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,
…..as 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.

Impostor Syndrome

n. A phenomenon in which a perfectly intelligent person perceives that he or she is inferior to those around him or her, leading to a sense of falseness or feeling like an “impostor”. Particularly acute among academics.

Today I felt like Stitch when he carries the book about the Ugly Duckling out into the woods and cries, “I’m lost!” I don’t have a PhD topic. I know I have the mental capacity and the writing ability and just the skills that I need to do a PhD, but the subject, the focus, the topic continues to elude me. Everyone says this is normal, that is okay. It doesn’t feel okay. I feel like I’m wasting my time. I am simply interested in too many things, seemingly disparate, that I don’t know enough about to bring together. And yet I can talk about science fiction until the cows come home.

Things I am interested in: The Bible; reading in Middle English; Church tradition; theology and orthodoxy; mythology, folklore and faerie stories; faeries; encountering the supernatural; the unknown and the unknowable; abstract thinking; the Other; sociology, anthropology, psychology. The two medieval texts that continue to capture my imagination and that I can retell (in my own words) from memory are Sir Orfeo and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. I am interested in how the medieval mind conceived and perceived the supernatural. I am curious why I haven’t come across anything about Celtic folklore/paganism in my readings about religion in the Middle Ages. I want to find out what accommodations, compromises, parallel mindsets, syncretism took place to negotiate the co-existence of Faerie and Heaven. I want to uncover the medieval view of faeries, because so much of the folklore we have has been influenced by the Puritans. Robert Kirk (1641-1692) theorized that faeries were spiritual beings existing on a plane between angels and demons. I have read and seen hints that this idea existed long before him.

I mentioned this, briefly, to Alan, a post-doc who is also at the conference. He said he knew nothing about folklore, but that it sounded incredibly original. I know that I want to avoid the term “folk religion”. Other than that, I don’t know if I actually have anything here. Can I bring about a marriage between folklore and medieval religious thought (in the vernacular)? Can I find the texts and manuscripts to make it literary?

I don’t normally like to post twice in a single day, but it’s been such a long day it feels like two. And it’s my blog and I can do what I want.

Away again

I am in Leicester. (I know, whenever am I at home? I ask the same thing.) Yesterday as I traveled here, to a city I’ve never been, to a city where I’m not meeting anyone I know but going to a conference, as I checked myself into the B&B and asked where I could get dinner and then went there, that I might be doing this whole grown-up thing after all. I was reminded of Sarah’s post about the certain art of loneliness. The train rushed through rain storms and sunny skies and there was at one point a double rainbow, a brilliant, bright redorangeyellowgreenblueindigoviolet arc over the sky. I saw two pheasants and I read about brownies and other tutelary spirits in an Irish pub.

The conference starts in a couple of hours and I have happily finished my word count for today. I am still ever so slightly more than a day ahead: 8530 words. Today our noble knight has encountered a Black Knight, a band of Tylwyth Teg, and rescued a damsel in distress. All in a day’s work (and considerably better than yesterday, where to his embarrassment the damsel wasn’t quite in distress). He still needs to encounter the Green Knight before this chapter ends. I better get on that soon.

NaNoWriMo 2009

Clive "Jack" O'LanternOur house was the only one in the block with a pumpkin. His name was Clive “Jack” O’Lantern, and he was a jolly fellow.

Yesterday I posted on twitter, “Happy Halloween! Reformation Day! NaNoWriMo Eve! (On what other day do you get to celebrate THREE holidays at once?)” And though today I was thwarted from going to church for All Saints’ (since my church is All Saints’ Episcopal, I was expecting them to pull out the stops to celebrate), I hope those who observe All Saints’ have had a blessed day. November is here, and with it the rain and wind.

This morning, between the wee hours of 12:10 and 12:59 AM, I wrote 1,349 words. Today, in between rereading The Last Unicorn and catching up on episodes of The Daily Show, I have added another 1,775 words. I am only 200 words shy away of being a full day ahead of schedule, but I think I’ll be able to do that easily enough after dinner.

This passage reminded me (not that I had forgotten) why I love The Last Unicorn:

With an old, gay, terrible cry of ruin, the unicorn reared out of her hiding place. Her hooves came slashing down like a rain of razors, her mane raged, and on her forehead she wore a plume of lightning. The three assassins dropped their daggers and hid their faces, and even Molly Grue and Schmendrick cowered before her. But the unicorn saw none of them. Mad, dancing, sea-white, she belled her challenge again.
…..And the brightness answered her with a bellow like the sound of ice breaking up in the spring. Drinn’s men fled, stumbling and shrieking.
…..Haggard’s castle was on fire, tossing wildly in a sudden cold wind. Molly said aloud, “But it has to be the sea, it’s supposed to be.” She thought that she could see a window, as far away as it was, and a gray face. Then the Red Bull came.

As for my NaNoNovel, I am writing The Faerie King (Or, Prince Silas and the Faeries): “The King of Caern had three sons. [His] third and youngest son was Prince Silas, and he had no story.” Well, we’ll soon change that, won’t we?