Thursday, May 30, 2002

It's a webpage-updating week this week: I just updated the Northshield Choir webpage, adding our summer repertoire and W&W schedule. Next I have GOT to get Pie Snit and Autumn Rose webpages up and running. How exactly am I managing to be in charge of all these webpages? I am hardly a web publishing expert; I don't know CSS, I don't do imagemaps or frames or javascript, and I'm not real handy with Paint Shop, though I can fake my way through minor modifications to small graphics. I do all my HTML by hand, using a freeware editor that is only slightly more fully-featured than Notepad. You could call me a purist, or you could simply note that I am using skills I learned in my Electronic Reference class in library school in 1994. Hey, man, I got an A in that class, don't knock it...! So I'm not really sure why I manage all these pages:

Of all the webpages I manage, though, this is the only one that's basically painless, and I have Blogger to thank for that. It really does automate the most frequent task I do on this webpage: updating my 'blog. Since I upgraded to Blogger Pro, down time, connection trouble, weird error messages, etc. have been pretty much nonexistent. It was worth every penny.

Saturday: Sarra and I are day-tripping to Castle Fever in the nearby Shire of Silfren Mere, otherwise known as Rochester, MN. It's under an hour's drive one way, which seems such a luxury compared to the 7+ hour drive it will take to get me to Woodland Romp next weekend. (Don't worry, I have next Friday off.) Castle Fever for me is usually the event where I get used to the idea of being outside at events again. I sit around with friends and relax, and watch the fighting out of the corner of one eye. This year they plan to do an organized bardic circle, as opposed to just sitting and drinking around a fire, which is what the rapier folk have done the past couple of years (and me with them, not drinking of course, for lack of a real bardic circle to join). It should be nice. Cross your fingers for sunshine.

Monday, May 27, 2002

Just finished updating the Northshield Bardic College website. There were some corrections to make, plus notes from Owen to help fill in some of the blanks, more info on the evolution of Bardic Madness South from Cerian, new officers elected in March, plus I linked each event to its challenge list if I could find it on the web. There were, I think, three Bardic Madness challenge lists and two for BMS. I need access to all the challenge lists I can get: it is starting to dawn on me that I will be developing the list for Bardic Madness XIII this fall, for publication around Boar's Head in early December--or, if I'm ambitious, for publication in November at Bardic Madness South. Of course I will have lots of help from Owen and Cerian and anyone else I ask, but it's still a daunting task.

Got back about three hours ago from a trip to Minneapolis with my folks. We didn't do a whole lot, basically ate and shopped and sat around. But it was fun, don't get me wrong. Too bad we never found a movie we all wanted to see; we tried to go see "About A Boy" on Saturday night but the showing was sold out by the time we got there, and we didn't really find anything we all wanted to see last night. So I got some extra kumihimo done, which is good but not really the point of a family gathering. Oh well. It was a weekend well spent, all in all.

I must say I got some champion shopping done at the Mall of America: a gorgeous red silk/linen outfit from Chico's, shoes and a new straw purse from DSW, some refrigerator magnets with pithy sayings, some candy from Harry & David and Godiva, and more Mint-esota hot cocoa, sold at one of the many Minnesota-themed stores in the Mall. Plus I got an atlas and compass for my car--I can't tell you how many times I've wished I had one or both items in the car, and haven't. It was time (and Mom had a coupon for 20% off total purchase at Rand McNally). What else? Oh, I got beads for the site tokens for Autumn Rose: glass beads in amber, green, and blue, smoky glass with gold stars for staff/royalty, and silver wire. (Again, a 20% off coupon came in very handy.) I think this is the year that I learn how to make wire jewelry. I envision small silver wire charms with beads on them, to be suspended from a ribbon or pinned on, to sparkle and look nice. Who says site tokens for a camping event can't be sparkly and pretty? If the Shire vetos them, I will save the supplies and make Twelfth Night tokens--I have enough for about 140.

If you're an SCA acquaintance of mine, you have probably heard the news by now: at this past weekend's Middle Kingdom Crown Tourney in Indiana, one of our very own Northshielders was victorious over Duke Sir Finn, or as I call him, Finn Dux (hey, he used to call himself Finn Rex, he ought to stick to one language!). Viscount Sir Tarrach, former Prince of the Northshield (recently--1998-1999 if I recall correctly) and Knight and Laurel of the SCA, earned the right to become Prince of the Middle Kingdom and make his Lady, Viscountess Fina (called Fiona when she was Princess of the Northsield), Princess of the Middle Kingdom. In September They will become King and Queen of the Middle Kingdom.

This is big, big news for us Northshielders. Although we watch the Crown lists and are proud when someone from the Northshield competes, we don't expect them to win, and we've never thought about what it might mean if they did. Most of us, figuring that the same guys are going to fight and win Middle Kingdom Crown over and over anyway, have given up paying attention to who wins. "Oh, it's Ragnvaldr/Edmund/Finn/Dag/etc. again? Yeah, okay, that's not horrible I guess." Kings of the Middle have to earn the allegiance of most Northshielders, and to do that, we have to grow to like them and what they do. Why? They haven't recently been 'one of us'.

Until Bardolph and Brigh stepped up last year, no one from west of the Illinois/Indiana border had reigned over the Middle since our own Corin and Myfanwy from Milwaukee in 1984-1985. When I was in middle school, and there was no such thing as the Northshield. So, to be totally truthful, Tarrach and Fina will be the first King and Queen of the Middle who reign from the Northshield. (And look what a list he beat. Besides Duke Finn, there were Knights, Barons, and two other Viscounts of the Northshield. Not too shabby!)

Just one more important point: Tarrach and Fina hail from the Shire of Korsvag, otherwise known as Fargo, North Dakota. Corin and Myfanwy were at least within an hour of Chicago and a relatively easy drive to the main population centers of Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, etc. It's at least 7 hours from Fargo to here (La Crosse, WI); another four to Milwaukee, and then to wherever Their travels take them. It's a very, very large kingdom: the web page lists Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana, Michigan, Illinois and a nip of Iowa, Wisconsin, Minnesota, North and South Dakota, Manitoba, and a bit of Ontario. And they will reign in the winter, not renowned for being the easiest time to travel in the Middle in general, and the Northshield in particular. One hopes They have an excellent car (or two or three)...and a lot of frequent flier miles.

