Saturday, October 31, 2009

Halloween Tea

This past weekend, my friend Jenni and I attended the Halloween Tea put on by the Ladies Historical Tea Society.  One of the gentle requirements of attendance was period dress from the Victorian or Edwardian era.  We wracked our brains trying to come up with convincing (but cheap) outfits that fit the bill.  Jenni, seamstress extraordinaire that she is becoming*, stitched us up some Edwardian inspired skirts with which we could wear high-necked blouses, for a sort of Anne of Green Gables look (though in the picture we rather look like Edwardian spinster sisters).

The tea itself was quite enjoyable.  The ladies were each such interesting characters, and so welcoming, that we quickly overcame our initial nervousness about our cluelessness about tea (manners, proper conversation, clinking the china too hard) and had a wonderful time.  Another gentle requirement for the Halloween Tea was a ghost story to share after the tea.  I read Charles Dickens' story, "The Lawyer and the Ghost," in which the protagonist suggests to the ghost that, of all the places on earth he can visit, why should he remain in the one place where he was most miserable? 

You can read more about the event in Rebecca's post.

*She made our gowns for the Regency Ball at the Jane Austen Festival.  Here's my post on it.

Friday, October 30, 2009

A haunting we will go

"There is no encouragement for ghosts in most of our villages, for they have scarcely had time to finish their first nap, and turn themselves in their graves before their surviving friends have travelled away from the neighborhood; so that when they turn out at night to walk their rounds, they have no acquaintance left to call upon. This is perhaps the reason why we so seldom hear of ghosts, except in our long-established Dutch communities."

--Washington Irving "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow"

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Cheese in the library

Going to the cheese aisle of a store is like going to the library.  There's so many different kinds cheeses, each with its own aroma, flavor, color, texture, and heft.  I have to spend time examining whatever blocks of cheese catch my eye. Like browsing the shelves of the nonfiction section, I rely on serendipity to lead me to the next type of cheese to try. 

My latest discovery is a hard goat cheese made by a Kentucky based company, Sapori d'Italia. I have no idea what it's called, as I threw away the wrapper in my eagerness to cut a slice.  It's a pungent, crumbly cheese with a rich nutty flavor and a hint of black pepper. 

My paltry description aside, I like it quite a bit.  J., on the other hand, thought it tasted "vaguely like soap."*  Which is good, as it means more cheese for me.

I love cheese.

*I have no idea where the soapy flavor comes from, and I think this is the result of J.'s tendency to devour foods without savoring them (ha!)

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Cats and their mysterious ways

This is the ritual everytime I get on the computer.  Sasha, this shy little wisp of a cat, becomes bold in her quest for affection.  Up into my lap she leaps for several rounds of petting and head scratches.  She gazes up at me in adoration while I work on the computer  She loves me.  I am the center of her universe during this time.

Then she leaves and returns to whatever secret place she has.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Importance of research

Research for our trip to Scotland and England

Getting to know your own library

From Susan Hill’s new book Howards End Is On the Landing:

"It began like this. I went to the shelves on the landing to look for a book I knew was there. It was not. But plenty of others were and among them I noticed at least a dozen I realised I had never read.

I pursued the elusive book through several rooms and did not find it in any of them, but each time I did find at least a dozen, perhaps two dozen, perhaps two hundred, that I had never read.

And then I picked out a book I had read but had forgotten I owned. And another and another. After that came the books I had read, knew I owned and realised that I wanted to read again.

I found the book I was looking for in the end, but by then it had become far more than a book. It marked the start of a journey through my own library.

I really should do something like this. I don't think I've read even a quarter of the books I own...and yet I still check books out from the library."

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Knowledge and the wild things

I had a very strange dream a couple nights ago. It was amusing, bizarre, and beautiful in the way that only dreams can be. It illustrates how dreams can be the brain's creative way of sorting through all the information we cram into it, consciously or subconsciously.

I dreamt that the wild things were the caretakers of the trees of knowledge. All I remember of the dream is this: I am deep in the bowels of what I initially think is the earth, yet I soon realize that we are in a different place, like the Wood between the Worlds from the Narnia books. We are in a cavernous space, looking up at the giant roots of trees, pushing through the ceiling. They are unbelievably large, like mountains, beyond the scale of comprehension, and I feel impossibly small while looking up at them. This sense of scale does not bother me.

As is the way of dreams, I never see the wild things, though I know they are present. While it’s funny that the creatures from Sendak’s book “Where the Wild Things Are” should show up in my dream, as the caretakers of these ponderous trees, no less!, somehow they added a sense of gravitas to my dream. Their wildness meant they were dangerous, and I should take care in this place where the trees of knowledge reside.

