Friday, June 15, 2012

Four Outside Days

I managed to spend four out of five weekday afternoons outside this week. That's a new record for me (since I moved to MA at least) and I'm rather pleased with myself.
Monday, Brian and I loaded our bikes into the truck and drove down to the canal for a very pretty afternoon ride. We started at the Herring Run and rode to the Railroad bridge and back, which is seven miles all told. I would like to do the full fourteen - one side to the other and back again - but we'll build up to that.
Tuesday, Jennah and I parked our butts in beach chairs and people-watched on Duxbury beach. She brought the sandwiches and I brought the lemonade. I got my first true sunburn of the summer - primarily on my face. I always forget how much light the water reflects back.
Wednesday was my trapped-indoors-day this week, but since I spent it at the USO office, and it was a miserable rainy day, I can't really begrudge myself.
Thursday, Brian and I buried the rest of the tires in the garden and set the last of the tomato plants in place. I started weeding, but quickly realized I needed an all-day-weeding event. I scheduled it for the next day.
Which was today! We got up and spent three or four hours in the garden. I not have landscaping cloth between all my rows of beans and the majority of my garden is blissfully weed-free.

I spent the rest of my time today in homemaker-type-pursuits. I made a pie, prepped sangria, and purchased the components for a simple fruit salad - all for Brad's going away party tomorrow. He's being deployed - hopefully to Qatar but possibly to Afghanistan - and we won't see him for the better part of a year.
I'm grilling almost every night now, which means that summer is well and truly here.

I managed to burn the parts of my arms that didn't burn on Tuesday, except for the top-front of my shoulders, so I have the most ridiculous farmer's tan ever. -sigh-

Sunday will be spent in the garden, too, I believe. I have lettuce to rescue (since it finally decided to sprout) and while the carrots have wiggle room, the carrot beds are currently not aesthetically pleasing.

I would like to maintain this pace for the rest of the summer - one day of the week and one day of the weekend to rest, but every other day is spent at least partially outside. Once it gets hot (it's been in the mid-60s and lower-70s all week), my ideal day will start in the garden but as the heat chases me out I'll jump in the lake to cool off before showering and running whatever errands I have to do.

Yeah, I know, I'm spoiled.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Caught Up!

Surprisingly, I managed to get caught up to where I needed to be on the garden before we left for Emilee's wedding.
We got up early this morning and headed for Boston. We'd agreed to help our friend Jose move into his new apartment in Quincy. We ended up helping his roommate - which is fine, because honestly it was a lot less driving and a lot less stuff. No complaints here! His roommate is a nice guy, and we were on our way home again by shortly after noon.
I got out of the truck. Put my purse down. And went right back to work on the garden.
I managed to get my beans soaking after the June Bug incident last night, and so all four kinds went into the ground today.
I got six hills of cucumbers assembled, and I rigged a temporary watering solution (as I have yet to hear back from the landscaper - but it is a holiday).
The peas that have already emerged were given a twine-and-stake trellis to keep them occupied while I'm away. We'll judge what further supports they need when we get back.
I know we're only going to be gone a week, but a garden can die in a week!
I'm making a very anal-retentive list for my beloved housesitter, but I'm hoping for rain. If it rains he doesn't even have to worry about it. This spring has been moist enough that I'm not too terribly worried about it.

It doesn't sound like I did a whole lot when written, but it was hours of work and I hurt all over. Today's move and gardening on top of yesterday's tire burial strained muscles I'm not sure I've ever used before. The obliques I utilized to swing a pickaxe are particularly peckish this evening.
That said, I had a nice dinner with my husband. I'm sitting in my comfy office chair with a huge glass of lemonade. And I'm going to do as little as possible for the rest of the evening. to-do list for tomorrow is over a page long.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Falling Behind

I utterly forgot that me leaving for a week (for my cousin's wedding in Kansas) would absolutely sabotage my gardening plans.
Fortunately, I remembered before it was too late to do anything.
UNfortunately, I didn't remembered until there wasn't enough time left to do much.

Everything going on right now is a good-news-bad-news kind of scenario.
Good: Brian got tires!  Bad: We only have 8 of them in the ground and OMG is it a lot of work.
Good: Peas came up!  Bad: I planted 2 20' rows and only about 8 plants germinated. Good: I had more peas to plant!
Good: A carrot came up!  Bad: A single carrot came up. Out of 40 square feet of seeds.
Good: The potatoes look amazing!  Bad: Not a single f--king lettuce sprouted!
Good: All my hose and my sprinkler heads are in great shape!  Bad: The f--king irrigation won't turn on so I can't use the g-ddamn hose.
There are about five more cursewords in that last sentence when I say it out loud.
You get the idea.
I'm soaking beans tonight and I plan to put them all in the ground tomorrow morning. Maybe tomorrow afternoon. We're helping a friend move so that makes a mess of things.

I called the landscaper and asked him to please come make my sprinklers work. I don't really care about the lawn... its the poor thirsty seedlings I'm concerned about. If it rains while I'm gone it won't be a big deal, but if it doesn't  the garden will be a wash because I don't know if I can rely on my housesitter to come out every other day with the hose and soak the important parts.
I'm not sure the inside plants will get watered. Those at least I know I can either salvage or replace.


The cats are going insane. I have to stop typing now before everything I own is destroyed.

Thursday, May 10, 2012


I am once again past a milestone in my education:
I am done with finals, so my last semester as a wannabe is over.
My next semester, as I got my acceptance letter in the mail two weeks ago, I will be a nursing student.
Hells to the yeah.
That said, I have three and a half months of blissful freedom stretching out ahead of me.

I plan to start spending at least half my mornings - starting this weekend - out in the garden. There's always something to do in the garden.
Once summer truly hits and the lake starts to warm up, I'll garden until the sun gets brutal and then wander down to the beach and take a quick swim.
Then a shower, and then the rest of the day will be mine to kill.

