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Wednesday, November 26, 2014

The Dancers of Arun

Some books I find by wandering through the library, pulling them off the shelf.  Such was the case with The Dancers of Arun by Elizabeth A. Lynn. 

It meets some of my basic criteria:
  • I like fantasy novels because they are about a pre-industrial world.  I like them when they are mostly fantasy novels for that reason.  I don't like them to be thick with dragons, magic, princesses, etc.  
  • I like them when it feels like I am inside the main character's head, rather than when it is told from the outside.  I like it when it's about characters, feelings, and relationships.
Some things about it which I think for me were neutral, not really pros or cons:
  • It has non-mainstream sexual mores.  It would be off-putting to many.  On the other hand those who like such things would see this as a plus.  For me, it wasn't really a plus or a minus.  To me, I entered into the world of the novel and took things in terms of what they meant to the characters.
  • Some describe Lynn's writing style as "choppy" or "stilted."  Some saw this as a positive, others as a negative.  To me, for the most part, the book was successful in getting me too immersed in the story to notice the language, although it times it did seem a little off.
A negative for me:
  •  Many characters didn't really have distinct personalities.  It was just a bunch of names to keep straight.  When a book really gives you a sense of who a person is, then you don't have to think, "Which one is that one again?"  Or, even when I knew which one it was, I just knew one fact about them, I didn't have a feel for who they were as a person.  
A positive:
  • Portrayal of disability.  It's presented as something that's not like a big thing, not like this person is a disabled person.  Instead, it's just part of who a person is.  It has a constant impact on who they are, but it is just one part of who they are, it is not their identity.  

Tired

Thanksgiving. Four days off work.  Same plan as usual: stay home, rest, catch up on chores.  In past years, I had hopes that by the end of my time off, I would have more things done, and would feel more rested, but now I know that never happens.

I have been tired all autumn.  No rest does any good. 

Right now, I so don't want to do anything.  So maybe I can take my first evening of Thanksgiving break to relax, to read fiction. and then get things done on the other days, after I've had a chance to recover from work.

Except I know that it never comes.  Feeling rested never comes.  Getting stuff done never comes.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Fantasy worlds

Often I get a sense of well-being from having dreams that fulfill me emotionally.  Tonight I thought I'd take a journey into fantasy worlds on purpose, and see what I could find or build.  I considered three different worlds.

Things that all my fantasies have in common: I don't have to go to my current job, or work full-time in an office, and I don't have to do any cooking or other domestic chore. 

1) Last week I was sick and missed two and a half days of work.  It was nice because being sick didn't hurt, I just rested.  I spent mornings sleeping.  In the afternoon, I read or watched DVDs.  Then I went to  bed early.  I am tired tonight.  I am tired most of the time.  So one fantasy is to indulge that fatigue.  The weather is cold these days, so that fantasy also involves warmth.  In this fantasy, I am in a comfortable chair by a fireplace, or I am in bed, enveloped in blankets, sitting up, leaning against a pillow.  Whether in the chair by the fireplace or in the bed, I am dozing or reading fiction.  If the time comes when I want to, I could go for a walk.  In this fantasy, it is winter and there is snow on the ground.  Sometimes I may also listen to music, write, and drink herb tea or hot chocolate.

2) The second fantasy was less interesting, because it was too close to a plan for reality.  It's farfetched enough that I don't think it will happen, and yet realistic enough not to be a satisfying fantasy.  In this world, I move to the small city that I've dreamed of living in for the past 20 years.  I'm writing a book telling the stories of my ancestors and of my life -- both a family history book and an autobiography, because in the future, I'll be history too.  I'm compiling the photos and notes I have already.  I'm also traveling some for my research, to interview people, review historical documents, and to visit and photograph places where my ancestors lived.  I have an editor who is helpful, to give me some structure and help me stay on track.  I think I also have some sort of part-time job, maybe at a library, because writing a book is solitary and I also want to have the experience of contributing to a team.

3) To develop my third fantasy, I thought about what fictional characters I identify with.  I identify with characters who have strength and courage.  I identify with warriors.  I identify with characters whose strength is physical.  I identify with characters with a will of steel.

In the early Harry Potter books, I don't really identify with any of the characters.  In the later books, I come to like Luna and Ginny, although I don't strongly identify with them.  Luna is a role model for me because of the way she walks through life just being herself, rather than trying to fit what others expect.  I don't identify with Hermione at all.  It may seem strange because many people have perceived me to be like Hermione.  Maybe identifying with fictional characters has to do with having a place to give expression to the sides of yourself that don't have room to soar in real life.

I don't much identify with the characters in Firefly either.  Inara, River, and Kaylee are too girly for me, while Zoe is too matter-of-fact.  However, I do like the way Inara has a will of steel.  I like the way she carries herself, demanding respect.

I don't like Mercedes Lackey's characters Tarma and Kethry, because the books don't get inside their heads.  It's like they did this and then they did this, just a list of actions, with not much feeling behind it.  Kerowyn was a little better, especially in the beginning, but later in the book, she seemed emptier.

I like Robin McKinley's Aerin and Harry, because they are warrior types.

