Sunday, March 31, 2002

I wrote a long entry last night, only to have my computer lock up just as I was about to post it, and lose the whole thing. My computer locks up infrequently enough that it would not have occurred to me to save early and often. But you can bet I'm going to do so tonight...!

Saturday I actually left the house; today I didn't bother to. Got to love a lost weekend! This is my reward for having worked so hard up to Dance Seminar--that is, my second reward, if you count the nice bardic circle we had late that night (no, Dance Seminar is not famous for its bardic activities!).

Yesterday, I did dishes, cleaned the bathroom, wrote some e-mail, finished the White Birch, discovered the tune I want to use for my Coronet song, discovered I can't find the words ANYWHERE and don't want to filk it without seeing how the original rhyme/meter worked, and then went out to dinner at the Freight House. Be warned: everything at the Freight House is incredibly delicious, but if you get the smaller prime rib, it's about twice as large as any other prime rib you have ever seen in your life. When I got up, I had only eaten maybe 1/3 of it, and I still felt like my arteries were accumulating blockages even as I drove out of the parking lot! Then I went grocery shopping.

In the evening I worked on my current kumihimo project, which isn't turning out that well, and is taking a really long time in the bargain. So I took a bit of a break on it, and toyed with the lucet I bought at Pennsic. It had come with a skein of pearl cotton, which was making a bony, unappealing little braid that tightened up too easily and hurt my fingers. So I removed the cotton, and tried a spare skein of oyster-colored rayon, shiny and slippery, and that turned out to be the right fiber for my lucet. It made a gleaming, supple footlong braid. I think I'll use it to tie up the bundle of kumihimo pieces for Elashava.

This while watching The Saint, which is (I am almost embarrassed to admit) one of my favorite movies. I saw it back in Bismarck when I was living there, and went back to see it again (this was back when I had time to see movies twice, let alone once!), then bought the video. It's got its low points, and a full load of cliches, but there's something nice about the leads--played by Val Kilmer, for whom I would swim oceans, and Elizabeth Shue, for whom I have a certain fondness after Adventures in Babysitting (also one of my favorite movies, for no good reason except sheer silliness). Hmmm--on looking at the dates for those two movies, it's amazing to me that Elizabeth's acting didn't really improve in ten years. But neither role is very demanding, after all. Fluff, but lovable fluff. I slept in, read, did laundry, paid bills and rent, wrote more e-mail, started cutting out fabric for the garb I promised to make for May Feaste (the La Crosse Chamber Chorale's fundraising dinner in May), considered whether I was going to make it up to Office Depot to photocopy the Birch, and thought, no, not really. Tomorrow evening will do. ;)

I'm reading something really fascinating: The Rom: Walking in the Paths of the Gypsies, by Roger Moreau. The author is more dilletant than scientist; he has a crazy theory and sets out at his own pace, with a ragtag band of Indians, to prove it. In a nutshell, he is trying to establish that the Gypsies came from three tribes in India, who were taken as slaves by the Turks around the turn of the last millenium, kept in the world's first concentration camp in Afghanistan for several generations, and moved together into Europe. He also has ideas about how they overcame taboos against tribal and caste intermarriage, how they lost their Hindu religion, and what they were doing in the 125 years between leaving the camp and arriving in Europe. He travels with a representative of each of the three original tribes, and likes his research liberally mixed with conversations over alcohol, with a sort of fiction therapy, and with sentimental paeans to the Romani as a people.

To tell the truth, I would hate this book if I hadn't already read a much more sociologically-based work, Bury Me Standing by Isabel Fonseca. Fonseca really gives a solid factual account of what we know, and what we don't, about the Roma. Not that her book is dry--not in the least, and she definitely involves herself in the account, discussing the time she spent with Gypsy families in eastern Europe and how interwoven she began to feel in their lives. She gives fascinating information about their beliefs and convictions, their habits and rituals, so that you begin to feel you know these people. You care about where they came from and what their fate will be in the 21st century. Moreau doesn't provide this kind of background information; in fact he really seems more stuck on himself than on the Gypsies. So reading Fonseca's book first really helped, otherwise I would have quit reading Moreau's book for lack of caring.

The Roma (Gypsies) fascinate me, I think because they have gone through some of the same things the Jews have, only without the guiding principle of religion to tie them together, and without our tradition of written and oral history. The Roma seem to live without past or future. No one knows, and few people care, where they come from--they are almost universally reviled, anywhere they live, and their diaspora is almost as large as the Jewish diaspora. Their culture is interesting and lively, yet very few people have looked into it with any depth, preferring the cartoon concept of the Gypsy in popular culture: Esmerelda dancing in Disney's version of The Hunchback of Notre Dame, the vague fairy tales of children being stolen by the Gypsies, even the ridiculous stories that Gypsies are forced to wander because they would not help Jesus when he was carrying the cross through the streets. (History is silent on the Gypsies before medieval times, so the idea that they might have lived in Jesus' time is just fiction.)

There aren't enough Gypsy personas in the SCA, even though they are as period as period can be--references to them in Europe date back to 1350 or so, and their existence in Asia Minor (and perhaps the Indian subcontinent, if Moreau can be believed) goes back hundreds of years earlier. Yet there are lots of Jewish personas in the SCA. Is it only because many SCA members happen to be Jewish, and Jewish culture is well-known in many parts of the US, whereas Gypsy culture is widely unknown or misunderstood? Who knows. Just let me go on record as saying, I think Gypsy personas in the SCA are a great idea--as long as they are accompanied by an effort to educate others about the Roma. But if someone just wants garb that looks vaguely Middle Eastern but doesn't care enough to do the reading and learn about who they are playing, well, I would find that disrespectful.