The other half of my mornings will start either on my bike on the canal trail, or at the gym.

I will spend as much time as possible with family.

I will be happy.

Sunday, April 22, 2012


As of this morning, every last herb pot has started, and every last tomato has sprouted, and not a single damn bell pepper has emerged. But! The consistency is comforting. :-D

The weather is not as miserable as I feared. 25 degrees colder than yesterday, yes. Drizzling, yes. But pouring rain and windy? No. In fact, now that all my little seeds are safe in the ground, there's a nice light rain falling, soaking my little plantlings. I'm rather pleased with the way this turned out.
It's definitely chilly outside - maybe 50, maybe - but everything I put out was a spring plant so that's no big deal.
While I was digging rows for my carrots, I watched two tufted titmice visiting the birdfeeder nearest the garden. I told Brian, who was quite pleased.
While he and I sat on the patio yesterday, me soaking up the sun and him enjoying the breeze from the shade, we heard a woodpecker in the trees on the hill. I spotted him and showed him to Brian, who asked what kind of woodpecker it was. I couldn't tell - "big" was all I could say. Brian said I needed a pair of binoculars for birding. I couldn't agree more.

So today is a day for soaking up peace.
By noon I had everything done for the day. All I can hear out the window is the light tapping of rain and the occassional feasting robin. There are sleeping mammals in nearly every room of the house. My bills are paid, my mail is sorted. All I have to do is some schoolwork.
But that can wait for tomorrow.
Today will be a lazy day.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Official Start

The garden is officially started.
My husband made his annual contribution to our garden (besides eating the results) by tilling the entire 800 square foot main plot on his own. I didn't touch the tiller - except to help get it into and out of the truck - and he's more impressive when you consider he did it sans ankles.

I love it when you rent something and it comes with its own ramp. (also, a view of our beautiful forsythia)

The end result was two very tired people and a large swath of earth ready to produce tasty things.

The stakes in the front mark where my two kinds of carrots will go. The stakes in the back are for the lettuce patch. Both will be seeded tomorrow morning, along with my peas... which will go somewhere in the middle there.
And, looking at the weather, I should have done it today. Poop. But! Instead of seeding the garden, I took photos for you of everything else we have around the yard:
The tulips are about ready to bloom, although the crocus are already gone.

The deck off our bedroom. I hauled the patio furniture out of storage today.

We added a bird feeder outside my bedroom window to taunt Seamus (pictured). I later added a hummingbird globe to the shepherd's crook there. The plants you see are rhododendrums and blueberries.

Two new bird feeders! Brian wanted to buy bird houses, but I challenged him to name the birds in our yard and he couldn't. I told him he could put up bird houses when he knew what birds we had that needed one.

Sully Monster did not understand why I was outside.

 The last straw for the sanity of our poor cats: a squirrel feeder. You can see this in the background of the photo of the deck. The cats can see it from the door and from our window. Ha ha ha.

I also hauled my clothesline out of storage and my adirondack chairs. They look so tempting in the sun, surrounded by grass and a gentle breeze. -sigh- I can't wait for summer to truly be here.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Gardening, Finally.

While I intended to start my garden projects some weeks ago, life interfered. Like it does.
To sum up,
Lisa (whose relationship to me I truncate down to 'sister,' removing the burdonsome 'step,' 'in-law,' and 'future') had fairly short-notice back surgery. With a nine-month-old she can no longer pick up, her life is difficult and I spent a weekend cooking food for her & her fiance.
School and work and volunteer work also happen. A lot.
And then my grandmother fell a week ago Friday and broke her hip.

There are also fun things.
My brother flew in on Thursday (the day before Gramma fell) and we went to PAX East(er) together.
Brian and I sprung for a fairly swank hotel for the weekend, rather than get up at the asscrack of dawn and drive an hour into the city, fighting traffic all the way.
The view from our room:
We didn't just have ANY room. No! We had a corner room:

I won't bore you with PAX photos. I'm putting all those on my facebook, anyways, no need to double-post.
So that was last weekend, the first weekend of April.
THIS weekend, we celebrated Jennah's 25th birthday a bit belatedly.
And then I had all day today to work on the garden.

I came to the conclusion, after I'd staked off 100 square feet for my lettuces and 60 square feet for my carrots, this was the year I needed to get a tiller.
We generally rent one, but I would like to till the garden more than once. The lettuce patch and the carrot patch and the row of peas should be done first. I would till the whole thing, so any weeds would have plenty of time to die in the sun before I planted. Then I would like to till a second time, right before I plant my tomatoes and beans and peppers and cukes.
I hate renting something twice.
So we headed out!
And could not find a single store that would sell me a rear-tine "rawr" type tiller.
So I'm renting a huge one Friday, taking out my neatly measured out stakes, and tilling the whole damn thing. 20 by 40. Done.
And then when it comes time to put in the rest of the garden I'll have to either rent it again or till up the individual areas by hand. (witness the eye roll)

Anyways. When I wasn't lamenting my lack of a tiller today, I potted a ton of plants.
There are four pots of my newest attempt on the back deck: container potatoes. I hear the plant part of a potato is actually rather pretty, and I would love to find out.
I have 3 dozen tomatoes started, and another dozen red bell peppers sitting with them. My beans and peas and cukes will all be direct-seed.
I convert my laundry closet every spring for seed starting. This year I'm adding a mat to help heat up the soil.
My tasty babies:

My very-nearly-clean laundry closet:

Hopefully I post again before they've all grown up and gone into the ground!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Cross Section

School and Life have been ridiculous of late.  I've been referred to a specialist in Boston, finally, after two years of heartache, and trying to balance trips into the city with school and my three jobs has made for rough times of late.
Today was particularly weird. I had my English midterm, finally, 2/3 of the way through the semester. Immediately following, in my Psychology class, I had to emcee our group presentation.  In between English and Psychology I started to get very anxious... both due to the unavoidable stage fright of standing up in front of 3 dozen people and because I only had an hour-long presentation and a 4-hour shift at the Tutoring Center standing between myself and a weekend of total badassery.

