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Swallows

Every morning I awake to little wings stretching, to sleepy chitters and the scratching of taloned toes. There is a nest of swallows that live in the roof beams above my bed. Every morning, they awake long before the light.

 

They spend the day swooping past my fourth floor window, screaming in voices that a far from pretty. Songbirds they are not, it seems. They swoop and the holler at one another, or they sit like irritated puffs of blue and black and yellow on the wall.

 

Until I moved here, I always liked swallows. I liked to see them spinning and diving at the University, liked to watch them yell at each other from the eaves of the buildings. I always liked the way they look in art, the shapely outline of their wings long a symbol of grace and beauty.

 

I do not think I like swallows any more. We humans may admire them on wing for their beauty and grace, but up close the truth is a little different. They are funny looking and they are loud. Their beaks look roughly twice the size of their head, and when they sit still they have a look of perpetual grump. They’re clumsy, too, it would seem: the noises they make above my head at night lead me to think at least one falls off its perch every evening.

 

No, having spent this much time in close proximity to swallows, I do not think I like them any more. I think I just might love them. I adore these awkward little flat-mates of mine. When they return in the evenings, they arrive like superheroes, swooping and diving on eyelash-thin wings just outside my window. Yet, as they scuttle into their roost, they scream and shuffle and scratch and generally make a racket that you would never expect of the graceful birds we believe them to be. And yet again, during the day and the twilight, when they soar past my window, I see only their power and the perfection of their flight.

 

These noisy creatures have come to be a part of my daily routine—waking me up, keeping me company while I work high above the normal world, and letting me know when the day is done by their noisy arrival. When I lie down at night and hear their fitful stirring above my head, I like to think that they are here to help remind me of the beautiful imperfection that is life. I try to embrace my future with this picture of the swallows: unseen, it seems awkward and unaccountable, but once it is moving, once it is active, it will flow with the grace that only nature provides. 


Swallows on the fence at Avebury, June 19 2010.

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It is a rather glum and gray day in York. My own spirits are decidedly low, despite the bursting Beltane energy all around me. The city is humming with it; concrete can't stop that. But, my thoughts are turned a little more inward, poking around dark hallows that I never really enjoy exploring, and the drizzle outside makes me feel cooped up within a sphere of negativity. 

So, in honor of a very different sort of rain, a very different sort of mood, and a very different landscape, I thought I would post this poem from a while back...

Summer StormCollapse )



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A trip to the Moors...

...Goathland, March 19, 2010.

My term paper was due by noon on Friday the 19th and, having finished the paper with minimal stress, I decided I deserved a really good hike as a reward. As I said in my post on Illuminating Hadrian's Wall, I haven't been on a real hike since leaving New Mexico. The reasons are fairly simple. York, despite it's beauty and picturesque quality, is still a city. Getting away from the people and the traffic and the noise is not an easy task. I've found a few nice walking places near by, where the concrete and pavement give way to soft marshy turf and open field, but these places are naturally also the favorites of all the other walkers from the city. Strolling there, while nice, is not quite the balm to my soul that a long, solitary hike is. In addition, finding enough time to travel away from the city is next to impossible during the craziness of term. So, by the time spring term was finishing up I needed, desperately, to get away from people and the city, and I knew exactly where I wanted to go to do this.

Along the bus route to the coastal town of Whitby is a tiny farming village called Goathland. It sits in the middle of the North Yorkshire Moors, and although still quaint, it became a bit of a tourist destination as the filming site for fictional town of Aidensfield's in the British television drama Heartbeat. More important than the village's television links, for my interest, is the fact that there are plenty of access trails out of Goathland into the moors. So, as soon as I had turned my paper in, to Goathland I went and I had a blast! 

Stolling the moors of GoathlandCollapse )
or, Illuminating Hadrian's Wall, March 13, 2010. Here's the back story:

Just about everyone with a basic familiarity with English history knows about Hadrian's Wall, but here's a little bit of history, just for fun (Also, please remember I do British history *after* the Roman pull out, so if I get a few things wrong, I offer my apologies!).

A Super Brief HistoryCollapse )


Now, the important bit is that this year creative folk from Hadrian's Wall Heritage Ltd. decided to organize an event that would create a line of light all along the wall, spreading from coast to coast. Torches were to be lit every 250 metres, starting in the east and spreading west until the light reached Carlisle (think of the scene from the Lord of the Rings movie when the signal fires of Gondor are lit...yeah, something like that but with torches, not bonfires). Obviously, there was no way a bunch of history nerds was going to miss out on that, so here's a bit about my friend's and my trip to see Hadrian's Wall get all lit up :)


Illuminating the WallCollapse )

I can has life?

Spring term is over. Which means what might well have been my last term, ever, of regular class work, is over. (Alright, I admit there is a BIG might there, as there's a chance I'll ending up going back to school to get a degree in something totally unrelated to medieval history, but I feel that this does not negate the current weight of being done with classes and class work...)

So, no homework, no term papers, nada. And technically no hard-core work for the thesis expected for the next five weeks. Amazing! What does this all mean? It means I actually have free time to do exactly what I want for a bit. AND that means, finally finally, I'll be putting up new LJ posts. I've got a couple to put up today, and hopefully sometime in the next few weeks I'll have some more.