Not that it's really my place to judge. I'm not of Gypsy extraction. Though my unwashed bed-head, seen in my reflection in my front window as I sit at the computer, currently looks a lot like the floofy black hairdos in photos of Gypsy women in Moreau and Fonseca's books. ;)

Anyway. I'm currently making plans for events in the next few months. I really want to go up to the U.P. for this event, being put on by a brand new proto-incipient group called Skerrstrand. Seems to me to be a real opportunity to expose new folks to the Northshield bardic tradition, and see the beginnings of what looks to be a very vital, up-and-coming group--one who will, if I understand correctly, eventually have to decide if they are Northshield or not. I'm having trouble getting folks to agree to go up with me, though. *sigh* Those lazy Northshield bards...! For shame.

Thursday, March 28, 2002

Got an e-mail today from a community college student, who didn't give his/her name. (S)he found me on the Librarian Avengers website and wrote to ask me a series of questions about librarianship. I wrote her back a veritable tome. I like to talk about my profession.

I took yesterday afternoon and this morning off to go to Madison for a Passover seder. For the last few years, my family has gone to the home of some of my parents' oldest Madison friends for the first-night seder. The Centers are really, really cool people--Sue is assistant director of the law library on the UW-Madison campus, and her husband Bud is an attorney. They have two kids, living elsewhere, who are currently in their early-to-mid 20's and very successful at what they do. You should hear Bud and Sue talk about their accomplishments while trying to sound like it's not that big a deal. It's very cute. You can tell how proud they are.

Some of my earliest memories are of "Uncle Bud and Aunt Sue"--I don't even call all of my actual aunts and uncles "Aunt" or "Uncle so-and-so"! Cute story: when I graduated from college, my uncle Steve sent me an audiotape from when I was a toddler just learning to talk. It was fun to listen to. Turns out I was one of those 'musical' language learners--I practically sang whole sentences, getting the ups and downs and inflections as though I were having conversations, but you couldn't understand a word. The only thing you can actually understand is when Dad asks me, referring to my grandfather, "Who's that?" and I respond, "Uncle Bud?" (Hey, give me a break, I was like 1 1/2, and anyway, I've never been that close to my extended family.)

So you can tell I've known these people a long time. Besides the nice company, the meal was scrumptious, as usual. Sue is also an incredible perfectionist--she spends the whole meal popping up to put things in the oven so they will be ready precisely at the right moment in the meal, and doing dishes so there won't be any mess at the end of the meal. And she won't let anyone else help. She was so generous with leftovers too--my mom was home with the flu and Sue packaged up practically the rest of the meal to send back to her, after making me swear that I would tell her how much we missed her and wish her a quick recovery.

Once back home, had some nice conversations with Mom, mostly from across the room. There's no way I'm going to risk catching yet another cold/flu ten days before the next La Crosse Chamber Chorale concert (scroll down to see info for the April 7 concert). Still it was nice to talk to her; I probably kept her up later than I should have. Then she even woke up early with me this morning and made me fried matzo for breakfast. There is nothing in the world like Mom's fried matzo! Except maybe mine, but I still think she has a magic touch.

Shewt, I wonder if the eggs in my fridge are fresh? Maybe I'll go to the grocery store tomorrow evening.

Anyway...this weekend is kind of my break weekend, after so much hard work leading up to last weekend's event. Nothing scheduled, but I plan to get some extra sleep in, put together the White Birch, and also make a few inroads into cleaning my apartment. At some point I'll probably go out to dinner. I realize this is not consistent with the theme of depriving oneself, but I like to go out for steak and a potato during Passover. A person can go to a good steak restaurant (and we have one in La Crosse) during Passover and eat well without feeling like she has to scrutinize everything for breading, croutons, flour-based sauces, disintegrated noodles or rice in the soup, etc.

Happy Passover, and now, off to sleep.

Monday, March 25, 2002

I have done next to nothing tonight. I haven't gone through the lost-and-found bag from the event (waiting for Kudrun to report any items found at site), I haven't done laundry, I haven't started on the garb I'm supposed to be making, I haven't lifted a finger to tidy up my apartment, I haven't begun the April Birch. I don't care. I'm enjoying doing nothing. I'm even enjoying beginning every sentence with the word "I" as though I truly believed I were the only person on earth. Nyahh nyahh, it's all about ME! ME, I tell you!

Heeee. I have a former boyfriend who never failed to make me laugh by slipping into loud hyperbole like that. He had a gift for theatrics, and for blowing something completely out of proportion for comedic effect. For example, knowing that he would be nervous to meet my parents and recognizing that my family is Jewish, he had a joke to cover the situation. He told me that if he choked and was not sure what to say to my parents when he met them, he planned to simply shout "HAAAAM!" at the top of his lungs. You know, just to make sure he offended them in a culturally-specific way. ;) When informed that my family doesn't keep kosher, he looked a little downcast and replied, "Then I guess it wouldn't be as funny." Sometimes I miss Dan. ;)

I owe Sarra a blog-specific event report, not just the tidbits I put forth yesterday. I think Dance Seminar went quite well, having now had a day-and-a-half's time in which to reflect on it. In retrospect we did a good thing by doing a lot of the work in advance: the work moot, time during two different populace meetings at the site to hash out details, a site visit with Etienne, and lots of e-mailing on the list and in private. Also I kind of rode some people to make sure they got the pertinent information to me. I guess that's what an autocrat does. I still hope no one was offended. But anyway, we cut down on a lot of last-minute hassles with our copious advance work.