All to get something to eat, and then more webpage wrangling.

Friday, May 24, 2002

Just put a scan of our Shire's Award of the Hearthstone scroll online at Oooh, pretty! The scroll was done by Ravenna ingen Aeda. I like her calligraphy, it's very steady. I could never do that.

Tomorrow my folks are going to pick me up and we're going to Minneapolis, where my sister is visiting friends. I'll spend the trip in the back seat, putting embroidery floss onto little plastic embroidery floss bobbins for kumihimo kits for Her Stellar Highness Elashava's youth arts/sciences project. We intend much shopping (some of it very goal-directed--Mom's birthday is Saturday), movie-watching, and general hanging out.

And, of course, a lot of eating. I am so in favor of eating in Minneapolis. Some of the best meals I've had in the last six months have been in the Twin Cities, notably at places selected by Owen and Irene: a wonderful brunch place with French-inspired food where I had this way cool dish of potatoes, onions, and artichoke hearts covered in poached eggs and cheese (and quite a bit more butter than I would normally consume on a Saturday morning), and this incredible Middle Eastern restaurant called Jerusalem's where I had a variety plate with kibbeh, gyro meat, rice, salad, and falafel--so much food that the leftovers filled up a large to-go container. Of course one shouldn't discount the value of high-quality companionship in the whole eating equation. This weekend should be nice on that count too.

Off to pack, then sleep.

Wednesday, May 22, 2002

Kudrun mentioned casually in an e-mail that Her Royal Majesty of the Middle, Alys Katherine, O She of the gorgeous website, is into sugar plate. Now, one of my big hobbies is unusual food, as anyone knows who has spent any time with me. The stranger, the weirder, the sweeter, the better. So, never having heard of sugar plate before, I immediately seized on the term and thought, "Dishes made of sugar. Oooh. I want."

Turns out that's exactly what it is. Basically, you take powdered sugar, flavored water (rose, orange, etc.), gum tragacanth, and egg whites, mix until it makes a pliable dough, and shape it as you like; it then dries to a porcelainlike consistency and can be used to sculpt, among other things, dishes for use in serving light food objects and liquids. Some documentation for a Queens Prize Competition entry in the Outlands tells a bit more about it and provides a recipe. There is also an extensive article going well beyond SCA period, I think a chapter from a book on the history of food, at

Queen Alys Katherine is apparently the SCA authority on sugar plate and has participated in a lot of discussions about it on the SCA-Cooks listserv, whose archive has no search page but is all out there on the Web for you to search via Google or whatever. She also wrote an article on sugar plate in the Summer 1992 Tournaments Illuminated (#103). Gotta get my hands on that.

I haven't seen pictures yet, but my imagination is working overtime. I have GOT to try this. Now I just need to find out where I can get gum tragacanth. Francisco Sirene, Spicer doesn't have it, but does--apparently modern cooks are still making stuff out of sugar plate and paste. Hmm. I may need to invest...

What I really want to do is find out about something I saw in a movie this past weekend, when I was too tired to do anything but sit and watch movies. The movie, Vatel, stars Gerard Depardieu as a self-effacing steward to the Prince de Conde (set, I think, in the 1670's--after SCA period, but in the realm of possibility for arts that existed then to possibly extend back before 1600). When the King announces a week-long visit, Conde entrusts all the plans for a huge, over-the-top week of food, music, elaborately-staged theatrical productions, fireworks, and other extravagant entertainments to Vatel. Vatel proves to be an able manager, improvising nimbly when crucial plans fall through.

At one point a shipment of fruit fails to arrive, so Vatel, who has hidden talents in the kitchen, sweeps into the confectioners' room, grabs a straw, dips it into a bowl of cooked sugar syrup, and begins blowing a sphere as though he were blowing glass. He then breaks the hardened sphere off the straw, dimples it once with his finger, rolls it in powdered sugar, and sticks a leaf at the top. Voila: a luminous sugar-glass peach. I haven't even started research on this particular food weirdness--don't know if what they showed is at all authentic to how one would produce this item, much less whether it's historically authentic. All I know is, how cool would it be to present visiting Royalty with blown sugar subtleties at feast at Autumn Rose? Or failing that, sugar plate subtleties. Woooo...

Okay, enough dreaming. Health report: I'm almost totally back to normal. My tonsils are still large but have lost their white patches, and it doesn't hurt to swallow anymore. My left ear has gone plugged now, now that the right is nearly back. (Today I had a patron with laryngitis who whispered her question to me, causing me to shout, "I'm sorry, I can't hear you, I have an ear infection!" It was like something out of a bad Vaudeville comedy sketch...) My visit to confirm mono on Monday did not confirm it; several acquaintances agree, saying if it were mono, I'd still be sick. The doctor did not know what it might have been if it weren't mono--your basic un-named viral bug, apparently. Could very well be. All I know is, I have never been that sick for that long in my life. I will take the flu instead of whatever that was, any day.

Cleaned out the car tonight. You would not believe the number of shoes I was storing in there. Shoes and spoons. I can't quite figure out how those things accumulate in my car. But they're out now. I'm thinking the car needs to be taken in for detailing--there is only so much dusting you can do before you realize some of the dust is more like dirt and needs to be just plain cleaned, using cleaning products that I don't own. Maybe next week. Yes, I may be taking it to Pennsic, where it will learn the true definition of the word 'dust', but I'd like it to be clean for a little while this summer, anyway.

