Sticks and string

For the first time in over a year, I knit something. My mom brought some knitting with her — a scarf — but it was curling because she was using the stockinette stitch. In a moment of ruthlessness, I unraveled the scarf, rerolled the yarn, and started at it in the knit stitch. The click click of needles sliding against each other in steady rhythm was relaxing, comfortable, familiar. I don’t mind repetitive tasks; they keep part of my brain occupied, freeing up the other part to think and meditate. My hands didn’t start hurting until after a couple of inches. If I discipline myself, I might start knitting again. I just won’t be able to knit through an entire movie like I used to. I still want to learn to crochet, but I am waiting until some kind Stateside friend sends me an arthritic crochet hook…


A word that I like:

tact. noun.

  1. a keen sense of what to say or do to avoid giving offense; skill in dealing with difficult or delicate situations.
  2. a keen sense of what is appropriate, tasteful, or aesthetically pleasing; taste; discrimination.

Or as the OED puts it:

‘Ready and delicate sense of what is fitting and proper in dealing with others, so as to avoid giving offence, or win good will; skill or judgement in dealing with men or negotiating difficult or delicate situations; the faculty of saying or doing the right thing at the right time.’

I recently read a short story in which rhetoric is described as the art of ruling; if so, then tact is the art of conversation.

Write like the wind!

I wrote 5,040 words yesterday, propelling myself forward from being a day behind to being once more a day ahead with NaNoWriMo’s suggested daily word count. When discussing our respective writing exploits the past month (an impressive combined total of 191 pages, academic and creative), Kelly said, “We’re writing—I don’t know what we are. Writing crazies.”

“We’re writing machines!” said I. And we are. If only we—or rather I, as Kelly is much more disciplined about this sort of thing than I am—could keep this up all year ’round.

I am tired. I have been instructed to go to bed early, and having done everything today that I said I would do, I am inclined to obey.

* * *

“The Unknown Knight, is it? I have heard the bogles speak of you with cursing. But that is not your real name. Shall we-” and the Spider King hissed a long, clacking, chuckling hiss –“riddle it out of you?”

Blame the brownies

Well, in a whirlwind of e-mails and cobbled-together bibliographies, I Have a Ph.D. Topic. I will be researching the supernatural in the Middle Ages, focusing particularly on folklore and Faerie. So, I will now be reading about faeries, monsters, ghosts, saints’ lives, and all sorts of other supernatural phenomena (with a remarkably diverse array of primary texts, if I might add) and will get to call it work. How cool is that?

And, because this bit of yesterday’s NaNoWriMo writing has had me giggling all day, I thought I would share my amusement. Obviously Neil Gaiman’s macabre humor is rubbing off on me:

“Why don’t we just eat him raw?” asked the first bogle. He stared at Silas with bright, greedy eyes, slobbering all over his fur. The other two goblins looked at him disdainfully down their noses. One of them actually sniffed.

“Really, Grufak, we must enjoy the finer things in life. Oh, I know: we can wrap him in goat’s entrails and marinate him in pig’s blood, then roast him with garlic and hemlock,” suggested the second goblin.

“Oh yes, that does sound delightful,” answered the third goblin.

“Why can’t we just eat him raw?” asked Grufak again.

Really, the barbarism,” exclaimed the third goblin. “Go on and get the pig’s blood, Grufak.”

As the first goblin lumbered out of the pit, Silas asked, “Will I be alive while you are doing all of this?”

The second goblin looked surprised. “But of course. Dead blood doesn’t boil as well into the skin. Live blood at the start has a much better flavor.”

Prince Silas thought he was going to be sick.

Pride & Patience

My sin is pride. But pride is not entirely a vice. Pride is what got me through my senior year; pride saw me get into a postgraduate program in one of the UK’s top universities; pride sees me live a mostly-normal life despite having an incurable chronic disease; pride is how I’ve written 30,000 words for NaNoWriMo and still be a full day ahead. But pride also means that I could not tell my supervisor no when he kept piling on work that he wants me to do in the next three weeks—because he did not know that I was already doing extra work to prepare for a different PhD topic than the one I had told him months ago, resulting, in essence, in a scenario in which I would be doing the work for two PhDs at once, as well as writing a novel and trying to have a life.