Yes, for the third year running, I am attending PAX East this weekend.

My brother flew in and has a hotel in the city tonight. I should call him, actually, and make sure he ate, come to think of it.
While I was getting jumpy anticipating the convention, my father called to tell me my grandmother fell and broke her hip today.

Talk about roller coasters.

I don't know how or what to feel about Gramma yet.  She's feisty, and I'd hate to lose her. I'd hate to see her in a home, but she's maybe not at a place where she can take care of that huge old house anymore.
I can't do anything about it right now, though, so I'm putting it aside.

When Brian and I finally got home from campus tonight - after I had a mini blood sugar incident and demanded drive through en route, ha - I made up the guest bedroom for my brother, who will be occupying it starting Sunday. Then it was off to pack!
The bag'o'clothes was fairly straightforward. Pants, undergarments, geeky shirts, extra shoes, shower stuff, just-in-case first aid kit.
But maybe more important, and decidedly more fun, to pack was my backpack. The item I'm lugging around a convention for three days.

I somehow managed to get all of my hobbies represented in my backpack.
Both of my knitting projects, a shawl for myself and an as-yet-unclaimed baby sweater. Probably for Sarah's little girl.
My Kindle. Thank goodness for Kindles! I have 50+ books in the space of a notepad.
My camera! The one on my phone isn't enough, I'm packing my expensive Canon.
My geekery. Brian was impressed with what I chose to include: Zombie Dice, Monty Python Fluxx, Phase 10,  a standard set of playing cards, and Bananagrams.
There is one pocket on the side of my bag that contains my compact hair brush, my Gerber in its case, and my pouch of D&D dice. If that isn't me in a nutshell, I don't know what is.
I need to stuff the folding camp stool we bought in there too, and then I'll be good to go.

Once I get home, I should have some breathing space to get started on the fun spring activity of getting utterly covered in potting soil as I start seedlings. No, I don't have anything started yet.

Our record last freeze is JUNE for the love of pete.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Leaving on a Jet Plane

I know you're not supposed to say on the internet when you're not home, but my house is protectes by my paranoid Vietnam vet of a neighbor... So if you manage to figure out where I live, you'll still get capped. So whatever.
Brian and I are flying to TX for a wedding, and I am conflicted.

I've never had to use one of the new TSA scanners before. I paid a little attention to the hullaballoo they were causing, because nudity doesn't bother me.
And then today, I found myself standing in one, my hands over my head. I felt very naked, very vulnerable, and very annoyed. I hadn't been given the option or any forewarning. There was a metal detector directly in front of me that I was routed around. The full-body scan caught me unawares.
I decided, instantly, that I didn't like them.

And then I realized Brian had used it, too.
Generally when we fly, due to his metal feets (and yes they are referred to as feets) he gets the full pat-down, explosive residue swipe, and molestation. Today, he put his hands over his head, stood for 20 seconds, and went on his way like a normal person.

Thus my conflict.

As much as I don't like them, they're one hell of an equalizer.

Maybe if they changed the resolution... body is white, background is white, metals show up black. Then a person's features would be indistinguishable and it wouldn't feel so invasive.

In other news, Brian is always a cranky-face when we fly.
And I'm relatively excited. I found out just last night that I'll actually know people at this wedding. People I like! So now the weekend is not merely a trial of patience.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Daydreams of Sunbeams

Spring is so close I can taste it. The sunlight streaming in the windows of my house is akin to an RSVP from Summer: I am totally coming to this party.
And then I step outside.

I love New England, don't get me wrong. I love the quiet on my porch, listening to the oaks sway in the breeze coming off the ocean. I love driving 4 minutes and being at the beach. I love walking the canal, love driving into Boston, love the snow, love the climate in general.
It doesn't get ass-cold in the winter like you would think, since the ocean moderates our temperature. We're in the next warmer planting zone than my mother in Kansas. Our 100+ days in the summer numbered TWO last year, while the rest of my friends had entire months in the triple didgits. So, no, I don't mind the climate.
What I mind is how long the (albeit mild) winter is, and how ridiculously short the summers seem by comparison.
We lose leaves in October, we get them back by the first of May. MAY. That's six full months with no greenery. Half a year of winter.
Our last freeze two years ago was Memorial Day - the END of May.
My spring seeds, that say to be sown 3-4 weeks before the last freeze still can't go in until May 1. I can't really start my tomatoes in the house until April 1.
So even though it is March, and spring supposedly arrives in a couple weeks, nothing really starts for me until April.

All I really want - in all honesty - is one moderately warm day. 80 degrees would be perfect.
Then I can go outside, lay on the asphalt of my driveway, and absorb some heat for a little while. I am so sick of being cold.

We are flying to Texas this weekend for a wedding. The forecast? 50 and raining. FML.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

My English Paper

Final Word Count: Approximately 2800 (needed to be over 2500 to qualify for an 'A')
Copyright: me. Today. I keel you.

The world of Arthurian legend is perhaps best known for Excalibur, the Knights of the Round Table, and the Quest for the Holy Grail.  While female roles might not be the first thing that springs to mind, each story has at least a small part played by a woman.  Be they hags, maidens, queens or witches, the driving force of many tales of King Arthur are the women surrounding the knights.  Guinevere may be the most famous, but arguably the most important female character is Morgan la Fey, Arthur’s half-sister, an instigator, and Arthur’s final embrace.  Morgan is more than a character; she is a reminder of the Celtic foundation of the story, and the embodiment of a Celtic goddess.  She is a lover, a mother, a healer, a killer, a sister and an instigator, which roots her identity firmly on the foundation of the Morrigan.