Sunday, May 19, 2002

Here's a bit of what I missed this weekend, though of course these newspaper accounts NEVER get anything right: an article from the Manitowoc, WI newspaper about Mermaids. Sounds like it was nice, but cold. Yeah, just like I remember it, except we used to spell Northsfield "Northshield". Call us old-fashioned. ;)

A measure of how stir-crazy I'm getting: I watched the Survivor finale this evening. Now before you make disappointed noises at me, I got quite a bit of kumihimo done while I was watching. I had a movie in the VCR all ready to go (Ghost World, which is so far only okay, but I'm only 15 minutes or so into it) and was planning on watching it, but something kept me from pressing 'play'. That is, until the winner was revealed and Rosie O'Donnell was driven into a packed audience on a motorcycle to waves of applause, and I thought, no, it was never very far up, but it can only go down from here.

I can breathe through my nose again. I wouldn't call it a reliable conduit, but it means I can smell, which means food begins to take on its former attractions again. For dinner I made spaghetti and discovered yes, there is a difference between Italian seasoning and herbes de provence. Lavender-and-anise-flavored spaghetti sauce? A bit too avant-garde even for me. Still, I ate two platesful and my tummy hasn't yet protested. Progress, in other words, is being made.

I did finally go to Culver's last night, and had a baby-sized cone of Turtle, which was pretty good, and half a bag of fries. My stomach didn't protest too strenuously. (The real test will be whether it's ready for the rest of the fries, which are well-chilled and congealed in the fridge, just the way I like 'em. We'll see.) I also bought a pint of vanilla frozen custard, some of which I'm about to have for lunch. I'm trying to get the faucet turned on in my nose, which has been blocked shut by swollen tonsils (and, I suspect, adenoids) for 6 days now and needs to be thoroughly cleaned out--this will help my infected ear too. Food as medicine--not a new concept, but darned useful.

What's happening elsewhere in my world, that I'm missing:

  • It's the first day of the Medical Library Association annual conference. That's where I would have been this weekend if I were not sick as a dog.
  • People are nearly done cleaning up, and mostly on the road, after two fun SCA events: Quest for Camelot in South Dakota, and Mermaids in eastern WI. I have seen e-mail reports from both already. Apparently something pretty neat happened at Quest: the Baron and Baroness Unser Hafen (Ft. Collins, Colorado) has gifted Northshield with a granite sculpture weighing 1300 lbs. (!!), with Celtic knotwork, a griffin passant, and a portcullis (both Unser Hafen and Schattentor, the site of Quest, have a portcullis in their device, since they are the gateways to their respective regions). This will, of course, remain at the Quest site. So if I ever want to see it, I guess I'll have to go! (Next year, with any luck...)
  • It's the last day of that bead show I wanted to go to in Grapevine, Texas. I probably would have gone yesterday though.

Tomorrow: my appointment to confirm that what I have is mono (duh), then I think I'm staying home for the rest of the day, unless something miraculous happens to shrink my tonsils. I would have been out until Friday anyway if I'd been at the conference. The jury is out on the rest of the week. We'll see what Katie has to say.

Today, though, I have some webpage stuff to get done, some movies to watch, and of course some custard to consume! And probably a couple of naps to take. Mono has done what the whole of my life couldn't do: made me a napper.

I have just remembered (give me a break, I'm sick) that Geocities is upgrading their FTP systems this weekend, and will be out-of-service until Sunday morning. So, be aware of posting times if you're reading this page. You will probably be reading Saturday postings well after they were written.

Saturday, May 18, 2002

This is cute and somehow appropriate, though my current illness is not of that type. I do like the supplicating look of the woman in the last frame though. Anyone who's ever been caught without a tissue in the middle of a room and had to hide a fistful of mucus in her pocket will sympathize. Hey, wasn't that on Broadway? "A Fistful of Mucus"?

There was a general feeling in my family that almost any word could be replaced with the word 'mucus' to become funnier. When doing little magic shows with our stuffed animals, we didn't say "hocus pocus", we said "mucus pucus", sometimes "mucus pucus dominucus" if we wanted to go for a little rhyming couplet. I remember sitting with my mom in one of our big overstuffed chairs as a small kid--maybe 4 or 5 years old--after my parents got back from an evening out, and laughing so hard after she taught me the word 'mucus' that I got a whole bunch of the stuff all over the front of her blouse. She was not very pleased. It was an object lesson: Mucus is one of those "talk about it, don't demonstrate it" words. Learned that one the hard way.

Going on two days with no fever--I can't even tell you how relieved I am by this. With any luck this will continue. Four days of fever is plenty, thanks. For awhile there I had a cycle going: wake up with a fever, take some tylenol, the fever breaks with lots of sweat 45 minutes later, I am exhausted and go to sleep, and then I wake up with a fever a few hours later. I'm surprised I got anything else done (remember I worked 2 1/2 of the first 4 days of this illness!).

But I must admit I'm starting to feel a little better. Though I still have no energy and not much sense of balance (my right ear seems to be infected and is currently closed for business), the body aches are mostly gone, the lymph nodes are still swollen but no longer painful, and even swallowing isn't as hard as it was a few hours ago. The tonsils are still huge and covered with unspeakable white stuff, but maybe the rest of my mouth is learning to compensate or something. I have been trying to make sure I eat enough by eating two bowls-worth of food each day--doesn't matter what, but it has to be a bowl's worth at a time. Rice, cream-of-wheat, macaroni and cheese, canned veggies. Today I finished a bowl of corn bran cereal (in half-and-half--I think I can afford the calories right now), smacked my lips, thought for a moment, rinsed out my tonsils, and re-filled the bowl with more corn bran. Yay! An appetite! This is a good thing.

Next I want to work towards going to Culver's for custard (again, saturated fat is not an issue at the moment). Of course that involves getting dressed, driving several blocks, then making my order understood around tonsils the size of Atlanta. Whether in the drive-thru or in person, that could be a problem. But I have had several phone conversations since I've been stuck at home, and no one's complained they didn't understand me. (They did say I sounded awful. Thanks for the support, guys.)

I told my Dad about this goal and he said, "Take it slowly. Baby steps." Apparently he knew a family through Temple whose college-aged son landed in the hospital with mono--sounds like his tonsils swelled up to the point where he couldn't breathe. I assured Dad that mine are not getting any bigger, and as they are I just have to be careful what position I sleep in, and do a lot of mouth-breathing. (Oh, my dentist is going to be SO pleased.)

