter, and first editions of the King James Bible, Charles I’s Eikon Basilike (I was positively squeeing over this one–I’m sure I’m the only person at OBU who actually read this book in its entirety), and Emma (in three volumes). I would love to study the marginalia in medieval manuscripts and how they interact with the text. Seriously? Combination of my interests: literature, history, art history, museum studies/archives. Maybe I can, we shall see. For now, I must find Lower College Hall for the scholarship reception. I hope they feed me. I’m having to miss a perfectly interesting lecture on Medieval Scots Poetry because of them.

Act of living

I was going to say about today that once again I was not as productive as I would have liked, but then I realized how wrong I would be. No, I may not have done all the exercises in Units 1-3 from my Latin book, but I did type up my Latin and Arthurian Legend notes. I began Nicholas Love’s The Mirror of the Blessed Life of Jesus Christ. I had lunch and dinner with Felicty. We went to Argos, where I bought a ridiculously overpriced printer out of necessity, and hopped into a yarn store just to see. We were the only customers and the woman there was very nice, we got to talking about knitting and crocheting and the wools (yarn) were just gorgeous. She invited us to the knitting club on Thursdays, and we think we’re going to go. I’ve begun to learn how to crochet (easier on the hands). I attempted to read my tea leaves and determined they looked like a whale, or a dancing penguin. We went grocery shopping, walked back in the rain and got drenched, watched some Firefly, and went to the CU. At the CU we met Robert, I recognized Elaine from Ren Group and said hello, officially joined the CU and talked with Esther and Murry about joining the Sallies link group.

Felicity and I laugh at how incredibly different our activities are from those of my hallmates, who wonder why I don’t party and stay out all night. Instead I read all the time, watch sci-fi and go to church and CU, and now to the knitting club. A problem I’ve had with my floor is that every time I go into the kitchen, if other people are in there, I feel like I’m intruding or a curiosity on display. They watch what I eat and how I make it, and make comments occasionally. Last night, when I was making soup, again, I responded to a comment with, “Well, I had three lectures today so I don’t really have time to cook.” “Three lectures!!” “Yes, I’m taking five classes.” “FIVE?!” And they were flabbergasted. “Well, your major is English, so at least it’s in your native language.” “Well, actually it isn’t. All of my reading is in Middle and Old English, which are from the sixth to fifteenth centuries.” “So like Shakespeare?” “Before Shakespeare.” Again, astonishment. “You are superwoman” one of them said. I smiled, took my soup, and left.

Sarah and Kelly are both going to be in Shawnee this weekend and this makes me miss Shawnee terribly. I can see so clearly in my mind’s eye UBC across the street from our house, Braum’s on the other side of Chicago Street Deli. Crossing Kickapoo to get to campus via the path between Wood and Thurmond, the library quad. The absurdly narrow stairs in Owens Hall. Driving down St Gregory’s lane to go to the museum. I see our living room, the dining table, the sunlight streaming in from our wall of windows… This evening when we were making tea in Felicity’s kitchen, I went to get the milk and automatically put milk in both cups, as if I were making a cup for Kelly. I’m glad to have someone with whom I feel so comfortable, but I still miss Kelly, and Kali, terribly, and the Little Red House and the home we created there.