But pride will also, eventually, see me push back and produce the PhD topic that I want to do. I may not have as forceful personality as he does, but I am downright stubborn, and my stubbornness knows patience.

And since I have finished my daily word count by 9 PM, I will, for the second time in November, be going to bed before midnight.

NaNo-09: Half-way

An excerpt:

The White Prince frowned, thinking that this was not very knightly of Sir Hudson, but for the sake of the other knight’s honor chose to say nothing. For the same reason he kept silent about the Knight of the Wagon, for he had never seen any knight wax on so about his lady. She must be a hard mistress indeed. Nothing at all like the Lady Alaine – and Silas leaned his head on his knees with a sigh. She lay enthralled in Faerie and here he was, waiting to be served up for dinner. No horse, no sword, no shield, and no chance for escape. Some knight he was.

Some time later, two of the giants stood and stretched, booming in big voices that they were going to go out hunting. The giants shouted at each other down the length of the cavern and then there was only one giant’s voice echoing in the cave. “I am going to sleep!” he announced. “But not without a snack!”

In three great strides he crossed the cavern and with one long arm snatched up Sir Hudson the Naturalist. Sir Hudson did not even scream as the giant whacked him casually against the floor. “Who are you then!” he shouted at Silas conversationally.

“Nobody,” answered Silas wearily. The giant shook off the knight’s armor and then swallowed him in one bite. He belched and then lay down next to the fire where he instantly fell asleep. Deep, monstrous snores rumbled through the cavern, a terrible thunder. The knights stayed huddled in their corner. Now they were four.

Regional differences

It’s raining. But that goes without saying.

Today I said, “In the spring…” and caused some confusion because what I actually meant was, “In January…” And when I was reviewing Pearl, I read, “I entred in that erber grene/ In Augoste” (ll. 38-9) and realized that the first time I read Pearl (a few years ago), I had never been in the UK in August, and so had been confused that it was green in the poem. August in my mind is brown, and also, spring starts in February. The “spring semester” started in January and went until May, when it let out into summer. Even though I now live so much farther north, the deep recesses of my mind still divide the seasons into February-April/Spring, May-September/Summer, October-November/Fall, December-January/Winter. I don’t want to write out the divisions for Scotland, because it is probably the exact opposite and it will be depressing. It is mid-November and the highs in San Antonio are still in the low-80s F/upper-20s C. Meanwhile, here it is already winter, already in the single digits of Celsius, where I am missing something if I leave without a scarf and gloves. And a hat, in case it rains, because the umbrella is just useless…

The rain isn’t that bad. It’s just water, and when you get home, you change into dry clothes and have a cup of tea. It’s just… wet.

We will remember

It does not feel like Veterans’ Day. It still doesn’t quite feel like November, I somehow managed not to go into any shop the past two weeks that was selling poppies, and memorial ceremonies were held on Remembrance Sunday instead of today. Our church has its own war memorial, and so at the end of the service we processed out into the courtyard where the oldest veteran placed a poppy wreath at the foot of it. As we left the church, we heard bagpipes, and were on North Street right as a military band marched down to the town memorial in front of the cathedral. The congregations from at least three churches followed them — the undergraduates in their red robes, more representatives from the RAF base nearby, and the townspeople. They all stood in the street and repeated the ceremony that we had had but on a larger scale, repeating the same words, the same hymns. And yet, the solemnity was different from honoring our veterans in the States. Perhaps it is because I did not mentally prepare for it ahead of time, but I couldn’t quite connect. Odd, considering that I am one of those who stops and reads the names on war memorials whenever I come across them.