Listening to my second Owain Phyfe CD, "Odyssey". Chandler can complain all he wants about Owain Phyfe. I complain about him too, like his rotten Italian and Spanish/Ladino pronunciation, the way he inserts a 40-bar musical interlude into the middle of a sentence in his version of "Douce Dame Jolie" (all right, so the guy doesn't speak French, but shouldn't it have been a dead giveaway that it is also in the middle of a verse?), the way he sticks an extra beat into the complicated Tourdion melody that makes it impossible to follow either the rhythm or the words if you already know the tune, etc., etc. (I can just hear the discussion at the New World Renaissance Band rehearsal: "So lookit what I figured out: if you put one extra beat HERE, that gives me space to breathe." "So now you want space to breathe? I been playing recorder for your sorry butt for ten years, you ever heard me ask for an extra beat so I can breathe? Work with whatcha got, buddy!")

He does work a sort of magic, using period tunes and words, often in the original language, that no one else can. I mean, where does he find this stuff, and how does he adapt it to be so appealing to modern ears without totally removing all period aspects of it? When I first heard his voice I theorized that part of his appeal comes from his technique of riding high on the pitch, without allowing his voice to show tension or an artificial "up"-ness. I still think this is part of it, but am starting to realize how much his co-musicians are shouldering in terms of the quality of the performances. The first time I heard him was actually at Pennsic last year, in the marketplace. He did "We Be Souldiers Three" (which I immediately recognized as the wrong tune, and thought, that can't be the wonderful Owain Phyfe I've heard so much about!) and "A Lieta Vita", which is the soprano line of a madrigal of the same name (better known to high schoolers as "Sing We and Chant It") which he mangled both in pronunciation and in melody. He had only himself and some low-quality recordings for accompaniment, which explains a lot, I guess. I went back to N19 and had a much better musical experience around the Bardic fire with my Northshield friends.

Still, I do really like a lot of his stuff and listen to it over and over again. One big reason is that we put "Where Beauty Moves and Wit Delights" on Alissende's car's CD player as we were waiting in line to leave Pennsic. (She REALLY likes Owain Phyfe.) That was really an emotional day for me: having to decide how I felt about this place that had been home for the past week, out in the elements with 12,000 of my closest friends (as they say), having had some of the coolest musical experiences of my time in the SCA, and bonded with a lot of people I had only known casually before. Music that happens to serve as a soundtrack to an emotional time always stays most indelibly in the mind.

I don't know where I was going with this, except to say that although he's not my favorite guy whose first name is pronounced "Owen" in the world ;) , Owain Phyfe is definitely worth listening to by any SCA bard, if only to get a feel for the astounding variety of period music that exists and how it's possible to make it entertaining to others without TOO much alteration, without singing bad English translations, and without padding the repertoire with bad 1800's folk songs. (All right, one or two.) ;) Beware though, you WILL get addicted, and you will want to have all the recordings, some of which are available only through a chance encounter with an SCA merchant who happened to find a few extra in the trunk of his car last time he cleaned it out. I got two older ones at Three Decades of Fish a few weeks ago and am stockpiling them for time-release over the next year.

Friday, May 17, 2002

Still sunny (for a few minutes anyway). My temperature's gone up slightly this evening, but without the chills and body aches that accompanied it for the last four days--I'm willing to accept it as a reasonable fluctuation. Bronislava and Gavin dropped off my notes and I did the populace meeting minutes. Spent a few hours hemming and adding grommets to the outfit I made for the May Feaste silent auction, and then Jane and her husband dropped by (in full garb--and they looked really nice) to pick it up, but not before I got a photo of the outfit. Would you call this a productive day? I s'pose, reluctantly, I would.

Every tiny bit of it has been torture, though. My tonsils still feel like they're going to explode. All I've had to eat today is a bowl of macaroni and cheese, and my stomach is still grinding and protesting as though I had fed it the Tex-Mex Combo at ChiChi's. I've been trying to sleep for the last hour, only to discover that my tonsils have gotten big enough that there is really no position I can sleep in without cutting off my breath as my throat relaxes. Sleep apnea times ten. Every six minutes or so I startle myself awake, heart pounding.

You heard it here first, folks: this is the year I look into getting rid of my tonsils. I've had massive tonsils all my life, and I've always laughed at the idea of a tonsillectomy because I assumed that removing my tonsils after so many years of vocal training would irrevocably change my singing voice. Well, I love my voice and I am finally feeling that others enjoy it too, but it's not worth choking to death for. Now after this whole mono thing, I may or may not have enough vacation days left to seriously plan on it this year. But I can do the background research and find out if indeed it will seriously harm my voice--I'm sure there have been many who depend more heavily on their voices in life (radio personalities? Opera singers? Actors?) who have faced this decision before. And I can find out under what circumstances such an operation would be covered under insurance for a 31-year-old woman. I've had two serious tonsil infections just since coming to La Crosse. Surely that's got to count for something...

Well, the research will have to wait for another day. Now, I'm off to readjust the temperature in my apartment to complement the ever-shifting temperature of my body. Again.

My temperature is down to 97.7 (!), Jane from Choir is going to come over and pick up the costume I made for the May Feaste auction tonight, and Bronislava and Giles are going to drop off my notes from the Shire meeting this past Sunday, when I was already so out-of-it that I left all my papers in a pile on his kitchen table when I left. And it's sunny. All of which would make me feel like life was sort of in-control, that is, if I felt better.

I don't. My body seems to be in a post-fever shock. This means all kinds of interesting pains and dysfunctions. I can't seem to get warm (again) and my tummy hurts in about four different ways. This SUCKS. There is no medicine for this disease and I want to know why. I am so tempted to do a MEDLINE search and find something, anything, that seems to work, but doubt that I'd then have the energy to call up a doctor and insist on getting it. So, the fact remains that I'm screwed.