        In the earliest tales of Arthur, the only mention of Morgan comes at the end of the story.  After his mortal wounding at the hands of Mordred, the legend says “he was was taken to the isle of Avallach by Modron, and that he is waiting there until the time comes to resume his leadership of the British armies” (Markale 1977, 173).  At this point in the story, Arthur’s sister, if mentioned at all, is a woman named Anna and otherwise unremarkable.  The name Modron is the Welsh variety of the Gallic Matrona, both of which are generic names for the Celtic mother goddess (Markale 1995, 182).  The similarity of these words to the Latin matronae should not be dismissed.  “In various parts of Britain we find the Goddess referred to merely as Modron, which means ‘mother’ “(Stewart, 64).  In several works it is plainly stated that Morgan is based on Modron/Matrona and not the Morrigan, but this is simple semantics.  Morrigan is herself a mother goddess, albeit from Ireland, and thus fits under the heading of Matrona.  Arthur is unarguably British, and thus the inclusion of an Irish goddess is suspect; however, the only difference is in name. While the source for the name ‘Morgan’ is more likely to be ‘Modron’ than ‘Morrigan,’ they are still one and the same; Modron and Morrigan are themselves from the same root. 

In Ireland we see the Morrigan playing the part of the female deity embodying the land, counterpart and consort to the Dagda or Cernunnos.  Often referred to as “the Queen of Demons” she is “both fertile and destructive” (Cunliffe, 186).         Destruction is not something Americans would normally associate with a mother goddess**.  In the Celtic mind, however, nothing can live without death.

Awesome goddesses like the Irish Morrigan, who often appears in triple form, are not the stereotypical seekers after blood and battle, but reveal an inherent unity of life and death: the Morrigan controls both death and sexuality, and may appear as an alluring but deadly maiden or a screaming hag in early tales; hence she takes in order to give. (Stewart, 58)

        Evidence of the triplicate nature of Morgan can be seen all over the Arthurian legend.  Some authors have chosen to split Morgan into three women, the sisters Morgan, Morgause and Elaine.  The inhabitants of the isle of Avalon vary also, from just Morgan, to Morgan and her two sisters, to nine women (three times three). 

It is ruled by nine sisters under a system of benign laws to which visitors coming from our regions are introduced. Of the nine sisters, one surpasses the others in beauty and power. Her name is Morgan and she teaches the use of plants and how to cure sickness. She knows the art of changing one’s appearance and of flying through the air with the aid of wings, like Daedalus (Markale 1995, 5).

This split into three separate characters is precendently Celtic, particularly in Ireland. “The great goddess, the Morrígan in her plural form, the Morrígna, resolves into three: Morrígan, Badb, and Nemain” (Cunliffe, 187).  The similarity between Elaine and Nemain might also be noted.

        Further evidence of Morgan’s origins in the Morrigan can be seen in the above reference to Daedalus and in the story of Owein son of Uryen.  Owein is given a flock of ravens to fight for him; “the end of the tale of Owein tells how Owein stayed in Arthur’s court as his steward until he returned to his own land with the 300 swords of Kynverchin… and his flight of ravens, and they were victorious wherever they went” (Markale 1977, 135).  Markale goes on to say “Owein’s mother is supposed to be the goddess Matrona, or Modron, who Thomas Malory identifies with Morgan; and Modron could turn herself into a bird.”  Perhaps the most well known symbol of the Morrigan is the raven or crow, seen in one of the Morrigan’s triplicate forms; “Morrigan means ‘Phantom Queen’ while her other forms are Nemhain and Badhbh meaning ‘Frenzy’ and ‘Crow’ or ‘Raven’ “(Stewart, 80).

        Understanding Morgan as the Morrigan makes her first appearance in the Arthurian legend painfully obvious: she is the bearer of Arthur’s body to Avalon.  She appears after a terrible battle to claim the body of a great warrior, and not to bury him.  The oldest Arthur tales see Morgan treating his wounds so that Arthur may one day return to rule Britain.  There is perhaps no better way to personify a goddess responsible for fertility and destruction, life and death.

        Since that initial inclusion, Morgan has been written more into the stories of Arthur’s knights, often as an antagonist in some form.  While this antagonism is generally aimed at Lancelot, and sometimes other knights, in some stories she stands in direct opposition to Arthur himself.

        In The Story of Morgan and Arthur by Thomas Malory, Morgan hatches a plan to kill both her brother Arthur and her husband Uryen, so she can be freed to marry her lover, Accolon.  Arthur is imprisoned and Excalibur secretly replaced with an imitation.  Excalibur is given to Accolon to use against Arthur and thus kill the king; the Lady of the Lake saves Arthur by pulling the real sword out of Accolon’s hands before he can use it against Arthur.  Arthur then uses Excalibur to defeat Accolon; he dies of his wounds, but not before revealing the entire plot to Arthur.  Meanwhile, Morgan, thinking Arthur is dead, tries to kill Uryen with his own sword while he sleeps but is stopped by their son, Yvain (seen earlier as Owein).  Learning later that Arthur has killed her lover, she is infuriated and sends him a magic cloak that will burn his skin if he puts it on.  Arthur is again saved by the Lady of the Lake, and this time he banishes Morgan from court. (Markale 1977, 45-46)

        What isn’t shown is a purpose behind Morgan’s treachery beyond desiring to replace her husband with her lover.  Given her eventual claiming of Arthur’s body and their bonds of kinship, her scheming to kill Arthur seems misplaced, or incompletely explained at the least.  This story seems to be exception rather than the rule, as Morgan’s familial bonds with Arthur explain many of her other schemes, particularly her venomous relationship with Lancelot and Guinevere.