Friday night I was late to site (%#*@! traffic in Onalaska), but even arriving at 7:30, I beat a few people there. Those who were there on time had begun setting up, and were doing fine--obviously we discussed setup enough in advance that they did not need me to direct the moving of every piece of furniture. And even with me arriving late, we were still out of there by 9:15. I cannot TELL you how surreal it was to check into the Sonic Motel at 9:45 (having stopped to get gas and some bottled water on the way) and realize I had nothing left to do. I watched a Star Trek: Next Generation re-run (haven't seen any in ages--I don't get cable) and the beginning of a movie on HBO while sipping herbal tea, then decided I should grab the extra sleep while it was available.

When I arrived at site at 8 on Saturday, there were a few Shire members waiting for me--wow! You can really count on these people. During setup, even things I had worried about Friday night magically ironed themselves out. And then people started arriving, and then oh my G-d, it was really an event, it was really happening and there ceased to be anything I could do about it. So I went with the flow. Owen scrawled lyrics to a song he had written to the tune of John Tallow's Canon, and he and I sang it in Tarien's class; I stuck around to learn the next dance, but that was the only classgoing I did. (So? I'll go to classes next year.) Lunch went great (I need the recipe for that cabbage and leek soup) and everyone got fed. Then I spent some time sitting with Flori and Perizada and Owen and other Nordskogenites, thinking, "I deserve to just hang out for a little while". When it was time to set up for the Caroso Ball, magically people were available to help with chairs. The ball was pretty, the pizza came on time and was delicious, and before I knew it it was time for the dessert ball.

By that time I was pretty tired. I don't remember much about the ball, except that the Jararvellir Music Guild continues to make it impossible for people to truly appreciate their level of skill and dedication, by being so perfect that they blend right into the spirit of the moment. Oh, and Korabushka wasn't on the dance card, but somehow it happened anyway--and apparently it is possible to dance it in groups of three, if the women are willing to spin in different directions!

(By the way, Shattered Oak really came through with the goodies for the dessert table. Jen and her friend brought yummy angel food cupcakes, and Wyndreth sent a packed box of donut holes, cookies, and more. Lesson: never underestimate your neighbors.)

The bardic circle was small but nice. Cybele got to show off her skill with the guitar, and Colin sang some really wonderful ballads. At one point I heard laughter and a round of applause coming from the gym, and I suddenly thought, "That's the sound of fun. I helped make this happen," and I got all choked up and had to excuse myself to find a kleenex. In the end Owen and I were nearly singing in our sleep, but we were some of the last ones there when the circle finally disbanded at about 2. When I went to the restroom to brush my teeth there were still a dozen or so dancers and a few spectators in the gym, and Lady Amber's 18-month-old son was still running all over the site like a small bolt of lightning in his lime-green footie pajamas, giggling madly.

It was very hard to get to sleep. I kept looking around at my bardic friends sleeping around me, and thinking, "I am so happy. How could this have turned out so well?"

In the morning I woke up at 6:45 to give myself time to take a shower. This woke me up very nicely and I emerged to find that breakfast was well-in-hand. So I sat in the populace area in my "Librarian Avenger" t-shirt and ate breakfast and talked to whoever came over to hang out with me. Faris, the tall guy I met at Jara dance practice last month, freaked me out by stealing Claire, Owen's loon, and sticking her in the Royal Presence with Her Excellency's stuffed blue monster. We need more fools in the Northshield; there's hope for Faris yet.

Although I was befuddled enough not to know which jobs to assign to whom during cleanup, things seemed to get done anyway. Morvan and Muirin from Falcon's Keep stuck around until the very end to see that every last bag and box made it out to someone's car. And as we strode back from my car, where we had just put the last bag of event stuff, I noticed it was exactly noon. Like the opposite of Cinderella, the event was officially over, we had made every goal and fulfilled every expectation, and now it was time to go home. I admit I indulged in some tears in the car, but not many.

That's my event report. Even though I co-autocratted last spring's textile-related arts event (hey, events come and events go, but I never take down a webpage!), and even though I had a co-autocrat for Dance Seminar, I consider this to be the first event where I had the lion's share of responsibility. Though it was a lot of stress, it could have been a lot worse--after all, I could live in a Barony where expectations are higher and events are larger. And despite the stress and the panic and the hard work--no, because of it--it all turned out great. I could not ask for more.

Maybe I was wrong to say I would not want to autocrat anything in the future. Never say never, right? Hmmmm...;)

Sunday, March 24, 2002

Okay, so I was wrong that I'd be glad when it was over. I'm maybe a little glad (mostly glad I didn't book myself up for anything this afternoon or evening), but largely in SCA withdrawal, amplified by the fact that we actually had a good time and did a good event! I was amazed.

I'm not going to go into all the details of the event now, while I'm going on 4 hours of sleep and the aforementioned SCA withdrawal. Just to mention a few things:

The biggest thing that went wrong was that at one point, someone closed the door to the library area, then discovered they were locked out of the area--while there were two small girls sleeping in one of the libraries. And Kudrun's keys and purse, along with a lot of people's belongings, were on the other side of the locked door. Luckily it only took one round of knocking vigorously to wake up one of the girls and get her to open the door. Whew. Then we unlocked all the interior doors.