Wednesday, May 15, 2002

So okay, I made a slushie drink by adding a little extra water to half a container of orange-tangerine juice, and putting it in the freezer. A few hours later I woke up and discovered my fever was up to 102. So I floated out to the kitchen, seeing the world in these sort of disjointed snapshots, retrieved the orange-tangerine slushie and a long-handled spoon, and ate the whole thing in a matter of minutes. Then I realized I had ruined my chances of getting an accurate temperature reading for the next 30 to 40 minutes. Geez...

About an hour ago I decided I couldn't lie in bed anymore. I got some crackers and sat on the couch and was watching bad early-evening re-runs, when my friends Dahrien and Mysie called: apparently they are on their way to Quest for Camelot and had stopped at the Kwik Trip in Onalaska, and thought they would give me a call. In my fevered state I nearly cried--it was really neat to hear some SCA voices. While I was talking to them, though, I broke a sweat...and it continued to break...and broke some more...until I was feeling rivulets of sweat making their way out of every crevice on my body. No idea what this means. We chatted idly about illnesses, and my not being able to go to either Coronet two weeks ago or Quest, and Kontzel & Ruadhan's wedding, and whether Quest was fun, and other stuff. I was sorry to say goodbye, but it was not a moment too soon--I think if I hadn't gotten up and sucked down some water, I would have started sweating blood.

I'm starting to really wonder what's going on. This illness has got me baffled. I'm going to take another advil, and if my temperature doesn't go down, I'm going over to Urgent Care before it gets dark.

Still sick as a dog. I woke up this morning sweaty and hurting, called my co-workers to let them know I wouldn't be in until noon (that was a bit optimistic, to be sure), then at about 11:15 I called back to say that working is not in the cards for me today. After having some soup and two meringue rings from a trip to Whole Foods a couple of weeks ago, I feel a fraction more human, but it still hurts a lot to swallow, my head feels like the inside is coated in a viscous acidic paste, and my general overall state of health is comparable to having been trampled by rhinos. My fever has fluctuated between about 99.5 and 101 since waking up to my alarm this morning. And my tonsils have some of that white stuff on them. What the heck is with the white stuff?!

About the only thing I've been up to (and that only for the last hour or so) has been checking e-mail. It's been a good day to check e-mail. The folks on a bardic listserv I'm on are currently debating the differences between the classic Celtic-culture bard of history, and the SCA bard. People have said some fascinating things. I find it very interesting that even among those that I count among the most knowledgeable of and faithful to the ideals of the Celtic bards, the consensus is that what we do in the Bardic Arts in the SCA, while we flavor it with Celtic history and pepper it with Gaelic, is really unique to the SCA.

This makes me happy because I have never pretended to have any remotely Celtic facet to either my persona or my bardic practice in the SCA. (Yes, persona and practice are two different things, I'm the first to admit that.) In persona, Eliane is the daughter of a respectable merchant family, literate since she could walk, with Spanish background on her father's side and Provencal on her mother's; how could she not sing? But she does this for fun, as she works or rides or hangs out with friends, because those who listen to her praise her voice and because she enjoys using it. She might have sung for visiting merchants around the dinner table before she was married, but after her husband died and she moved back to her family's home, her father would never have suggested she do so--knowing that she is not looking for another traveling husband.

Eliane would neither have known nor used the word "bard". She would have been aware of traveling or stationary "professional" performers--Gypsies, bands of actors, or the occasional street person or prostitute performing to make ends meet--but would have died before identifying herself with them. Respectable daughters of upper-middle-class Jewish merchant families simply did not do such things.

All of which, of course, doesn't keep me (whatever you want to call me; call me "Eliane-the-SCA-member" rather than "Eliane-the-persona"; Jennifer somehow seems wrong in this context) from singing as much as I can at events. It's what I like to do. I theorize that if you took "Eliane-the-persona" out of Tours, plopped her down in a medium-sized city in the United States some 500 years after her time period, gave her a life of relative leisure and a whole new set of friends, and said, "So, do what makes you happy," she would think about it for a minute, open her mouth, and sing "Mose Salio de Misrayim", for the sheer joy of the melody and the memory of a story dear to her people. If people recognized her for this, gave her rings and word-fame and elaborately handmade scrolls, so much the better, but the point is simply singing. Without bolts of silk to buy and sell, without the surrounding anti-semitism of medieval France, without the sadness of widowhood and the pressure to get remarried, placed in La Crosse, WI in 2002, Eliane-the-persona's priorities would change into those of Eliane-the-SCA-member. I really do believe this. I'm probably wrong, but it's what I believe.

Or one could theorize that I'm still feverish. Hmm. I feel slightly better right now. I have this craving for a slushie drink. My brain is not with-it enough to actually form a plan as to how I will acquire a slushie drink before the craving goes away. Southern La Crosse has no gas stations with Slush Puppie or Parrot-Ice machines, no coffee places that will make you a fake Frappuccino, no seasonal Hawaiian Ice stands. I ate the last of my chocolate mint ice cream last night; it sat in my belly all night and complained at me. So I fear that plain old ice cream is not a good idea, a point which is probably moot since I don't really trust myself to drive and walking more than twenty feet in my current state is not possible.

So I guess I'll just sit here and crave slushie...

Tuesday, May 14, 2002

Here's why I was so tired on Sunday night: I have yet another type of creeping crud, totally unlike the two colds and a flu I had earlier this cold season. (You would think we would be already out of the 2001-2002 cold season. But NOOOOO...not when it's cold like it was this weekend.) I went home at 2:30 Monday and slept from 3 until 11, puttered around the apartment until 4, then slept a couple more hours. I thought that would do it. Nope. All the symptoms were back around midmorning this morning.

Basically: very few nasal symptoms or congestion; instead, I have the full complement of miscellaneous body aches, headache, swallowing problems, sinus ache, backache, tummy pains, my hair hurts, etc. Plus the delightful fever I became so familiar with back when I had the flu a couple of months ago. When I stopped by Urgent Care on the way home tonight, I was up to 101.5; once at home this went up to 101.9. A very nice fatherly older doctor, with a kindly, "sure, we see this all the time, sounds like a sinus infection" attitude, prescribed me some amoxicillin, which I took with an advil when I got home. Three hours later the temperature is down to 100.1, which is enough for me right now, but not low enough to get me to choir rehearsal (which is almost over anyway). Oh well.