        While the argument is made elsewhere that Guinevere and Morgan are the representatives of Christianity and paganism, respectively (especially in modern fantasy such as Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Mists of Avalon), the simpler contrast between the two is one of color.  Guinevere is depicted as blond and fair; her name contains the adjective gwynn or gwenn, “white” in Celtic (Markale 1995, 85) and she is associated with Arthur’s glorious kingship.  Morgan on the other hand, “who is distinctly dark and somber, and who represents a force of darkness” (Markale 1995, 84) is associated with crows and ultimately Arthur’s death.  Another telling difference is Guinevere’s barrenness, while Morgan (albeit sometimes under the guise of Morgause or Elaine) is decidedly fertile.

        Whether attributable to defense of Arthur or opposition of Guinevere, many of Morgan’s schemes end up directed at Lancelot, the man who consistently cuckolds Arthur.  In the third part of Lancelot in Prose, Morgan repeatedly attempts to expose Lancelot and Guinevere’s affair, which serves as a call to adventure for Lancelot and several other characters.

        Morgan catches Lancelot shortly after he escapes the Valley of No Return and tries (unsuccessfully) to get Guinevere’s ring from his finger.  There is another adventure after he escapes, and he inexplicably returns to Morgan, who now swaps Guinevere’s ring for a fake.  Morgan sends the ring to Arthur, with a fraudulent deathbed confession from Lancelot begging forgiveness.  Guinevere manages to convince Arthur that the ploy is false, and another long chain of adventures happen, in which Lancelot fathers Galahad with Elaine (Markale 1977, 37-38).

        Much later, Morgan captures Lancelot again, this time locking him in her castle for more than a year.  Lancelot decides to paint the walls of his prison with the story of his love for Guinevere, which Morgan endorses as a means of Lancelot incriminating himself.  He escapes before she can use this against him, however (Markale 1977, 39).

        This painting comes to light again in the fifth part of Lancelot in Prose when Arthur and some of his knights are lost in the forest and fortuitously come upon Morgan’s castle.  Morgan shows Arthur Lancelot’s artwork, and although Arthur does not completely believe Morgan, this leads directly to Lancelot and Guinevere’s exposure (Markale 1977, 41).

        In the tale of Sir Tristram, Morgan is again plotting against Lancelot.  Tristram is portrayed here as a knight of some great renown, second only to Lancelot. “Tristram is himself manipulated by Morgan la Fey into bearing to Camelot a shield depicting Arthur and Guinevere being dominated by Lancelot, with the intention of bringing shame on the court” (Fulton, 291).

        In Gawain and the Green Knight, the Green knight reveals at the end of the story that the entire plot was undertaken at the behest of Morgan le Fay (Fulton, 255).  The purpose, again, is an attack on Guinevere: “She put this magic upon me to deprive you of your wits, in hope Guinevere to hurt, that she in horror might die aghast at that glamoury that gruesomely spake with its head in its hand before the high table” (Sir Gawain, 118-119).

        That Morgan has a vendetta against Guinevere, and consequently Lancelot, is evident.  The precise reason why she constantly plots against the lovers is subject to conjecture. 

        The first point to consider is that the Christianization of the Arthurian legend brought with it the concept of adultery as a deadly sin.  Lancelot as a knight, a Christian, and a seeker of the Holy Grail, was supposed to be virtuous.  Though Lancelot’s love for Guinevere was stated to be “perfect” (Markale 1977, 37) and he was never fickle to his lady, she was never anything but Arthur’s wife and queen, and thus her relationship with Lancelot was forbidden under Christian doctrine. 

        Something had to be done about Lancelot and Guinevere, both from a Christian perspective and to forward the story.  Morgan then is placed in the role of prosecuter and penalizer, continually trying to bring Lancelot and Guinevere to justice.  It is a surprisingly modern form of justice, with hearsay and verbal condemnation not enough to implicate Lancelot; Morgan needs solid proof, and preferably (in good Christian fashion) a confession.  In the end, the lovers must be caught in the act for any action to be taken, and they are too far gone to be redeemed.  The country is torn apart, Arthur is killed, and Guinevere ends up in a nunnery, Lancelot taking vows soon after.

        The second matter to consider is rooted in Morgan’s identity as the Morrigan.  The Morrigan gives and takes, kills and heals; the entire situation between Arthur, Guinevere, and Lancelot is in need of the sort of balance a Celtic goddess is especially suited to deliver.

        A Celtic king, much like the Celtic god Dagda or Cernunnos, was married to the land.  Arthur was virile, a strong king, and Britain did well under his rule; his marriage to a barren woman is counterintuitive.  That this woman would then betray him constantly for many years compounds the problem.  Guinevere needs to be removed so that the king’s line can be continued.  Given that the Morrigan has already born the king a son – Mordred, bearing similarity perhaps to Mabon son of Modron in another myth – Guinevere and Lancelot’s intrusion in the natural order of things needs to be rectified.  The Morrigan has been demoted into a mere student of Merlin (Stewart, 90), so the range of supernatural powers normally attributed to a goddess have been greatly limited and she is reduced to using glamours and trickery to try to bring balance to Britain.  Exposing Lancelot with the Queen is less an act of vengefulness and more one of patriotism; colloquially, it wasn’t personal.

        Conversely, had Morgan not worked so hard to expose Lancelot and Guinevere, there arises the possibility that Arthur could have died peacefully in his bed and Mordred quietly assumed the throne as Arthur’s next of kin and nearest relation.  While that might have been the better thing to happen to Britain, it makes for a terrible story.  At some point the desires of the storytellers have to be factored in; the great warrior king Arthur simply cannot die of old age.  Betrayal, incest, treachery, patricide, regicide, scorned women and flawed heros make for a far better tale.

        That Arthur’s legend is simply that – a story, greatly embellished so far as to make the original undiscernable – introduces the question of the Morrigan’s inclusion.  As previously noted, the original stories only include Morgan at the very end of the tale, as Modron.  She takes Arthur to Avalon, the other world, and tends his otherwise mortal wounds.  Arthur’s original sister was named Anna and had no obvious connection to the Celtic goddess.  It is long after the decline of the Celts and the Christianization of the story that Morgan makes inroads into the heart of the legend. 