I never find out what the wild things do to trespassers. All I am left with is the image of those giant roots suspended in a vast space, and the profound sense of awe I felt while gazing at those ponderous roots far above me, and a niggling sense of foreboding, an intuition that I should not tarry long in this place, no matter how heartbreakingly beautiful the trees are.

And that was the dream. There's no hidden meaning behind it, no suppressed emotions trying to get out. Just the hint of a story.

I like those kinds of dreams.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Nature abhors a vacuum

We didn't have too many "views" as the Smoky Mountains were living up to their name.

But without that fog, the light coming through the trees wouldn't be quite so charming...

And moss wouldn't grow so rampantly...

(I love moss.)

Nothing can make decay look as lovely

or interesting

as nature does.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Importance of little things

As always, J. and I had a wonderful time in the Smoky Mountains, where we went for 3 1/2 days. We hiked a section of the Appalachian Trail, from Newfound Gap to Cosby Knob. It was roughly 36 miles.

I kept up with J. on all of those miles--even on that 15 mile day I mentioned in my previous post. No more stopping every 10 minutes on a climb to let my racing heart calm down. I just kept going and going. I was the energizer bunny. I finally understood what J. meant when he said, "It never gets easier--just less hard." My legs were working--oh, I felt it!--but that ache just faded into the background, and I was able to let my mind wander as I took in the beauty of the Smokies around me.

This is an important accomplishment, you know. If I was a hobbit in Middle Earth, this means I would be able to keep up with Aragorn.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Home again

Status for the day (because my readers really care, I know):

Laura wandered through some clouds, met the nearly tame guinea fowl of Tricorner Shelter, unleashed billions of spores, nearly flew off the side of Mount Cammerer, and for the first time in her life kept up with J., even during a 15 mile day, while hiking in the always lovely Smokies!

Friday, October 09, 2009

Climbing is hard

elevation chart for AT around Mount Rogers

When I first started hiking, I had a perverse relationship with elevation charts, those things that show you how high and low the trail goes within so many miles. I hated looking at them because it always seemed that whenever J. pulled the elevation chart out, we were at the bottom of a huge climb that the chart helpfully illustrated as a steep slash. Never at the top. At the same time, I wanted to look at them because I had to see how many more miles we had, and how many more climbs were in store.

I guess J. has toughened me enough so that I no longer want to cry when I see that we have just one more climb to make before we reach the shelter at the end of a long day. Now I can coolly assess the elevation chart and mentally prepare my legs for how much more I will ask of them.

Of course, it helps if you are hiking through open space (like the balds of Mount Rogers). There's more to distract you. I always get grumpy if we're climbing up the side of a tree-covered mountain. Trees tend to blur into one monotonous scene as you hike, so it seems as if you are watching a continuous loop of one image. It gets old if you're tired and hungry.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Food is never far from the hiker's mind

Low fat and low calorie is not an option when you go hiking.

I always feel slightly guilty when we go shopping for food for one of our hiking trips, since we're stockpiling on nutty, chocolate-y trail mix, Snickers and PayDay candy bars, and zeroing in on dehydrated milk that's 20% fat. Moderation is not the key during this time.

Rather than carefully regulating our caloric intake, we revel in it. You have to. I can remember times when I did not have enough food while hiking. Your brain develops a curiously keen sense of focus--the opposite of the light-headedness I feel when I've pushed my lunchtime too far. The gaping maw of your stomach is never far from your thoughts. Any food you eat during this time disappears into a black hole and you derive no satisfaction from it, no sense of your body storing anything for fuel. It's like your hunger is a separate entity that won't give your body anything until it's been satisfied.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Have you met Mr. Edwards' wife?

It's always amusing to meet J.'s students. They always exclaim, with that profuse enthusiasm endemic to young teenagers, "You're so pretty!" and stare wide-eyed at me while J. makes chitchat. Once we move on, they start furiously whispering to each other.

While this is flattering, I think it's more to do with the surprise of encountering the outside life of a teacher, plus just some plain 'ole curiosity about who on earth would possibly want to be married to the big bad chemistry teacher. I think their exclamations of my "prettiness" is a gloss over what they're really thinking: "Wow, she's young and has no warts!" That, and the fact that I don't wear penny loafers or Mom jeans (my preferences running more towards Sauconys and dark wash jeans), combines to completely disrupt their preconceived notions of what "Mr. Edwards' wife" is like.

J. told me about an exchange between two of his students that he overheard earlier that week. One of the boys whispered something to another boy, whose face swiftly adopted a perplexed expression as he wasn't sure he heard his friend correctly, "Have I smelled Mr. Edwards' wife?"

Seeing as I thought "loan" sounded like "markers" while I was working at the reference desk the other week, it's quite plausible that "seen" could be confused with "smelled," especially considering the tendencies of young people to mumble and slur their words.