So the situation right now is, I'm hot and uncomfortable and mildly irritated that I won't be on my way to Quest for Camelot this weekend. I wouldn't have been anyway--we have the La Crosse Chamber Chorale's fundraising dinner on Friday night, plus I'm leaving for a conference first thing Saturday. But being sick and unable to prepare for the things I will be doing, only makes me think of the things I could be doing. A paradox, I know...

AAAaaaaagh! I hate being sick! FOUR TIMES this season! When do I get a break?

Sunday, May 12, 2002

No account of the wedding tonight, sorry. I went to hang out with friends this weekend and had a wonderful time, but returned really, really tired. This morning I had one of those interesting visual migraines, accompanied by a small headache, thank G-d only a small one. I only get those every couple of years and I live in fear that one of them will decide to become a full-blown migraine. I gather some people with migraines have found these visual patterns interesting or inspiring, viz. Hildegarde of Bingen and her ecstatic black-and-white squiggle paintings; I find them roundly irritating. This squiggly, sparkly line takes 45 minutes to swim through my visual field (starting, of course, at the macula, the spot where I'm looking). This is generally obstructive of my vision and quite distracting besides, esp. while driving. And then, if I'm veeeery lucky, after passing beyond my peripheral vision, it starts again in the center. (Happened three times in a row this morning. Yech.)

Then I drove back to La Crosse and stopped where we were supposed to have our Shire populace meeting, in Copeland Park, and sat around with people in 50-degree weather for perhaps a little too long--got sort of overchilled. We then adjourned the meeting to Giles' apartment and had a lovely, cacophonous meeting with a grand total of 14 people, not counting Claire the Loon. This was possibly the largest Shire meeting we've had since I've been here. I was very happy about this, but still pretty tired and sort of achy. Now it's been about 2 hours since I got home and I'm thinking it's time to call it a day. I'll check mail one more time and turn in.

Wednesday, May 08, 2002

A bit late (sorry folks), I am ready to begin installment II in the story of last Saturday. If you'll recall, when I left off at the end of Sunday's post, I was working to ensure that I could be at Coronet in spirit, if not in fact, and witness in some small way my friend Owen's Laureling.

To do this, I had to rely on others. Tough to do, when only a small and circumscribed group of people was being allowed to know that the happy happening would be happening at all. The day I found out, I asked a friend to videotape the courts at Coronet, and came close to revealing why. (Well, so sue me, I was feeling a little emotional that day.) I then e-mailed another friend to ask him to chronicle the day for me, and write it up so that on reading it, I would feel I had been there. (He's since sent his chronicle, which is excellent as always, to the Northshield Hall listserv. Vivat Fiskr!) I asked a Laurel friend to find someone to call me on my cell phone when morning court got around to the big announcement; she wasn't able to find anyone, but luckily, the secret spread far enough during its last 7-10 days that another non-Laurel friend was able to step in and help me out.

The cell phone thing worked surprisingly well. I didn't have to be in Black Earth for the wedding until noon, so Saturday morning found me found me sitting in the sunshine in my parents' living room with Claire the Loon in my arms, idly reading the paper and feeling like my head was about to blow open like that guy in Doonesbury. Flori had called my cell phone while I was in my mom's bathroom at about 10, looking for styling gel for my hair (I never wear the stuff, but wanted a slightly different look for the wedding) and said she'd call when Mistress Wyndreth went up to beg the boon.

At about 10:30, the phone rang and I answered immediately, only to hear nothing but static and indistinct noises--and then the line went dead. Panicked, I jumped up and started running around the house in a frantic search for better reception (of course the problem was in Fargo--cell tower proximity within two blocks of the Beltline in Madison is pretty much perfect--but it made me feel that I was doing my part!). My heart pounding, I stopped in the hallway near the linen closet, where I knew it'd be quiet. A few seconds later the phone rang again, and I answered and heard the same static again, and then magically, the Dragon Herald (Elena)'s voice, triumphant: "...Their Majesties call The Honorable Lord Owen Alun into Their Court!" And the crowd went WILD! I could hear shouting, shrieking, loud applause, someone crying.

THAT's what I wanted to hear. The roar of approval. When I heard that, I knew it was really happening, right at that moment, and no one was going to take it back or postpone it. Nothing could stop it now. I was trying to be quiet (my phone doesn't duplex, so if I made too much noise I would not be able to hear anything from the other end) but discovered I was making these sort of happy laughing sobbing noises.

Then I heard some more static and Elena's voice blipping in and out, talking about the Arts and Sciences, and I prayed the connection wouldn't die again, and she shouted "...Their Majesties invite The Honorable Lord Owen Alun into the Companionship of the Order of the Laurel!" and the crowd went wild again! (That's about when my Dad found me in the back hallway of the house, and peeked around the corner at his sobbing daughter, wondering if everything was okay. I gave him a big teary grin.)

Then the line went dead again. But I'd heard everything I hoped I would hear. It was perfect, it was trimmed down to the second like a news bite on Public Radio. I knew the ceremony itself, during evening Court, would be on several people's videorecordings, so I wasn't too sad not to hear that. But I also knew the morning Court stuff would catch most people by surprise, and G-D I wanted to hear that roar of approval. It did my heart good.

I can't explain what it was like to hear this on the cell phone, the tiny, tinny sound of something so big happening so far away. It was pure magic that I was able to hear what I heard, no more, no less, along the tenuous and unpredictable web of connections that makes this kind of communication (sometimes) possible. My desire to hear what I heard was so great, and what I heard was so perfect, that I even wondered afterwards if I had imagined the whole thing, made it up exactly how I thought it would sound and then dreamed it in a waking dream. But no, my phone listed two received calls around 10:30 that morning, when I checked later in the day. It was real.

Okay, I realize I'm rhapsodizing here. Moving on...