        The obvious connection between Morgan and Morrigan/Modron/Matrona and her relatively late introduction to the story leads to the supposition that she was a result of the Christianization, and not a resurgence or regression.  Many pagan forms and functions were absorbed into Christianity to make conversion easier to swallow.  The timing of Easter every year is a clear illustration of this; that some form of secular or Christian holiday now falls on all eight of the Druidic sabbats is another. 

        Reintroducing the antiquated Celtic goddess as a force of treachery and malice against the more sympathetic treatment of Guinevere and Lancelot could have been used as a conversion tool.  That the Arthurian legend survived at all during the Inquisition, with its overtly pagan themes, support of magic and near deification of Merlin, suggests that the legend was too important to be destroyed. 

        Morgan’s role in the Arthur legends as an antagonist to Guinevere can be likened to the struggle between Celtic paganism and early Christianity.  Arthur the king chose Christianity in marrying Guinevere, but the country had not successfully converted.  Morgan the mother goddess is fertile; Guinevere the sinner is barren.  In the end, Arthur is reclaimed by the land, taken to Avalon with Morgan, while Guinevere goes to God, the abbess of the nunnery at which she takes vows.  Arthur is thus lost, as much as the old faith is.

        Regardless of the motives of those writing the story, the presense of the Morrigan looming behind the character of Morgan is difficult to deny.  Whatever name assigned to her, she is the archetypical triple goddess of Celtic descent.  

Within the Arthurian legend, Morgan plays all the roles we see in the Morrigan.  She is a maiden as Arthur’s sister, a mother to Mordred and/or Owein, a wife to Uryen, a lover to Accolon, a wielder of supernatural power as a student of Merlin, a representative of the land as an herbalist and druid of Avalon, a bringer of war and chaos as the instigator of countless adventures including the conflicts between Arthur & Lancelot and Arthur & Mordred, and lastly a healer and bringer of closure when she takes Arthur’s body to Avalon.
While Guinevere might be the first woman who comes to mind with the legend of Arthur, Morgan is undoubtedly the most important.  Guinevere is a static character, committed to her marriage with Arthur and her love of Lancelot, never changing until the world changes around her. Morgan, on the other hand, is the vector for change in the world.  Her instigations serve as a call to adventure for numerous knights, forcing the progression of the story.  Morgan, as befits the Goddess Morrigan, leaves a profound mark on the world of Arthur.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

My Favorite Distraction

I cannot start any of my seeds yet. I keep telling myself this. I'm not in the Midwest anymore.
(Because I absolutely refuse to ever tell myself I'm not in Kansas anymore.)
I have no gardening buddies in New England.  My biggest inspirations live in Indiana, Omaha, Missouri, and Wisconsin.
The Winsconsin girl feels my pain. You can't plant anything outside if the ground is still frozen. It froze last night. It snowed yesterday. March has come in like a lion and any gardening activites are an act of futility.
I have a massive English paper due in one week. I have all the research done for it, I just need to actually write the damn thing. 10-20 pages will take some time, even if I do know precisely what I want to say. My goal for the weekend is to get that done - as well as study for my Psychology exam on Tuesday. I only have two classes, so of course they have to have concurrent due dates.
Yet my seed packets arrived from Seed Savers yesterday. I procured my first couple tires, which is a new demarcation plan I intend to try this year. What I really want to do this weekend is go outside and figure out precisely how many tires I can use, how many seedlings that will equate, and then start labelling pots.
What I will make myself do this weekend is clean the house - my best friend is coming up to visit me for the first time since my wedding, and her husband has never been up here before, so a clean house is a neccesity. I have to go next door and buy my housekey off my neighbor's daughter. She kitty-sat for me a month or so ago, and I never gave her the money I promised (it's sitting in an envelope on my desk) and she never brought back the housekey. I'm going to need the extra housekey.
I have to type my paper. I am really happy with what I've dug up on the Morrigan, Morgan la Fey, and Modron the mother goddess, and so writing the paper won't be overtly painful. Did I mention the English class is called The Arthurian Legend?
I have to study for Abnormal Psychology. My professor isn't a hard tester (I took Counseling and Crisis Intervention from her a couple years ago) but there's only three tests in the class and they're the vast majority of my grade, so blowing it off isn't an option.

I have to hide the seed packets that came in. I'll take them out to the potting shed tonight or tomorrow. Out of sight, out of mind... if they sit here on my desk I'll spend the weekend daydreaming and then I'm screwed.

Friday, February 24, 2012


As I am now a Bostonian, the proper pronunciation for my new title (as a successful graduate of the American Heart Association Lifesaver First Aid & CPR Course) is life-save-uh.

I've got a card and everything.

It was 55 degrees and beautiful yesterday, so of course I was stuck inside on campus all day.
There was wet clumpy disgusting snow on the ground when we awoke this morning, and the temperature hovered around 40. So of course I had most of the day free.
It is raining and miserable tonight. As it will be most of the weekend. Which means I had fabulous plans.

Little Abigaile Grace is one year old today, and her birthday party is tomorrow. I spent altogether too much money on her, but if you saw the dresses I procured for her you would totally understand. Her gift is wrapped (in a box that originally contained a pair of Chuck Taylors) on the kitchen table, waiting for party time.
The very next day, Sunday, my adorable cousin is visiting me. Huzzah. I had ideas for things to do in my dripping-with-history little town, but the weather report has fairly shat on those plans. I think, instead, I will bake, and thus give him a carepackage fairly brimming with Home. I cook like our grandmother, after all.