So, while it might still be debated whether this counts as a 'life,' at least it's verified that I can has new posts :)

in honor of this rattling

my brain is a touch mixed up tonight, and when i finally sat down to write this is what came out. not pretty, perhaps a bit cliche, but i still rather like it.

.....




these old bones
shutter deep and rattle low against my spine
jiggle against my ribs like fingers dancing
on. the tight drum-skin of my heart.
these old bones
groan for starlight, firelight, the creaking
aspens in a high cold wind. a chance
to howl at the moon.
these old bones
ache stiff from sitting too still. thinking
of that which was and will be.
they ache for the now.
these old bones
wonder as they pulse against my skull and i
feel stiff and old and out of date
when i sit inside looking out.

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www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19732047

Okay, sorry about being Linky McGee here, but very interesting study that was shared on one of my Irish Wolfhound discussion groups.

(I want to say, first and foremost, that the findings of this study *do not* mean we should all decide to not spay our female dogs! Unfortunately, I simply do not trust most Americans to be smart about their dogs' reproductive capabilities, and until we as a public get a better grip on such things, routine spaying is still a very good thing in my opinion. [If you are confused by what I mean, consider this: altering pet animals (specifically dogs) is not as common in the UK and EU as it is here in the US, yet they have lower shelter/"unwanted" litter rates. The basic truth underlying this is that they tend to be better about keeping their dogs from producing unexpected/unwanted litters...now, there are tons of theories as to why this is, which I won't go into at the moment. Suffice to say, I still think it is wisest for most Americans to alter their pets...] Ahem. Sorry, rant.)

What I find most interesting in this study is that it was performed to shed light into what effects procedures like ovariohysterectomy and "precautionary" oophorectomy (i.e. removing the ovaries as a step to prevent ovarian cancer in women with high risk factors) surgeries may have long term on female life expectancy. I admit I am biased in posting this: I have been against precautionary/preventative removal of women's reproductive organs since I first heard of it several years ago.

Still, take the findings as you will. I, for one, think they are the beginnings of a study women in general should become familiar with.

Dominance Danger

For anyone who is attempting dog training from home, I highly recommend the following link:

www.apdt.com/about/ps/dominance.aspx

With "trainers" like Caesar Millan (hard to use that word with his name without wanting to spit in disgust) teaching the unknowing public outdated (as in WWII outdated) and basically mentally abusive forms of training, it is all the more important that we, as average pet dog owners, educate ourselves in the modern theories of canine behavior modification. Modern and ethical training techniques are those that aim at getting our dogs to do what we like in a way that is beneficial to everyone and stays with the dog long term.

Anyway, that's my rant for the moment.

York: Updates and Pics 10.23

My first true and official week as an MA student is over. It's about 9.50p here, cloud covered but mellow outside. I am tired, feeling icky, and wide awake in the way I have been all week; it's nice to finally have a moment to mull over all that has been. The first section is fairly long and meandering; the second is much more condensed and it's the one with pictures! I tried to separate them into two separate cuts, but for some reason it doesn't want to work, and frankly I don't want to fight with it. SO, if you just want to see the pictures, I'm afraid you have to scroll down to the bottom yourself. Sorry, hate to make you work :)

This Weeks Minor Musings...Collapse )

Welcome to York: Part I

Well, this hasn't taken me far too long a 'tal! I was imagining a very long and worthy update on my first week in York. And, hopefully, it will still happen. But, at the time being, I am simply going to have to post in sections. It's either that or not post at all for weeks and weeks. So, consider this the first of three sections. The first two will be primarily text, the third primarily pictures. If you are simply dying to see the pics, just visit my Facebook page. I am trying to upload some of the pictures there. I will upload more (and cooler) ones here when I get the chance.

As far as what is actually happening right now: yesterday was Induction Day for the Centre for Medieval Studies. I had a chance to meet my teachers (Well, actually I only had the chance to see my teachers as they all vanished into the ether quite quickly. Other students got to meet their teachers); got an update on what is expected of me over the year as a student (Not bad); and got a glimpse at some of the many medieval related activities I can take part of through the CMS, which is so vast it is really exciting! There are at least seven reading and/or research groups that I would be very interested in working with, so it is actually a little overwhelming to think about how on earth I will be able to do all my work and the extra. But, I'm sure I will figure that out.

Also took an "informal" Latin test yesterday as part of Induction, and man-oh-man is that bad for your ego! I've technically done Latin up through 202 (end of second year in America) but I couldn't remember anything valuable in the days leading up to Monday. When I sat down with the actual translation, it wasn't so bad, but was a good reminder that I am a very slow translator if nothing else. I should get notice of my Latin class assignment later today, and hopefully they won't suggest I need to start again from the beginning :)

Anyway, here is the first official "York" post. This is the way I have always done my travel blogs: as much info as possible (mostly useless, day by day info, but hopefully at least a little funny :D ), but I don't think I will be able to keep this up over the term. It just takes me too long to vomit up all the info in my memory for long and silly rants (for example, the following bit is unedited because, frankly, I had no time to edit); so, if you are brave enough to wade through it be assured that entries following these first few should be much shorter :)

Hope all is going well and smoothly for everyone! Cheers!

Welcome to York: Part I - Planes, trains, etc.Collapse )