Flori was kind enough to call me at intervals throughout the day and evening, to keep me apprised of the great happenings. And there were many! Baroness Bridget from Nordskogen was Pelicaned (I pity the new Peer who must compete with Owen's Laureling for attention...!), Lady Charissa got a Dragon's Heart for all her work with children's activities and drama, Lord Colin got a Crwth (vivat!!!), and more that I can't remember right now. She also let me know when the tourney was down to two, and who won in the end. It was interesting to observe the different reactions among the SCA folk who were at the wedding. One person was not so pleased with the outcome. Another was walking on air (she is man-at-arms to the new Lady Heir and will end up being retinue!). A real cross-section of Northshielders.

I held up pretty well, considering all that was going on while I was performing wedding duties (more on that in the next post). A few times I had to leave the dancing, clutching my cell phone, and go stand outside where it was cool and I could sigh in peace. Then someone would call me inside, or I'd hear something I wanted to dance to, and I'd turn off the phone and go back inside.

Owen called and left a message while I had the phone turned off for the Grand March, and I called him back later, while he was at the post-revel. He sounded bemusedly, tiredly happy and thanked me profusely for his gift (I gave him the small wooden stool with woodburning/painting on the top to look like an illuminated manuscript, which I'd made for the A&S Challenges at Poor Man's and Autumn Rose last summer, then added "Master Owen Alun" and some laurel leaves before sealing). True to form, he tried to inform me about all the OTHER happenings of the day, but I told him I'd heard all that from Flori and wanted to hear how his vigil went, what had most wrenched his heart in the ceremony, etc. I probably kept him away from the post-revel for too long. But it was so good to hear from him.

There was, of course, a post-revel to be reckoned with. I was right that I'd be mad to miss it. A lot of relatively new bardic afficionados from Nordskogen attended and were blown away by the stars in attendance: Mistress Marian of Heatherdale, Garraed, Master Hector, Mistress Morgana, and I don't even know who-all--remember I wasn't there! From what I understand, the post-revel took an unusual turn as the storytellers took over and related tales of those who have done great deeds in the Society and gone on to other rewards in the next life, so to speak. We are a relatively young organization (37 years on May 1) but as in any organization, some of our best and brightest are no longer with us. It behooves us to remember them in song and story, when the time feels right. I am very sorry to have missed the right time.

Next post: The wedding! (It may not be until Sunday. Wait for it.)

Saturday, May 04, 2002

I don't know how to start this 'blog entry. So many different entry points to this story. I think it'll have to be a three-parter: 1. Background, 2. What happened at Coronet (and how I managed to be there in spirit), and 3. What happened at the wedding. First, a statement of a happy fact:

My teacher, my friend, Owen Alun received long-overdue recognition as a Companion of the Order of the Laurel, yesterday at Northshield Coronet in the Shire of Korsvag (Fargo, ND), from Their Majesties Alys and Valharic of the Middle Kingdom.

I've known for over three weeks. Here's how I found out:

Friday night, three weeks ago, I went to a gathering with a bunch of Nordskogen/Tor Aerie people, in the Twin Cities. I was sitting with Owen and Rosanore, and Owen remarked to me, "You're going to be happy and sad." (Prophetic words if there ever were any.) "Why's that?" I asked. He told me that a lot of Ealdormere and Calontir bards were coming up for Coronet (knowing that I could not be there). He named people I admire, whose work I really enjoy. I pouted and stamped my foot and said, "Geez, I'm missing not just Coronet, but the best post-revel of the year!" Owen went on to say that Garraed, an excellent bard from Ealdormere, had called to let him know they were coming, and had asked if I were going to be there, and when he was told I wasn't, he said that was too bad. That was nice, to think that others, even non-Northshielders, look forward to seeing me at events.

We went on to have a lovely evening. I stayed at Owen's house, he told me his rope theory in the morning (ask him if you want to hear it--it's a pretty astute SCA leadership analogy), and we went with Irene to this cafe a block away and had yummy corn pancakes. I then got back in the car at about 10 am and drove towards Shattered Oak (Eau Claire, where the local group was having an event that day).

About five miles past Hudson, I was musing on my misfortune at being committed to serving as a bridesmaid in Lady Kontzel's wedding, the same day as such a wonderful Coronet, with all those bards visiting. (Not that it was misfortune to be in Kontzel and Ruadhan's wedding! To the contrary. More about the wedding later.) I was driving along, listening to music and idly cursing my luck. And then I heard three questions echo in my mind, one right after the other, as clearly as if someone were speaking them to me:

1. When is the next time both the King and Queen of the Middle will be in the Northshield at the same time?

2. Why are the bardic luminaries of the Known World descending on Northshield Coronet in Fargo, North Dakota?

3. Garraed barely knows me; why would he be disappointed that I wouldn't be at Coronet?

I listened to these questions; my jaw dropped; I think I stopped breathing. And then another question rang out:

4. Why did Wyndreth ask me whether I was going to Coronet, when most people know that I always do?

And then I knew. It came on me like a thunderclap. There was no wondering, no thinking "Well, I shouldn't assume anything until I get confirmation", no deciding not to trust my own pessimism. It really was as though someone looked me in the eye and told me: Owen was going to get Laureled, at last, at Coronet, and I wouldn't be there.

I remember yelling, "No, no, no, no, no, no..." and crying hot, frustrated tears. I had to pull over on the Interstate. Is there such a thing as projectile crying? My glasses were spotted as though I had been standing in a rainstorm. I sobbed until I ran out of kleenex (not long, considering all I had with me was half a purse-sized package of tissues).

Of course I did a little laughing too. At last, at last, after all the people who have suffered and worked towards this, after all the time that he's deserved it, it's happening. This is a happy thing! But there was no sense of surprise. I've been expecting this at every event where Middle Kingdom royalty was in attendance since...well, since I met Owen.

Finally I thought: now I know, but I need to hear this from someone else who knows. So I attempted (largely unsuccessfully) to stop crying and proceeded to the event, where after most of the day, I finally cornered someone who would know, someone whose compassion and wisdom knows no bounds and who was willing to look me in the eye and tell me: "Yes. At Coronet."