Seed Savers received my order. There was much rejoicing.
My crocus are still petite but as long as they're hanging on I'm happy. Green plant parts mean sunlight being turned into energy and feeding those bulbs.
It will be March in less than a week. March March March! March means Spring Break! It means Vernal Equinox! It means I'm down to only a handful of weeks until it's safe to start my seedlings. It means an increase in likelihood that I can get outside and start turning over garden soil! It means the Plantation opens up and I can buy my apple cider kits without having to drive 2 hours round trip! It seems to mean a lot of exclamation points as well.

With the passing of my CPR course, I now have Fridays free for the remainder of the semester.  While some of those are earmarked for my adventures in fertility treatments up in the city (insert annoyed face here) the vast majority of them are mine. Big white blank spots on my calendar.

Next week is my first. I need to think up something exceptional.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Alive Day

Four days, four posts! I will eventually slow down, but it's hard to resist the urge to write. Especially when I know full well I will someday start to neglect my blog.

I made someone cry today.

That isn't, contrary to popular belief, a common occurrence for me. I tend to be a sympathizer - if you cry, I'll cry. If you vomit, I'll vomit. That sort of thing. I'm not a fan of either.

I'm volunteering at the USO today, as I do every week. I put in a few hours every week outside the office, but one day I spend at the desk, fielding questions and handling the more mundane tasks of mail sorting and phone answering. There are two people here who aren't volunteers - our director and our program manager.
The PM and I were brainstorming options for an event we've got in the works, and from there we got off on a tangent about whales in the Boston Harbor. I mentioned how Brian and I had already decided when and how we were going to renew our vows (although we haven't been married fully four years yet) and the PM wondered what the appropriate time for a vow renewal was.

We're doing it on our tenth anniversary, I told her, because that will also be Brian's twelfth Alive Day, and so it's a big day.

Enter waterworks. You got married on his Alive Day? she exclaimed. Oh, I'm going to cry.

It's not a big deal for Brian and I. It simply made the most sense, for a lot of reasons.
1. IED = TBI = crap memory. Expecting him to remember our wedding anniversary is just cruel. By scheduling our wedding on top of a day everyone around him will be talking about, he won't be able to forget.
2. I don't really care about Hallmark holidays. Birthdays and Anniversaries only function (once you're past 25 at least) to help mark time. I don't feel like Valentines Day or our wedding anniversary should be an occassion for dread for my poor husband. By getting married on his Alive Day, we sidestep the whole issue. We have a discussion every year about whether he wants to have an Alive Day party or go out to a quiet dinner with his wife. Or neither. Or both! And then I make the plans and we call it good.
3. Asshole should have died. No, really. If you're in a helicopter in a war zone with your foot detached from your body and sitting in your lap while you're buckled into a stretcher and immune to morpheine? And shortly thereafter a blood clot causes your lung to collapse? Waking up on a respirator with a chest tube in does not sound like a firm grasp on life. And then you contract MRSA in the bone of what's left of your leg? People have died from less. More than 20 surgeries later, he's alive and kicking, but there was more than one day in which his continued existence was in doubt. Asshole should have died. And he didn't. June 8th, 2006, is the luckiest day of his life, because it's the day he cheated death. Hell yes we're going to have a party to celebrate it. And the biggest party we could imagine was our wedding.

It all boils down to one single decision Brian made five and a half years ago. He looked down at the baseball-like stitching on his skin on his calf where the rest of his leg was supposed to be, and he knew he had two options in his life: he could cry about it, or he could laugh about it.
Brian chose to laugh. I honored his decision by making the same: I chose to laugh, too.
It means some pretty heinous things happen in our house in the name of amputee humor. But it also means that things like Brian's Alive Day don't become solemn occassions. We take his old prosthetic sockets and fill them with booze and toast to his good health.
At some point during the day, I will take him aside and whisper to him the same thing I said when we raised our champagne flutes on his second Alive Day. Thank you for not coming home in a box.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

That Kind of Day

It's easy to write a lot when you're beginning a blog.
You're excited. You have all sorts of idea for topics. You have high hopes, high expectations.
It's months and years later, when it's not fresh and new and exciting that becomes the challenge.

That said, today was noteworthy.
Dango, Brian's service dog, has been sick of late. I have no idea what he got into, but given we live right down the road from a state forest and a wide variety of wildlife wanders through our yard, the range of possibilities is substantial. He seems to be getting over it, but cooking a special bland diet after rushing him in for intravenous fluids and an antiemetic has a way of putting a girl behind in her work.
So the stack of what the dog puked on laundry is getting in the way of the what you've been wearing for two weeks laundry, which was already being set back by the new duvet covers to save the bed from the dog vomit laundry. And don't forget the shit you haven't worn in years because you suddenly lost fifteen pounds and your pants don't fit laundry.
Which is, admittedly, an awesome problem to have.

I had high hopes for today, which were dashed when I woke up with something suspiciously similar to what laid out the dog last week. Angry. Tummy.
I soldiered through and went with the hubby to the gym anyways. I took it easy, spinning for 45 minutes and trying not to think of how awful I felt.
I didn't accomplish anything before class at noon.
I got even sicker in class.
And I managed to get home without any major incident - but also without eating much of anything.
Or remembering to take anything out of the freezer to defrost, so my dinner options were abyssmal.