In my fantasy world, I imagine that I live in a monastery type setting.  That is, I live in a room that is simple, just a bed and a desk, with thick stone or cinder block walls.  I had a dorm room like this, and I stayed in a room like this when I visited Venezuela.  I'm part of a rigorous training program.  We are always working on training ourselves physically, spiritually, and mentally.  It seems to be a group setting, but I'm not really aware of any particular individuals.  I'm focused on my own training.  The physical training includes tai chi.  The spiritual training includes meditation.  The mental training includes studying history and traditions.  There is also some outdoor training, including nature study and skate skiing.

When I finish my training, I go and serve a village, like a druid.  I know all the history of my people, so when someone has a problem, I tell them about what has and hasn't worked in the past.  I preside at rites of passage like birth, coming of age, marriage and death.  I know what stories and music to share to inspire people.

The people of the village and the creatures of the wood are separate.  I am the only one who can connect with both.  My lover is the Green Man, a creature of the wood.  I dance with the creatures of the wood.  With the creatures of the wood, I am passion.  With the people of the village, I am knowledge, wisdom, and strength.

When I put it that way, I don't want to bother with the village part of the fantasy. I'd rather dance with the creatures of the wood than be a source of knowledge and wisdom. 

I think I might play the harp or something too, in my fantasy world.

Also goats.  I'm a goat herder.

The problem is, I identify with warrior types because of their strength and physicality, but I'm not interested in hurting people, and hurting people is usually the purpose of warriors.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Mediocrity

Last night I was reading By the Sword by Mercedes Lackey.  In it, Kerowyn has three years of hard training.

This morning on the radio they had an interview with Quinn Sullivan.  Now 15, he has been playing blues guitar on national television since age six. 

They have what I am missing: they work hard, and excel at something.  At least in school, I had things that I could work at and accomplish. 

When I was pursuing the AODA curriculum, I liked having something I was working toward. But then I could not in good conscience stick with them, due to their censorship practices.

Every now and then, in tai chi or Morris dance, I feel like I'm learning something.  I like it.  But it's not enough.

Most of the time, I am overwhelmed with things that have to be done.  They don't require excellence.  They just require time.  They are boring, and there are too many of them, so I can never get things done thoroughly and well. 

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Article on animal sacrifice

David Salisbury has a  nice article on animal sacrifice at http://www.daviddsalisbury.com/#!Sacrifice/c22a6.  It's not a priority topic for  me since I don't know anyone who practices animal sacrifice, but it makes its points well. 

Some of these points can be applied to other issues as well, including the issue of Morris dancers wearing black face paint.  Just because people did it in the past doesn't make it cool.

It also applies to arguments about any kind of animal cruelty -- yes, unless you are completely vegan, you are still hurting animals, but if you save the life of one animal, that's something.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Make an oracle

Some modern druids use the ogham tree associations for divination.  I've also seen an article about making your own ogham tree alphabet based on the trees where you live.  I'm not really interested in divination in terms of telling the future or anything like that.  But I do see something in it.  What I see is that you could have a deck of cards that has pictures that you find beautiful, and meanings that you find inspiring, and you could draw a card and meditate on it, and it would be a way to tap into whatever strengths that card reminds you of.

I was thinking that in conjunction with the way names keep coming into my head.  The idea is usually that these are names I could call myself, to tap into different aspects of myself.  I realized that many of the names refer to trees and shrubs.  I realized that it would be possible to make something like a deck of cards, with each card having a beautiful picture and associated meanings. 

I'm not sure it really makes sense to call it an oracle or divination.  It would be very much like that, except that I see it as an aid to tapping into parts of myself, rather than a way of seeing into the future. 

So, the cards in my deck could include:

Autumn Oak
Apple Blossom
Apple Fruit
Red Maple
Sugar Maple
Norway Maple Flower
Norway Maple Leaves
Maple Samara
Sage
Holly
Juniper
Sunflower
Sunshine
Skydancer
Forester
Sierra
Jade
Cinnamon
Lilac
Granite Seacost
Sycamore Grace

There would not be a fixed number.  I would create new ones as inspired.

This strikes me as the kind of project I think of but never do. 

Well, I could see writing blurbs for some of these.  But making cards is the kind of thing I don't do.  I don't do crafts stuff.  I write. 

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Samhain, Halloween, Thanksgiving

I like the Halloween customs of costumes, going around the neighborhood, and pumpkins.  I don't like the candy though.  It's not healthy.  And if it's not fair trade, you are contributing to some bad practices. 

I like the Samhain tradition of remembering the dead.  I'm not sure it fits with the Halloween traditions though.

I was reading tonight about Native Americans, that they grew beans, corn, squash, and strawberries.  Strawberries are for a different season, but how about we celebrate Thanksgiving by eating beans, corn, and squash, thinking about the history of the country, and thinking about things we are grateful for. 

Since reading Druidry and the Ancestors, I've been thinking in terms of druidry being about being rooted in our ancestors, where ancestors is all who have gone before. Samhain can be about remembering our personal ancestors, and people we knew personally who have passed away, while Thanksgiving can be about remembering the people who have lived on this land.