Oh, and on the way back from the bathroom as I was about to go to sleep last night, I dropped my new blue gobmug (goblet-shaped vessel with a mug handle) that I got cheap at Orange Tree when I was in Madison a few weeks ago. It flew into twenty little pieces with this highly unsatisfying "pop". Good thing I bought two (and I'll be back in Madison this week for a Passover seder, so I could stop and get more if desired).

A lovely person named Perizada with a cool Middle Eastern persona and long blonde hair, who I'm told did a very beautiful solo dance during one of the breaks in the dance revel (I missed it), is undertaking to play matchmaker for me. I gave her lighthearted permission for this but am sobered by the fact that Drust and Ingeleif, nothing more than friendly acquaintances as recently as Monday, apparently were nudged together by Perizada on a whim on Tuesday. Nothing can be predicted right now, of course--but note that they arrived at the event at about 2 pm on Saturday. After having stayed the previous night in Galesville. Seven miles away. With their roommates having left for the event around 9. Not to imply anything, but let's just say, I don't think they were at Wason's Supper Club eating brunch. ;)

Lady Caoilfhionn, who (when I saw her last week at Bardic Madness) encouraged me to wear cleavage this Saturday to promote a sense of personal power, and who e-mailed me Tuesday just to say "I have cleavage! I will conquer!", sent along something neat. Her friend Ingeleif delivered to me 1) a tape of really neat Celtic and folk music that I hadn't heard before, and 2) a several-foot-long black fabric strip decorated in gold paint with the motto: "J'ai de decolletage. Je conquerai." (Which, of course, means: "I have cleavage. I will conquer.", or, as Owen uncharacteristically put it, "School of Hard Knockers". I gave him several reproachful looks for that one...!) I immediately tucked it into the front of my dress and fielded questions about it all day. Actually it was an interesting Bardic exercise in telling and re-telling stories, as I probably told it at least a dozen times over. And yes, it did give me a feeling of personal power. (The cleavage itself really doesn't, but I still enjoy wearing it.)

I need to start writing my thank-you e-mail for event staff and helpers...I don't like to let that go. More of an event wrap-up tomorrow.

Thursday, March 21, 2002

Nothing much more to be done for Dance Seminar at this point. As the autocrat, I am now in that twilight zone immediately before an event, where I know that if something seriously bad happens, there will be no time to recover from it or fix it, and yet there is nothing left of the routine tasks to fill this evening.

Tonight I went over all the stuff I have set aside to bring to the site tomorrow night, printed a couple of signs I had forgotten about, spilled a container of dried fruit at the computer table and had to crawl around cleaning it up, started a kumihimo, decided I hated it, started another one, added a towel to the pile of stuff I need to bring to the event, watched part of the World Figure Skating Championships, had feelings of mild dislike for the new kumihimo stitch but kept at it, debated whether I should go to the grocery store now or wait until tomorrow evening, worried that I would be too hurried tomorrow night, worried about nothing in particular, tried to get myself to stop worrying...

You get the picture. I was never good at staying calm immediately before something that I am responsible for.

Okay, I'm going to save myself some time tomorrow evening, and go pack the car. Wish me, and our Shire, luck in the event. My assumption is that it will go well. I'm sure there will be many fun moments, but I will sorta be happy when it's over.

Monday, March 18, 2002

Here's my rondeau. I don't feel I'm that much of a poet, so I write short stuff so I don't invest too much time in something that may fail. Probably a self-esteem issue. But judging from people's reaction when I performed it at Bardic Madness, I think this one may have been worth at least the time it took to write it.

Rondeau: On the work of the Bard

When stories pass unnoticed in the worldly din,
The Bard must catch them, mold them, give them forth in song.
No matter be they tales of gladness or chagrin,
When stories pass unnoticed in the worldly din
The Bardic heart will hear them echo deep within.
To give them words, to give them voice, to right the wrong
That stories pass unnoticed in the wordly din,
The Bard must catch them, mold them, give them forth in song.

Lady Eliane Halevy
( 3/13/2002 J. Friedman)

My reference: an article on analysis of lyric structure in Medieval music from ORB. (Click on "Rondeau Structure" to see the Machaut rondeau which was my example.)

I want to stress that I do not mean to imply that bards must sing. I do, but it's not a necessary activity for bards. I have a dear friend whose voice is untrained and not very strong, who adores singing but has had to work his butt off at it for all his SCA career. Yet set him to reading some of his own poetry (which he unfortunately doesn't do often enough) and suddenly you are witnessing a sublime and nuanced performance, absolutely confident and thoroughly impressive.

Take "song" figuratively, therefore. It can be argued that if a sung bardic song is a piece with an intentional musical shape, that communicates something to listeners and leads them along some sort of narrative path, any bardic performance (mime, drama, dance, instrumental music, story, poem, etc.) can share that definition to a greater or lesser extent. Simply replace 'musical' with 'theatrical' or 'physical' or 'narrative' or whatever, and you've got it. I've always believed everything worthwhile is music, anyway, and anything that isn't is not something I want to be around for long. ;)

That paragraph doesn't make a lot of sense, does it? Kindly forget you read it. I don't want it keeping anyone up at night. ;)

Speaking of sleeplessness, I'm getting to that state early tonight. Off to bed.