We need to remember the people who go and experience the things we can only dream of, those who do not wake from the nightmare to the comfort of their beds. Regardless of politics, these people have strength, faithfulness and sense of honor. It would be ungrateful to treat them with any less the respect they deserve. The sermon on Sunday spoke of re-membering, not simply the opposite of forgetting, but also the process of reconciling, of reintegrating, and though he spoke in terms of rejoining God’s creation, this, indeed, is a challenge to all soldiers returning from war. In addition to remembering their sacrifices, we need also to remember their persons, and welcome them home.

The minister says:

They shall grow not old,
… we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them,
…..nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun
…..and in the morning
We will remember them.

All repeat: We will remember them.

Going native

Jesse said that I’m not an American anymore because I used the word “laborious” in conversation. I was describing my process of memorising Old English vocabulary words to one of the medieval MLitts. I, er, think I might have overwhelmed her because I was very thorough. Hi, my name is Chera and I work too hard.

I don’t want to jinx it, but, after perusing some articles today I think my new PhD topic idea just might work. Keep your fingers crossed! I don’t normally read fanfic (I will read it only if it is written or recommended by loneraven), but I was amused that once again I am Hermione.

In other news, it is officially Winter. I walk home in the dark even though I leave at 4:30 pm and there is frost on the ground in the mornings. My knees hate me. I think tomorrow I will check if anywhere in town sells folding canes, and if not, buy one from Amazon UK. I also think that I will treat myself to some Fisher & Donaldson’s tomorrow. They have a yummy new Christmas display in their window…

A quiet place

About a mile and a half away from where I sit, the finance ministers of the G20 are discussing the world’s problems. Or at least, I hope they are. It is a crisp, cold partly-cloudy day and I have already hung my washing to take advantage of the few hours of sunlight. I thought about going into town today, to see if there was any excitement, but I have cleaning to do, and go to the store (in the opposite direction), and write 1500 words. There was supposed to be a demonstration on Market Street yesterday. I didn’t know about it until afterward, but, I had walked down Market Street at the time it was supposed to be and no one was there. It is the first weekend of Reading Week, and really, the G20 did choose just about the quietest town ever.

Yesterday I concluded that I prefer Scotland to England, and that I do really like our School of English. As I was walking up to 66, I thought about that while it was refreshing to be around other medievalists at Quadrivium, it was all about networking, and how to use each other, jockeying for positions. I was honest and thus the least articulate about my research topic because I don’t really have one yet. But the community we have in 66 is based on common interests outside of academia, and it at least appears that we genuinely enjoy each other’s company; it is a community, even if I am the only medievalist.

Also, we have the sea. Yesterday, the tide was beginning to come in, and as the waves surged and crashed upon the rocks I could almost see the unicorns. Our castle became King Haggard’s castle, our waves became the unicorns, coming within a single step of the shore but too afraid of the Red Bull to leave the water. I tried skipping rocks in the pool. I failed until I found a perfectly flat and round one, about the size of a communion wafer. I said “Please skip” and it did. I skipped a few more and then I saw a round, flat rock the size of my palm. I also implored it to skip, commending its mightiness, and it leaped in bounds across the length of the pool. I was very pleased.

I came across this interpretation/reaction to Hallowmas. Instead of treating Halloween in isolation, step back and consider it within the context of All Saints’ and All Souls’. I especially appreciated the sense of the medieval mystery play.

“As a friend of mine observed recently, there is something medieval about Halloween. The masks, the running around in the dark, the flicker of candles in pumpkins, the smell of leaves and cold air—all of it feels ancient, even primal, somehow. Despite the now-inevitable preponderance of media-inspired costumes, Halloween seems, in execution, far closer to a Last Judgment scene above a medieval church door, or to a mystery play, than it does to Wal-Mart.”

Full article here: The Drama of Hallowmas.

For those who are interested, I have added a NaNoWriMo wordcount widget to the right on the page, beneath my NaNoWriMo participant badge. I update the word count daily after each writing session.