So what made today noteworthy?
Because it was still awesome.
Brian and I are taking an English course together, and our professor was in rare comedic form today.
My Psych class was discussing stress disorders, and my professor knows my story and was letting me field questions from classmates and chime in at will.
Both professors were totally okay with me having missed class on Thursday to rush Dango to the doggie ER; Dr. O because he has two beagles and completely understands the concept of furchildren, and Dr. Burlin because she was sick on Thursday and had cancelled class. Win!
Right after class I have to rush across campus to the tutoring center because my appointments start 15 minutes after Psych ends. I stopped in the cafeteria, saw my husband, got a smile and a hug and a few words, got to wave at the amazing school chef, Henry, and made it to work right at 3:30... but my appointment was late, so I got to breathe for a bit ANYways.
My appointments were all good. 25 minutes of an excellent student to start things off. Then 55 minutes of a non-native English speaker who isn't a bad student, she just needs a lot of help with vocabulary in science courses. Cake. 45 minutes break, in which I chit-chatted with my boss (who also has furchildren and was completely understanding of me missing work on Thursday and helped me fix the reported time errors) and got Henry to make me a grilled cheese sandwich.
Last appointment? A fellow tutor who really doesn't need to be getting tutored... but who asks the absolute best questions so I always love it when she schedules time with me. It is a lot more fun to get to think critically about the subject matter and have to dig down into my archives for biochemical reasons behind physiological features. Really, I love it.
It makes it better that she wants to go into the same field as me, and I'm secretly harboring a plot for her & I to start a practise together. Best coworker ever? I think so.

My husband randomly appeared at my cubicle door with half a KitKat bar.

I came home to a marked absense of dog vomit. Huzzah.

I crawled into my green fuzzy parka and parked in front of my computer to try to proactively fix the mess I have to deal with when I get to my volunteer job tomorrow and started typing this instead. Brian is elsewhere in the house, taking care of the dinner issue so I can concentrate on feeling better.

And, the kicker, Mom bought me a comprehensive (and older-than-me-thus-awesome) book on storing food. Freezing, canning, drying, curing, pickling, preserving, you name it. Its a book about tasty things. It makes daydreaming about my coming garden that much sweeter.

So, yes, I'm miserable amounts of sick. Yes, I have things going on that are detrimental to my overall mental health. Yes, my anxiety about my doctor's appointment in two weeks is getting out of control. But, no, it doesn't have to dictate my life.
Today can still be a good day.

Monday, February 20, 2012

The Garden Plot

It isn't the biggest thing going on in my life right now, but it is far and away my favorite.
My seed order has been placed at Seed Savers and I am eagerly awaiting my little vegetative babies.

The garden last year was a mixed bag. It never truly got hot - much like this winter never really arrived - and the cool dampness was unfriendly to my tomatoes. And peppers. Oh, and the beans.
I had lettuce the entire summer, however, and my dragon carrots were works of art.
The squash beetles were total bastards.

This year must be bigger! Better! Different!
I must utilize every inch of my 800 square feet of heaven!

The first thing I did was completely remove squash from the garden plan. The 36 square feet set aside for each plant was just too much. The pumpkins from our first summer showed me the importance of this space, but think of how many tomato plants I can stick in that amount of space!
A shelf loaded with quarts of tomato sauce is far more appealing to me than a dozen bags of frozen pumpkin puree, especially since I still have those left from last year.
Side note: fresh pumpkin makes far superior pumpkin cookies, but the pie is a bit touchy.
The second thing I did was specifically chose varietals that were either developed in my zone (ish) or stated they were particularly cool-season friendly. Another word I liked to see was "early."

The plants I particularly loved from last year will make a return, although in a slightly different part of my garden patch. I don't like to grow the same thing in the same spot, with a few notable exceptions: the carrots get the furthest-south spot in the garden, as they are short enough to not block the light for anything else. Anything particularly tall gets moved off to the west or north. The lettuce patch is permanently set on the west side of the shed, to limit it's sunlight and keep the ground cooler; I suspect that contributed to the longevity of my lettuces last summer. The asparagus patch, of course, it stationary.

I have all my supplies. I have my pots and my lights and my shelves and this list could go on for awhile if I don't stop now. I put off ordering my seeds because if I start my plants too early I risk putting them in the ground too early.
Two years ago, it froze on Memorial Day.
Memorial Day!
I can't in good conscience put my tomatoes in the ground before June. Starting the seeds in March is too much torture; I make myself wait until April.

The desire to go out and start working the soil - although it is February in New England - got the better of me today. I grabbed a mulch rake and freed the crocus from last fall's weed remnants.  The yellows have all bloomed, much like last year, while the purples have barely cleared the mulch.  I was thrilled when I first saw them last week, as it means the forsythia isn't far behind.

Brian and I have plans for the south side of the house, particularly the patches on either side of the bulkhead.  It is the best southern exposure I have yet unclaimed, and I want to make good use of it. The tiger lillies Brian was championing claim to be partial-shade, and I can plant those in dozens of places in the yard. My only full-sun spot needs to be full of full-sun flowers. More thought is needed.

It is still too early to get a verdict on the critter-eaten hydrangeas or the come on I WANT you to be invasive Morning glories. I have hope.

I need to invest in either updating one of my many photo sites or just scrapping them and starting over again. Once the world goes green I will have many many many photos to share.

Yet Another Start

This is not my first attempt at a blog.
My longest-running venture, a private diary 11 years in the making, remains my refuge. My need to write usually drives me there, where my limited (intimately trusted) readership can partake in the secrets I have to get out of my head via keyboard. It will remain indefinitely, if I can help it.
I write too much on facebook.  It's too easy to overshare there, with my family peering over my shoulder.  We are spread out across the country, my Kansas brethren, and having a single site where I can put a piece of information and have it disseminated to everyone who might want to learn of my antics is far too convenient.
There are far too many things going on in my life to facebook it all. I become one of those people, the spasmatic oversharers. I'm proud of what I cook, what I grow, what I do... but that doesn't mean anybody wants to have it force-fed to them on their newsfeed.
My other attempt at a blog was short-lived. I was trying to start something bigger than myself, but insert excuse here, life intervened and it just didn't happen.  Enough time passed that I forgot my list of things I wanted to write about, much less the specifics of each. I've left it up as a memorial to failure.
Josie has done something I admire, opening up a corner of her life and managing to keep the private things, private. I hope I can be so lucky.

Above and beyond all this, however, is the constant statement made, when I tell someone our story, that I need to write a book.
This, for now, will suffice.