Sunday, March 17, 2002

And now I'm listening to the aforementioned song on Connie Dover's CD ("What wondrous love is this"). I would listen to Connie read the phone book, guys, I'm serious. Go check her out; you might want to start with The Wishing Well as an introduction. Wow--incredible stuff, from Celtic to cowboy to mournful folksongs to originals.

Anyway. I went to Bardic Madness this weekend. This is my favorite yearly SCA event, if you don't count events in Caer Anterth (Milwaukee) that allow me to hang out with friends at the Bardic Barracks. Though this was my third Bardic Madness, it was the first one I'd been at where Mistress Wyndreth, an incredible local bard from just north of here, was also in attendance. She is the best. She laughs and turns pink and laughs some more, and then grabs a bright green guitar (pink, green, and an orange overdress...visually problematic) and sings about a were-cow. ("Moo, moo, moo...") And earlier in the day she sang this gorgeous song in Gaelic, and then a really wonderful original frightening bloody Viking song about being wedded to a knife. We were spellbound.

But of course Bardic Madness is not about Laurels (she's the only bardic Laurel who came, though admittedly they are scarce on the ground hereabouts). It's about ordinary SCA folk, whether people know them as performers or not, getting up and doing something about which they might be scared, excited, happy, or worried: performing. It's about giving support to them, encouraging improvisation and last-minute writing, extreme lengths of humor and quiet stretches of pathos, the occasional shining moment of musicality or sheer poetic force, taking stories old and new, known and obscure, and giving them to each other.

Why am I obsessing about what Bardic Madness is? Does anyone reading this really care? Maybe any regular readers I might have (Hello Sarra, hello Colin, ave, Your Highness) are expecting a simple event report: we got there at 9:15, I participated in three challenges, people reacted well to my rondeau on the role of the Bard and loved my flashlight tokens, feast was nice, Shava sang her lovely song about the burden of the Crown, Alexandr did two incredible Sephardic pieces that I immediately coveted, Ysolt did this amazing song to a gorgeous 13th-century tune, we post-reveled at the Comfort Inn and I got to snuggle for a little while with my friend Lance. Yeah, all that is true. But so why the above paragraph-long rumination on the nature of Bardic Madness?

Because, and this is one of the two high points of yesterday, I was given the honor and responsibility of being the next Provost of Bardic Madness. Though Wilhelm asked me a couple of weeks ago and I said yes, I didn't want it widely known until he wanted it announced, so I didn't discuss it here. He wanted to do a little passing-of-the-torch ceremony so we stood up at the end of the Bardic College meeting and he announced that he is moving away to Calontir, and introduced me as the next provost. He passed on the containers of "Owen cookies" (little disks with the badge of the College) and a very large over-vest type garment that Owen had worn at Bardic Madness I and passed on to him, occasioning much hilarity as we tried to get my cotehardie tippets through the armholes. And I cried, of course. (Not as hard as I cried when we heard Wilhelm sing "Far Away" at feast, probably for the last time.) (Look at that, I'm getting weepy just at the thought.)

Hmph, we were up until 1:30 last night and up at 7. I'm tired.

"No," you say pre-emptively, "Jennifer, Eliane, whoever you are, don't go to bed yet. You said there were TWO high points of the event. Don't toddle off to sleep without telling us the other one." (Or so you say in my head, anyway.)

Well...all right. If I tell you, do you promise not to speak in my head anymore?

You do? Great. Thank you. So anyway, there was a second high point to this day. I seriously don't know which one I love more: the fact that I am going to be Bardic Madness Provost, or that I am now officially THL Owen Alun's student. The rondeau I wrote Wednesday to fulfill Owen's assignment, it turns out, was an audition of sorts, or maybe a confirmation that I was serious about this. In any case, during the morning we sat down and talked for a little while, and he told me again that the rondeau worked, and said we should really get together and do a little thing today with him and Deirdre and some others. I didn't understand what he was talking about. It took some more questioning before I realized that not only was he inviting me to officially become his student, he was planning to do this in the sight of others, publicly, at this event.

And so we did. I don't remember everyone who was in the little circle--Deirdre from Mare Amethystinum (his other student) was there, and his lady. There were maybe six or seven people. Owen gave me a golden oak leaf on a cord and put it around my neck (backwards, so that's how I'll wear it), and said something about how now that we have a starting point, we are going to go on a journey of learning together. He said he was proud of what I was becoming and that only his students wear that particular pendant, and if I am ever in need I will have all the assistance I need by sending it to him. I was bereft of all words (some bard huh?). I don't think I could even find tears (though I seem to have just located them as I have been typing tonight). All I could do was choke "thank you" and give him a huge hug.

I didn't become an apprentice yesterday. But I might as well have, because anyone who knows Owen, knows he might as well be a peer. If we get 'upgraded' along the way, great--it's something I'm certainly working towards. That green belt will mean a lot to me, but not as much as this golden oak leaf.

That's what happened to me yesterday. You know, it's always hard to 'come down' after Bardic Madness. This year it will be especially hard. Better go put some chocolate in my purse for tomorrow. Good night.