It was a tough rest of the event. It was a tough three weeks. People--wonderful, well-meaning people--kept e-mailing me and calling me to tell me that although they could not break their promise of silence on the subject, it was very important that I plan to be at Coronet. Each time this happened I would cry all over again. I wrote Kontzel and told her why I would be looking a little faraway, and clutching my cell phone, for part of her wedding day. It was hard even to see Owen at the event last week in Madison (though I'm always glad to see him), and harder to leave him that evening at the end of the post-revel. (Flori deserves my eternal gratitude for giving me a long hug while I cried again, quiet sobbing, as we were all getting ready to leave. I'm sure the other post-revel attendees though I was completely nuts.)

It was just difficult. And I felt at all times that I was being selfish, to be so sad simply because I couldn't be there. I could already picture it in my mind, just how it would happen, the roar of the crowd when he was called up, the triumph in the herald's voice, the standing ovation and the tears on certain people's faces. It could be nothing but an amazing, beautiful event, and just the fact that it was happening was enough to make my year. And with every detail I found out, every vision I had of the event and the announcement and the ceremony, my tears flowed again because I wasn't going to be there. Let history record that I was selfish. Let it be known that I was self-centered. I refuse to be ashamed of it. Owen understands.

I didn't sit and weep for three weeks, though. I swung into action. And that'll be the next installment: how I arranged to be there in spirit (and even hear a little bit of it live...the best part!) even though I couldn't be there physically.

(For another person's perspective on the great happenings of Saturday, see Earnan's blog post from tonight. Thanks Earnan! Yours is the first account of the event that I've read!)

Thursday, May 02, 2002

Feeling sort of slow and tired today. I am still being bogged down by one of my secrets. Not that it's much of a secret anymore, but I still can't write about it here. Worse than the secret is the fact that I can't be there when it comes out. This is just...hard. This has been the hardest three weeks of my SCA career. It'll all come out Saturday, and it'll hit the listservs Sunday, and all weekend there will be much rejoicing and huzzah-ing and other happiness-type activities. And I'll be far, far away from it all, listening on my tinny cell phone if I'm lucky.

No more talk about that until Sunday.

Last night I went into one of my bouts of silliness and drove to St. Paul for Nordskogen's Wednesday night social. Although I got out of work promptly (all right, 4:37), traffic going north through town was ridiculous and I didn't make it to I-90 north of La Crosse until 5:30. So I drove like a bat out of...well, a really rushed bat (that is, if bats drove), knowing that I would have to make it there in time to change (1st Weds. of the month is in garb) before Baronial court. That is, if I didn't miss Baronial court altogether...

I didn't miss Baronial court. I arrived in the middle of announcements at about 7:37, encountered an astonished Rosanore in the hallway (there is something so pleasant about Rosanore always being the first person I see through the windows in the entry doors when I arrive!), changed really fast, and scuttled back in to catch the final, uh...ten minutes of announcements. They were running a tad behind. No matter. I still got to see what I came for: Baroness Anne and Baron Geoffrey gave Bronwen, one of my dearest friends, the Willow she had received (in absentia) in Middle Kingdom Court on Saturday! (Mistress Cassandra went up to accept the award, which I thought was way, way cool.)

"Geoffrey, Mistress Cassandra, and I argued over who was going to go up and accept this for you...and we lost," said Baroness Anne, and I heard Bronwen say, "I'm sorry I missed getting it from the Queen, but I am glad I received it at home." Bronwen is so cool. And she is so good at what she does, no matter what she does. There is no justice to the fact that she waited this long for her Willow. But it doesn't matter now. And this weekend I hope we can do a little celebrating, of The Willowing of The Bronwen, as well as of the wedding!

Also got to hang out after the meeting with Owen, Will, Mary, Earnan, Brigid, Christian, Mikey, and other Nordskogen/Tor Aerie folk. We went to an Old Chicago pizza place, at which I did not eat (it was 9:30 by this time...past my eating deadline), but I had a bottle of Sprecher root beer which really hit the spot. The food looked really good, though.

What was really satisfying was just hanging out with people. I don't know why I enjoy that so much--it's still sort of a new thing to me. Before I joined the SCA I was not truly a social person. I was lucky if I managed to wring any enjoyment out of a party, youth conclave, dinner with extended family, conferences, being at camp, etc. that did not derive solely from the activity concerned (eating dinner, dancing, shopping, singing, religious activities, etc.) and not the people. For some of those things, I am still lucky if I get any kind of social enjoyment out of them. Since I was 16 or 17 I have been able to force social enjoyment on myself by finding one or two people that seem to want to hang out with me, and pretending the rest of the crowd isn't there while I have a single fun, animated conversation with that one or two people. But that's quite an effort, and still a stopgap measure.

Since I joined the SCA I have become a social butterfly. I see myself waving to ten people in quick succession as I enter the main room at an event, and I wonder, who the h*** is this, waving like a movie star as she walks into the room? Probably I look like I know everyone, or expect everyone to know me, or maybe I'm just faking it by picking imaginary people out of the crowd to wave at. I mean, I remember how shy I have always been. Before I joined this organization, I would sometimes cry from the stress of meeting new people, remembering names, or simply knowing I was about to be stuck in a large room with a lot of people. Yes, I had some developmental breakthroughs over time. But even though the very process of joining the SCA was lengthy and confusing and sometimes disheartening for me socially, I seem to have popped out the other side and gained an ability to enjoy people for who they are, and to value my time with them. This is a miracle that enriches my life every day.

If that were all the SCA had given me, well, dayenu.*

*Dayenu: da-YAY-noo, Hebrew for it would have been enough, from a Passover song about the many gifts of G-d to the Israelites during the exodus from Egypt.

Leaving tomorrow early afternoon for Madison, or suburbs thereof, where on Saturday I will be a bridesmaid to Lady Kontzel on the occasion of her wedding to Lord Ruadhan. Possibly I'll post either tomorrow night late, or Saturday night late. Definitely Sunday. I will have some secrets to get off my chest.

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