Bits and ends from around the 'net:

  • I have no idea why I love this song so much: "What wondrous love is this", music from William Walker's Southern Harmony and Musical Companion. I think I've known the music for a long time but really fell in love with it when Connie Dover did it on her CD, The Border of Heaven. Don't care much for the words; it is a Christian hymn after all. But I do like the idea that singing might be something that continues on "through eternity".
  • Overdue, a relatively new web comic strip set in a library, has a cute one from last week. I have always found it to be such a paradox that the best place to go to find readers for obsolete media (microfilm/fiche machines, 5 1/2 and 8 inch floppy disks, 8-track tapes, laser videodiscs, etc.) is the public library. Typewriters are starting to follow suit: these days if you have a form to fill out and are asked to type it, your best bet to find a typewriter is probably the public library. Yet if public libraries were adequately funded, these services would go away as libraries update and toss out all their obsolete machines! I think we need to think harder about this issue.
  • Everyone's a critic: The current trend towards swaggering judgement of other people's webpages has now gone a little too far. Thanks to a Trivia teammate for that one.

Just wanted to re-integrate myself into the Internet world a little bit after this weekend. Next post, probably yet tonight, will be about Bardic Madness. (Yes, Sarra, I promise!)

Wednesday, March 13, 2002

AAAAaaagh! Still tired and stressed, but glad to be getting so much done for Dance Seminar and other things. I finally did laundry tonight, plus I cleaned out my SCA basket (there was still an anise cookie in there from Mistress Amelie at Bardic Madness South...eeeew.), spruced up my bardic book with some newer pieces that hadn't made it in there yet, cut out Bronislava's underdress for her Dance Seminar garb, printed out the dance card that Etienne sent last night, and got started on the site booklet. I'm about half done with that. With any luck I'll finish it tomorrow night and be able to take it to the printers' Friday after work.

I also wrote a piece Owen had asked me to write. At Twelfth Night, he gave me an assignment to write about "What is a Bard?", in any format. That kind of made me frown; I don't feel there needs to be one definition of what bards are or should be. The sheer diversity of skills/talents, formats, topics, backgrounds, periods, etc. even in just the Northshield bardic community is one of the greatest joys of my SCA experience. So I deliberately picked a short poetic form and figured I'd concentrate on one important aspect. Then I realized that one can't write about what a bard IS without writing about what a bard DOES, so that also sort of changed the picture. After all, if you stick to what a bard IS, silly answers keep popping up in your head like "This bard is a librarian", "This bard's about five foot one", "This bard is Jewish", etc. ;)

What I ended up with is a rondeau after Machaut (this example was my model), with repeating lines (I sort of like favorite form in high school creative writing class was the pantoum). It makes the point that the bard must take the stories that are lived every day and would otherwise go unnoticed, and mold them into song (song being a figurative word for the product of the bard, the piece to be performed). I think it's okay but really haven't had a chance to live with it yet. Maybe once I have, I'll post it here. It's certainly short enough at 8 lines.

Monday, March 11, 2002

I was just thinking how important it is that we listen to each other in life. We have to believe others, put up with their faults, try to understand, and above all, give them our attention. And if we find we can't help them, we need to say that in so many words, explain why, and reiterate that we really would have liked to do so. I'll say again what I've said several times, and each time it seems to ring truer: Cut others the slack that you would like to have cut for yourself.

Okay, so anyway, Hare Affaire was nice this weekend. Despite ridiculous weather (50 mph winds with blowing snow, snow/sleet/rain mixture), I followed through on my plan to day-trip. Left at 9, got there at 1 (with a stop for lunch), hung out with Wyndreth and others until Court, saw a bunch of highly deserving Falcon's Gate girls get their AoA's (and one Northern Cross) and my friend Toki get inducted into the Eisenwache (woohoo!), had another nice Falcon's Keep feast complete with the 'virtual food fight' (you write what you are throwing, and to whom, on a piece of paper and your server delivers it), and a little bit of dancing. We left site at about 9:45 and didn't get back until 1:30. I gave Gavin a ride, and I think I tired the poor boy out with my talking. Hey, is it my fault I'm most awake at night? He was sucking down coffee and I was talking a mile a minute.

We had a productive work moot for Dance Seminar yesterday. We now have a dozen or so very colorful room signs, and 147 yellow fabric site tokens, hand-stamped with a hand-carved cattail. Kudrun and I did all of them, with assistance from Gorum of Castel Rouge (visiting with his lady, Brigid, who lives in Rokeclif) on the sewing machine, and Brilliana and Bronislava who helped arrange the tokens while they were drying. They're lying on my floor right now in a pseudo-organized lump, and I have this wild urge to iron them, but I need to prioritize right now...! Then a few of us retired to Giles' apartment and had spaghetti (this after he made us salad, rolls, and stuffed grape leaves for lunch!) and watched South Park (the Starvin' Marvin Goes to Mars episode) and The 13th Warrior. I made a valiant attempt to relax.

I haven't been able to really relax lately. Every time I turn around there's something I promised to do for someone that I have inadvertently forgotten. It doesn't help to write anything down because I immediately lose the small piece of paper. Countdown 12 days tomorrow and I have Bardic Madness in the intervening time, which I normally love, but for which I have prepared absolutely nothing (except for the fabulous patronage tokens, but they were easy). Someone else can autocrat next spring's event. I love the SCA but this kind of stress is telling on me in a lot of different ways.

So,'s taken me three hours to write this entry because I have gotten distracted every ten minutes by something I remembered had to get done. Suffice to say, I'm not having a good day.

Friday, March 08, 2002

I was just eating this great stuff called "Just Fruit Munchies" from this company. This is freeze-dried diced fruit: cranberries, blueberries, mangoes, pineapple, apple, raspberries, and raisins, in greater or lesser degrees of crunchiness. I picked it up at Whole Foods two weeks ago when I was in Madison. Later that afternoon I was home with my parents, waiting to go out to dinner, and I opened up the package (I've never had any scruples about spoiling my dinner). I picked out some dried apple bits and handed them to my mom. "What's this?" she asked.

"Freeze-dried apples," I said. "They're good."

She put them in her mouth, looked thoughtful, and said, with a classic mock-cheerful look, "Mmmm...dust!" I stuck out my tongue at her. She went back to talking to Dad.

A few minutes later I handed her some dried blueberries. "What's this?" she asked.

"Freeze-dried blueberries," I said.

She ate them, gave me that same slightly ditzy look again, and said, " dust."

Hmph! Very funny. She knows very well there is no blue food. Not even blueberries. They're PURPLE.

Since I moved to La Crosse nearly two years ago, I've been having this recurring dream that I am moving again. Just as I am going through my apartment planning how the packing is going to go, I find a room or suite of rooms in my apartment that I don't normally use. I stand there and look at the room(s), which are slightly dusty from disuse and usually contain one or two boxes or other generic belongings of mine. Seeing my belongings in the room(s), I remember having found this part of the apartment early on in my time here. At the same time I have a happy or gloating feeling, that I am fortunate enough to have space in my apartment that I don't even use.

It reminds me of the feeling when the secretary at NAHEC got us a great deal on suites at The Springs Resort in Spring Green for our staff retreat. Each person had her own suite, including a large main room with two queen beds and a couch/TV area, a kitchenette, large bathroom, and a sitting room with two couches and several elegant chairs. We were there for two days and I never once went into my sitting room. Several times, though, I stood in the doorway, cocked my head at the gorgeous furniture, and thought, "Lookit me, I've got a room in my suite that I don't even use". I've remembered that feeling ever since: for just a couple of days, I had a special room, cleaned just for me, at my disposal, and I was not even going to use it--it was enough that it was mine.

Anyway, in my dreams I don't do much with the knowledge that I have more rooms in my apartment. Seems to me that a couple of times, seeing these rooms has made me reconsider moving out, but not always. My inclination is to say that it doesn't mean anything, that it just reflects my wish for more rooms in my apartment, but it wouldn't be recurring if it didn't mean anything. Maybe there's a part of myself that I feel walled-off from, that I remember knowing but have not seen in awhile. Maybe I'm worried I've overlooked something in life, that is within my reach but that I haven't reached for. Or maybe it's time to move away again? No...too complicated a prospect.

Suffice it to say, there are no mysterious extra rooms in my apartment. Just the large L shape that is the living/dining/computer/kitchen space, the bathroom, and the bedroom. Standing in the middle of it, I can see the whole thing. Sometimes that sort of depresses me, like I'm living in a box. Maybe I just need an apartment with more character...!

Thursday, March 07, 2002

Quiet evening tonight. I re-did Bronislava's kirtle hem, which she wanted let out so it is closer to floor-length. Then, feeling like I was on a sewing roll, I picked out my purple brocade cotehardie to wear at Hare Affaire this Saturday, and sewed the underdress collar into the collar of the dress so the underdress doesn't shift around and show.

When I think about the practice of basting the underdress to the overdress, which I have done three times before events, I wonder if it might seem to some like I have too much time on my hands. Maybe I do occasionally, but not on a regular basis. My committments to work, choir, the SCA, and friends and family take up a huge (and rising) percentage of my time. I also have slightly different priorities than many others, having no children or husband to claim my attention and time. Besides, I like looking good. I don't get much of a chance in "real life" to wear great clothes; for one thing, $200 outfits are not in my budget, and for another, I was never really fascinated by the most up-to-the-minute fashion. Sure, I have certain things I like in clothes. They usually involve natural fabrics, comfort, and the color periwinkle. ;) Mostly I wear whatever I have on hand that's clean and doesn't show wear, and doesn't have stains or holes.

But in the SCA, I really get to indulge whatever pretensions I have to a sense of style. I love beads, gold embroidery, flowing natural fabrics, and showing strategic skin, such as a wide-necked cotehardie that allows for evening breeze on my shoulders, or (of course) something in an English or Italian Ren, promoting cleavage. In fact I have sometimes wondered how I could ever be happy with a regular commercial white wedding dress. It would be anticlimactic after whatever gorgeous garb I had worn just a few weeks before at a run-of-the-mill SCA event.

Being married in something white and frothy seemed nice when I was younger, and hadn't seen what historical costuming was all about. Now, a standard white wedding dress just seems like a pale and limp attempt to recapture (inaccurately) the glory of what European nobility used to wear for every small local ball or gathering. If I'm going to have to wear a girdle or a strapless bra, you might as well go all the way and lace me into an Elizabethan corset and put me in something in burgundy velvet or saffron yellow brocade, with a hoop skirt, tie-on puff-and-slash sleeves, yards of bright trim, ribbon with gold points, and thousands of pearls. Now THAT's fantasy clothing!

Tuesday, March 05, 2002

I am pleased to announce that my new domain name,, was born today and is now functional and ready for the world! (Click on it--it just takes you back to this page. Feel free to bookmark the new URL.) I feel so...old. Realizing how long it's taken me to go from shy college freshman e-mailing her mom (1989) to someone with a real live domain name for her personal webpage, well...I guess I'm just a late bloomer. (Pun intended.)

Although I don't plan to use the e-mail address that came with the hosting package--heck, I already have a Yahoo! mail account that I don't use--I do have four other e-mail addresses to give to friends or relatives. These are accessible via Yahoo! Mail just like other free Yahoo! e-mail. They'll be "" and the username can be anything you want. Remember, nobody else uses this domain name, so you can even have something very common, like your first name! E-mail me with your request to have an e-mail address.

Ahem...maybe my mom, who has has an "" e-mail address for the last 14 years, would be interested in being "Bonnie at"? Just say the word, Momeleh, it's yours.

Monday, March 04, 2002

Okay...I'm taking the plunge. My web host, Geocities, is making some changes to force people using Blogger to either pay for a premium account, or jump ship. I actually sort of like Geocities' member tools, and I hope to still keep access to my site open through my current address (which I've had since 1996) while removing the endlessly irritating advertising. So I'm doing it. I'll also have a domain name of my very own, which will be (drumroll)...

(It's not functional yet; give the system a few days before you try it.)

Gflower is short for Gillyflower, which is me. What's a gillyflower? First of all, it's that red flower in the logo at the upper left hand corner of this page. I have a red gillyflower on my SCA heraldic device, which is something like a coat-of-arms. (My device is not registered, but once I can gather some documentation for my name, I'll submit my device at the same time.) The logo is in my heraldic colors (red, blue, white--known heraldically as gules, azure, and argent) and incorporates some of the stylistic features of the device. Also, I painted that logo and I like it.

Yeah, but what IS a gillyflower? It's an archaic word for a carnation. Yup, that frilly flower you can get for a dollar apiece on Valentine's Day in any high school in the U.S. Technically it's the name for the "clove pink", a specific type of pink carnation that is common in England, but I like red ones best. I found the term in a Spenser sonnet back when I was taking Major British Writers as a freshman in college, in a line which read something like "Her lips were lyke unto gillyflowers...". I immediately took it as a VAX process name, which was something that showed up on our campus' online system when a person was online. When I installed a small program to allow me to choose from ten process names each time I logged on, Gillyflower was choice number 1.

I was/am Gillyflower on ISCABBS, IPLMOO, BayMOO and (of course) Yahoo/Geocities. Many friends met me as Gillyflower--not as many as have met me as Eliane in the SCA, but still a considerable amount, including a few ex-boyfriends. In short, I've been Gillyflower since 1989, which is longer than a lot of things have lasted in my life.

So why am I not at Click and see. (I must say, that is the lamest excuse for a business webpage I have ever seen. You wouldn't pay someone for a print ad that was so poorly put-together, much less a website that's supposed to be informative and interactive.) and are also taken, by someone who obviously doesn't care enough about them to actually use them for anything (try putting them in your browser; they don't lead to anything). It just goes to show you, folks: if you periodically put your dream domain name in a domain name search and it comes up as being available, buy it. You don't know how long it'll be available, and you want it there when you need it. I didn't, and now I have to go with a shortened version.

Wow--I just reloaded this page, and the ads are GONE. No pop-ups, no hanging ad in the upper right-hand corner (hey, I could actually put CONTENT there if I wanted!). Who knows if this service will prove to be worth the $8.95 a month, but this particular improvement is worth at least part of that.

Saturday, March 02, 2002

More Northshield Choir MIDI files: Mas Vale Trocar by Juan Encina, and Since First I Saw Your Face by Thomas Ford. Not the most advanced MIDIs in the world (I was rushing to get them done for some of the choir members who had asked for them), but fun listening nonetheless. If you like those MIDIs, might I also recommend my choral MIDIs page, which hasn't been added to for awhile now, but has some good stuff on it.

I'm stressed about Dance Seminar. I'm realizing all the things that need to get done between now and then. That's under three weeks from now. It seems overwhelming to me. Some things I am forced to wait on because the person who is supposed to get me the information has not done so. Other things I have to embark on a series of telephone calls in order to get them squared away. Yet more things I just have to find time to do. And I promised Bronislava some garb. What was I thinking, agreeing to make garb for someone to be delivered at an event that I'm autocrating?

The optimistic part of me--that part of me that has taken such a beating over the last few months, that its voice is remarkably quiet--says there's no need to worry, just make a list of things to get done, then do them, trust event staff to do their jobs, and rely on the many industrious and helpful people who will be attending the event from elsewhere. (Nawson tells a great story about the time he arrived for Dance Seminar in Caer Anterth Mawr [Milwaukee] only to find the autocrat unconscious with the flu, the site management going back on their word about promised space usage, and the event staff completely flummoxed. Luckily Owen arrived a few moments later and in the space of an hour, the event was back on track, the site management was convinced to allow them plenty of space, the event staff given useful things to do, and the autocrat put to bed. Both Nawson and Owen will be at Dance Seminar in three weeks, along with a lot of other extremely responsible people. This is a very, very comforting thought.) But these days I don't trust the optimistic voice inside me. I can't. If I trust it, I stop worrying, and if I stop worrying, I stop remembering things I need to get done. It's a sad state for a brain to be in, but there it is.

Here it is 11 pm and I've frittered the evening away on the computer. Well, not frittered--I got some Dance Seminar-related e-mails sent, updated the event webpage, and have been having a long friendly conversation with one of my exes, Dan. He's so much fun.

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